puppy sitting on a high-chair and wearing a bib

Best Puppy Food for 2024: Kickstart Pupper’s Pawsome Journey

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Lara Jil, Lara Jill is a pet writer & advisor with a decade of experience. 03rd April 2024

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Are you looking for the best puppy food to feed your little doggo? We should always feed our pets food tailored to their life stage. Compared to adults, rapidly growing puppies need a lot of protein in their diet and more calories, too.

But how do you find the best puppy food? Even if you have the money, you don’t want to play Russian roulette to find which one is the best puppy food. Do that, and you might end up with an eye-watering trip to the vet!

Today, we’re going to feature five of the best puppy food in the market—all of which are AAFCO-approved and loved by many puppers worldwide. So, sit back and spare yourself from a headache!

What Makes the Best Puppy Food?

You don’t have to cram a lengthy list of dos and don’ts to understand how to best feed your dog. Read on!

Animal Protein Is the Number 1 Ingredient

While domestic dogs can digest plant-based proteins, animal meats are still the best sources of protein as they contain a complete amino acid profile.

That said, the best puppy food derives the bulk of its protein from animal meat. Make sure you see that listed first in the sequence, as ingredients are listed by weight.

You may find meat meal as a secondary protein source, and that’s okay as long as the manufacturer has identified what kind of meat meal they are using. Listing “meat” alone casts doubt on the product’s general safety and quality.

Uses Complex Carbs, Not Refined Grains

Dr. Cailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist, claims that domestic dogs are omnivores who can tolerate and derive significant calories from carbohydrates.

The best puppy food uses complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, starches, and legumes. Carbs not only energize puppies, but their fiber content also helps support digestion and bowel movement.

Nonetheless, different carbohydrate sources can have varying advantages. Oats have more fiber and omega-6. Whole wheat and legumes are valuable sources of protein. Sweet potatoes are excellent sources of beta-carotene and potassium.

Includes Healthy Animal or Plant-Based Fats

What, fat?! Yes. Dogs need fats in their diet, especially for rapidly growing puppies who love to play and explore. It’s turbo fuel for amateur bikejoring, a.k.a the zoomies!

Fat is a concentrated source of energy and plays many vital roles. Healthy fats absorb important nutrients, fight inflammation, and support cell and neurological development, among many others.

puppies eating kibble from their bowl

AAFCO Standards

The best puppy food meets AAFCO standards. According to the FDA, commercial dog food can only be deemed “complete and balanced” if it passes or exceeds AAFCO’s minimum requirements, as outlined in the nutrient profiles, or passes AFFCO-conducted feeding trials.

Flavorful Without the Additives

Avoid artificial flavors, food dyes, and preservatives. These ingredients lack nutritional value and can potentially cause food allergies and other health issues.

Even without artificial flavorings, you know kibble would taste great if the manufacturer uses wholesome, natural ingredients.

Top 5 Best Puppy Food Reviewed

Let us compare the five best puppy food on our list. While each recipe has its unique flair, they have one thing in common: they have quality, flavor, and nutrition on lock.

Iams Proactive Health Chicken & Whole Grain Recipe Dry Puppy Food (15 lb) + 12 Cans of Classic Ground Chicken & Rice Puppy Food

Best Puppy Food Overall

Nutritional Info

Iams has always taken pride in using real, wholesome ingredients, and this recipe is no exception!

The first ingredient is paw-lickin’ good chicken, which is a high-quality source of protein and amino acids that play a crucial role in muscle growth and calcium absorption.

Its top five ingredients include whole grains (corn, sorghum, and brewer’s rice) to fuel Pupper’s curiosity and playfulness, followed by beet pulp and soybean meal to aid in nutrient absorption and ensure healthy digestion.

The recipe also includes chicken fat and fish oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), which are good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to promote glowing skin, a lustrous coat, a happy heart, and a sharp mind.

What really solidified our decision to vote for Iams Proactive Health Chicken & Whole Grain Recipe as the best puppy food is its outstanding vitamin and mineral fortification. For each meal, your puppy gets 22 vital nutrients that he would not otherwise receive outside of his mother’s milk.

Another reason it is the best puppy food on our list is that it also comes in a wet formula, which is useful for adding variety to your pet’s diet. This bundle includes a 15-pound bag and a dozen cans of wet food of the same recipe.

  • Pros

    • No. 1 ingredient is whole meat
    • Offers complete and balanced nutrition
    • Fortified with vitamins and minerals (22 key nutrients)
    • No fillers or artificial ingredients; made with real, wholesome ingredients for Superior quality and taste
    • Available in wet formula

  • Cons

    • Not suitable for puppies with chicken or grain allergies
    • Best for small to medium breeds (but comes with a slightly different formula for large breeds)

Reviews:

Ann  |  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Started my mini Dachshunds on this at 3 months (originally on prescription canned for sensitive stomachs). Transitioned with no problems and they really like the taste! I supplement with frozen sweet potatoes and frozen carrots for teething. I’ll keep them on this until we transition to age 1.”

Hank  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“My two Beagle puppies love this food and they are growing to be very healthy dogs.”

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Recipe with Roasted Bison & Venison Dry Puppy Food (14 lb)

Best Puppy Food (Premium)

Taste of the Wild High Prairie

Taste of the Wild High Prairie is a feast fit for the future knights of shining fur!

As exotic as it sounds, this culinary adventure starts with water buffalo, a novel protein packed with iron and zinc. It also boasts a flavorful combination of lamb, roasted bison, roasted venison, and beef to tame your little canine’s instinctual cravings.

To keep allergies at bay, TOTW swapped grains out for fiber-rich, complex carbs from sweet potatoes and legumes. Your pup will always feel energized and ready to take on the world—or at least the yard!

TOTW also threw in their proprietary K9 Strain Probiotics. These little guys are live, active species-specific bacteria that aid in nutrient absorption and prevent common digestive issues in puppies.

Moreover, High Prairie has chelated minerals. Translation? These added minerals are chemically bonded to proteins and amino acids for faster absorption in the gut, so nothing goes wasted! Last but not least, the recipe has immune-boosting blueberries, raspberries, and tomatoes.

  • Pros

    • Voted among the best puppy food in terms of taste
    • 28% protein level; real meat is the no. 1 ingredient
    • contains TOTW K9 Strain Probiotics for optimal digestive health and immunity to diseases
    • Fortified with vitamins and minerals sourced from real fruits (chelated for better nutrient absorption)
    • Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin and coat health
    • Perfect for puppies with sensitivity to grains
    • Suitable for all breeds and can be fed to pregnant/nursing moms

  • Cons

    • Some might find it expensive

Reviews:

Billie  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Our Jack Russell Terrier puppy came to us with terrible gas and loose stools. Kept him on the Purina Puppy Chow that he was raised on and slowly transitioned to our vet’s puppy suggestion, Wellness Core. Same problem, terrible gas, loose stools, and bad breath (metallic). We tried Taste of the Wild and ALL THE PROBLEMS WERE SOLVED after a slow transition and all the old food was out of his system. He loves the food and we are all very satisfied!”

Faith  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“THIS BRAND IS ALL I FEED MY DOGS. Been with Taste of the Wild for 10 years plus. My animals digest the food better. It’s packed with healthier nutrients which means on average I feed less than with other brands. Not packed with wheat and corn as fillers. What more can you ask for?”

American Journey Grain-Free Lamb & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Puppy Food (12 lb)

Best Puppy Food for Grain Allergies
Nutritional Info

Made with love and expertise, Chewy proudly presents its best puppy food.

Enter, the American Journey Lamb & Sweet Potato recipe. Deboned lamb proudly takes the stage as the top ingredient, and it strikes the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

This recipe not only gets Pupper’s tastebuds dancing, but it also offers the highest protein level recommended for puppies! The addition of chicken meal, turkey meal, and chickpeas boosts its protein content so you can be confident that Pupper is growing up strong and mighty.

Pet parents who have tried this recipe have witnessed their furbabies’ amazing improvements and habits. Enthusiasm for mealtime, increased playfulness, and regular bathroom tips are just a few.

  • Pros

    • Best puppy food with the highest protein content
    • 100% complete and balanced
    • Nutrient-dense sourced from fruits and vegetables
    • Free of grains and unnecessary ingredients, like soy and unidentified by-product meals

  • Cons

    • Not the cheapest but saves you hundreds of dollars for a vet trip

Reviews:

Janelle  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Our large Pitbull has adored this food since we got her. Her sensitive skin and coat are not irritated ever and her breath is great. Lamb is the first ingredient, which is a great source of proteins, omegas, and iron. It’s easy to digest and can even help settle an upset stomach. THANKS FOR THE GREAT DOG FOOD!”

Mandy  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“This is a GREAT ALTERNATIVE TO CHICKEN. My boy has slight allergies, and I heard chicken doesn’t help when it comes to allergies.”

Purina One +Plus Healthy Puppy Formula (16.5 lb)

Best Puppy Food for the Budget-Conscious
Nutritional Info

The Purina One +Plus Healthy Puppy Formula is a godsend for cost-conscious pet parents!

By placing chicken as the top ingredient, each meal ensures puppies get high-quality muscle-building protein. Each bag of kibble offers a treasure of nutrients, including antioxidants, essential fatty acids, glucosamine, and prebiotic fiber.

The cereal grains in this recipe, unless your vet suggests otherwise, will fuel puppies’ adventurous spirits so they can learn and play more!

Remember, this is Purina—a brand that is vet-recommended and loved by many. You can have the peace of mind of knowing that you are feeding your dog kibble made under rigorous standards in the US.

  • Pros

    • Real meat is the no. 1 ingredient
    • 100% complete and balanced
    • Affordable, vet-recommended formula
    • No artificial flavors or preservatives

  • Cons

    • Contains cereal grains that may cause allergies in some dogs

Reviews:

Shannon  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“My Sophia loves this food! She no longer vomits. I wanted a “middle of the road” quality dry food. I also needed a medium price range for her food because I’m on a fixed income. This food does the job…”

Husky Mom  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I LOVE PURINA. It started with my 3.5-year-old husky who wouldn’t eat anything I bought her. After a ton of trial and error, I discovered that she likes freeze-dried stuff in her food, which ultimately led me to True Instinct. When I got my puppy I started her on Healthy Puppy right away and she gobbles it up (no picky Husky issues here.) Both will transition to True Instinct when the pup is old enough.”

Rachael Ray Nutrish Bright Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Puppy Food (14 lb)

nutritional info

Celebrity cook Rachael Ray, the genius behind the Bright Puppy Real Chicken & Brown Recipe, definitely knows how to craft nutritious dog chows bursting with nutrients.

We’re talking real, high-quality chicken here, folks! It takes center stage as the top ingredient, so Pupper gets a protein-packed meal. The tasty addition of brown rice and fiber-rich peas ensures complete and balanced nutrition.

This formula is likewise packed with EPA and DHA, the dynamic duo that supports puppies’ brainpower and vision. It’s loaded with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that will make all the pet parents go, “Who’s that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed pup?!”

  • Pros

    • No. 1 ingredient is whole meat
    • Offers complete and balanced nutrition
    • Fortified with vitamins and minerals
    • No fillers or artificial ingredients; made with real, wholesome ingredients for superior quality and taste

  • Cons

    • Aimed for all breeds but the kibble size might be too small for large canines
    • Not suitable for puppies with grain sensitivity

Reviews:

Dee  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I read that you should feed your dogs a variety of different dog foods. So even though they are no longer puppies, this is one of 3 different dog foods I give them, and ALL 6 VERY HEALTHY!”

Karen  |   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Bentley my new rescue puppy loves this food! I have had no problems with it since he started it. I will continue buying it for him as long as he gobbles it down.”

Conclusion

When it comes to puppy food, there’s no need to overcomplicate things.

The recipe should start with delicious meat-based proteins, followed by complex carbs and healthy fats. Last but not least, it should be sprinkled with colorful fruits and veggies to boost puppies’ immunity.

Among the top 5, which one shall you crown the best puppy food for your precious little doggo?

Frequently Asked Questions

Are grains bad for dogs?
Whole grains contribute important nutrients and health advantages to your pet. To cut costs, you might want to look into dog food containing whole grains unless your dog has a known allergy.
When should I switch from puppy to adult dog food?
Small and medium breeds will need to transition to adult dog food between 9 and 12 months. However, most large and giant breeds are still considered puppies until they are 18 months of age (or in some cases, 24 months), so they must continue to chow on puppy food until then.
What is "meat meal" in dog food?
Meat meal is a high-concentrated protein powder made from rendered animal parts such as residual meat, offal, etc.

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