Top 10 Best Dry Puppy Foods

Top 10 Best Dry Puppy Foods

Welcoming a new puppy into the family is an exciting time in which you’ll discover all sorts of fun ways to bond. But, raising a brand new puppy is also a lot of work, and one of the things you’re likely looking into is the best diet for your new puppy. Dry kibble is a popular option, so we’ve compiled our choices for the best dry food for puppies.

As you research what’s best for your new addition, you may be considering dry food. Here, we’ll take a look at the nutritional requirements of puppies, and suggest some of the best dry dog food available to keep your puppy happy and healthy.

Canine Nutrition Basics

  • Regardless of breed, protein is key to a puppy’s healthy diet, as it supports growth and development. Fat is a concentrated source of calories that’ll help your pup absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Though your puppy has no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates (though healthy sources can provide essential nutrients), he will need a mix of vitamins and minerals.
  • The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has determined the minimal requirements for key nutrients in dogs. AAFCO recommendations state a minimum of 22% protein and 8% fat for canine growth (puppies) and reproduction (gestating/lactating females). These numbers are higher than what’s recommended for adult dogs as puppies require more fat and protein because of their developing bodies and greater caloric expenditure.
  • To meet these requirements, feed your puppy a high-quality puppy food made with real, whole-food sources of these nutrients. Animal protein like meat or poultry should be the focus with higher than average fat and limited carbohydrate content. Keep in mind as well that not all dog foods have the same calorie content, so compare the calories per cup to the feeding recommendations according to your dog’s age and weight.
  • Remember that AAFCO standards exist to encourage commercial pet food products to adhere to minimum nutritional requirements. However, your puppy deserves more than the bare minimum. Checking for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy on the label is a good way to weed out the really bad dog foods, but it does not guarantee high quality.
  • As a dog owner, it’s important to understand the truth about dog food. Make sure the food you’re considering is of high quality and will do more than just meet your dog’s minimum nutritional needs.

Dry Food for Puppies: Specific Nutritional Needs

  • When it comes to what to feed your puppy, breed size plays an important role. Small breeds and large breeds each have different nutritional requirements based on the size of their bodies and how their bodies function. Small dogs, for example, reach maturation more quickly than large breeds. Puppies are generally switched onto adult food once they’ve reached 80% of their expected adult size, which for small dogs means 9-10 months, and for other breeds 12–16 months.
  • A known health condition that can affect large breed dogs is hip dysplasia. Too many calories and calcium, along with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, can promote overgrowth and hinder bone and cartilage development. So, you’ll also want to examine the vitamin content of your dog’s food carefully, especially as a puppy when developing strong bones is critical, writes veterinarian Betsy Brevitz in her guide, “Hound Health Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Dog Happy, Healthy & Active.” Brevitz recommends between 1 to 1.5% calcium for your puppy’s diet as a whole.
  • On the other hand, not getting enough calories is a risk factor for small breed puppies. Hypoglycemia occasionally affects small breed puppies, according to Brevitz, and though it may not be a common occurrence, it can be fatal and requires immediate veterinary attention. Hypothermia is also another related consideration. Small breed puppies are susceptible to these issues, because their bodies have a much higher metabolic rate and energy requirement than large breed dogs. Due to a tinier stomach, they may not be able to eat as much in one sitting as a large breed puppy, but those small meals should be densely packed in calories, protein, and fat to keep up with their speedy metabolisms to ensure they are getting enough of the nutrients they need.

Dry Food for Puppies: What About Wet Food

  • Dry food has the advantage of being more affordable and less messy when feeding and cleaning up after your puppy at mealtimes. It also has a longer shelf life than wet food (be sure to check the date on the label before buying). According to PetMD, dry food has been found in some cases to help maintain dental health in dogs (in accordance with regular teeth cleanings and dental chews). Keep in mind that dry food tends to have a higher carbohydrate content than wet and, especially for small breed puppies, kibbles can be harder to chew (unless they are sized appropriately).
  • According to the Clinical Nutrition Service (part of Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University), wet food can be easier for dogs to chew and swallow and is also a good option for picky eaters. Canned food also has higher water content, which can be beneficial for doggos with certain health considerations. Fat and protein are more prevalent in wet food, so this may be a good option if your puppy requires a higher protein diet, but not a good choice for puppies who need to watch their fat consumption.
  • When used occasionally or at the recommendation of your vet, wet puppy food can be a great supplement to dry puppy food.

Dry Food for Puppies: To Grain or Not to Grain

  • As mentioned above, grain-free is another potential type of puppy food to consider. Some owners prefer grain-free as it is closer to the traditionally carnivorous Canis genus diet and can be easier on a dog’s digestive system, especially if your dog has grain allergies or sensitivities.
  • However, grain-free diets have been linked to potential heart issues in canines by the FDA, so it’s best to check with your veterinarian before switching or starting your dog on one. Single, whole-grain dog food is another possible option and it is exactly what it sounds like: dog food made with a single whole grain (as opposed to a compound of different grains).

The 10 Best Dry Puppy Foods

Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Original Dry Food

Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Original Dry Dog Food
Size: 15-pound bag
Breed Size: All breeds

Unlike some of the other affordable brands on our list, Iams ProActive Puppy Food features chicken as its main ingredient. You’ll also find that this food is enriched with antioxidants to help your puppy build a strong immune system and omega 3 DHA for cognitive development. There are no artificial dyes, preservatives, soy, wheat, or other fillers in this dog food. It is 100% complete and balanced to provide your dog with a great meal.

While it is avoided by the more expensive brands, Iams ProActive Dry Food does use corn as an ingredient. This can be difficult for puppies and their digestion. Keep this in mind if you plan on purchasing this food. You will also notice that the feeding directions on the bag are difficult to read and follow.

  • Corn is used as an ingredient
  • Labels are difficult to read
  • Chicken is the main ingredient
  • No artificial dyes or preservatives
  • 100% complete and balanced meal

Puppy Chow Real Chicken Dry Dog Food – Best Value

Puppy Chow Complete With Real Chicken Dry Dog Food
Size: 4.4-pound bag
Breed Size: All

If you’re looking for the best dry puppy food for the money, Puppy Chow Complete is your best option. This dog food is not only affordable but can easily be found in most local pet shops, department stores, and grocery stores in your area. You’ll also find that Puppy Chow is ideal for pet owners trying to feed several puppies or who aren’t sure of their puppy’s exact breed size and requirements. While this is an affordable dog food option, you’ll be pleased to know it undergoes the same AAFCO testing for nutritional content as the more expensive brands.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Puppy Chow you won’t find high sources of protein or special added ingredients. This dog food offers pups the nutrition they need for a balanced diet and growth only. This food is also not intended to help pups who suffer from stomach and digestive issues.

  • Not formulated for dogs with stomach issues
  • Readily available
  • Affordable

Wellness Complete Puppy Chicken Mix – Best Overall

Wellness Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food

Size: 30-pound bag
Breed Size: All

Our pick for the best overall dry puppy food is Wellness Complete Puppy Food. This dry dog food uses deboned chicken as the main ingredient and source of protein. Salmon meal and oil are added to this formula to provide your puppy with the natural sources of omega 3 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds, needed to promote a shinier, softer coat. Added tomatoes not only help provide flavor but also vitamin C and essential antioxidants your puppy needs.

The biggest issue we had with Wellness Complete Puppy Food is the fact they have changed their packaging over the years. Originally, this fairly expensive puppy food came in sealable bags for freshness. Unfortunately, they have changed this and no longer offer dog owners the option of keeping food fresh without using additional containers.

  • No longer in a sealable bag
  • Expensive
  • Used deboned chicken as the main protein source
  • Features omega 3s for soft coat
  • Tomatoes add additional vitamin C

Purina Pro Puppy Large Breed Chicken – Premium Choice

Purina Pro Plan Puppy Large Breed Chicken & Rice Formula with Probiotics Dry Dog Food
Size: 34-pound bag
Breed Size: Large and giant breeds

If you have a large breed puppy who will eventually grow to be larger than 50-pounds, then our premium choice dry dog food, Purina Pro Plan is the perfect food to offer them. While this food costs a bit more than others on the market, it has been tested by veterinarian nutritionists to ensure its quality. Featuring chicken as the main source of protein and including fish oil and live probiotics, this food is formulated to build lean muscle and helps promote brain and vision development.

The only issue we see with this dog food is the interchanging formulas. Recently, Purina changed its formula to feature probiotics. Due to shortages and other issues, they have been noted for switching between the new, better dog formula to the older version without notice.

  • Formulas are switched often
  • Tested by veterinarian nutritionists for healthy content
  • Good for brain and vision development

Royal Canin Small Puppy Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Small Puppy Dry Dog Food
Size: 13-pound bag
Breed Size: Small, extra small, and toy breeds

Royal Canin Small Puppy Dry Dog Food is the first on our list specially designed for small dog breeds. For breeds that will reach up to 22 pounds as an adult, this puppy food offers the nutrition small dogs need to keep up with their high energy levels during their growing months. This food also promotes healthier digestive and immune systems thanks to the included probiotics, prebiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Pet owners will also notice the kibble size is quite small, making it easy for smaller dogs to eat.

The biggest issue we found with this puppy food is that the main ingredient is not protein. A strong source of protein is ideal for growing puppies. Unfortunately, rice and chicken by-product meal are the main ingredients that can also leave puppies with sensitive tummies with added issues.

  • Not a great source of protein
  • Good for high energy levels
  • Small kibble size

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy
Size: 30-pound bag
Breed Size: All breeds

Blue Buffalo has long been considered one of the leaders in pet nutrition. Thankfully for owners with puppies, this hasn’t changed. The Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy Formula is formulated to provide puppies of all breed sizes the nutrition they need to grow healthy and strong. One of the things Blue Buffalo offers that other pet foods don’t is their special LIfeSource Bits. This is a special blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals used to promote immune health and healthy oxidative balance. Unfortunately, however, these LIfeSource Bits are separate from the kibble. While they are healthy, if your dog prefers, they can simply avoid them and lose out on the nutritional value they need from balanced dog food.

  • LifeSource Bits are separate pieces and can be avoided
  • Features chicken as the main source of protein
  • Uses LifeSource Bits for additional nutrients

Farmina N&D Ancestral Grain Chicken & Pomegranate

Farmina N&D Ancestral Grain Chicken & Pomegranate Recipe Mini Puppy Dry Dog Food
Size: 5.5-pound bag
Breed Size: Small breeds

If you want your small breed puppy to eat dry food that is GMO and gluten-free then Farmina N&D Mini Puppy Dog Food could be your answer. This Italian-based food features protein that 90% of is derived from natural animal sources. The ingredients are also regionally resourced and packed in protective environments. This offers your puppy safety and the great tastes they want and deserve.

The downsides of this dog food include hard pieces of kibble and an unfortunate aroma. Considering this breed is designed for smaller breeds of dogs, it would be better if the kibble were easier to chew. Unfortunately, you may need to add water to help soften it for their little mouths. The smell may be off-putting for some pups and their owners. Don’t be surprised when you open the bag and notice it isn’t very appealing.

  • Kibble pieces are very hard
  • Food has an unpleasant odor
  • GMO and gluten-free
  • Features animal-sourced protein

Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Large Breed Chicken

Hill's Science Diet Puppy Large Breed Chicken Meal & Oat Recipe Dry Dog Food
Size: 30-pound bag
Breed Size: Large and giant breeds

Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food is another food that is readily available and offers your puppy the nutrition it needs for growth and development. This dog food has been through AAFCO trials for nutritional content and is made in the USA with wholesome ingredients. Calcium, vitamin C and E, and antioxidants are included in this high-protein formula to ensure your large breed puppy receives the nutrition needed for bone and muscle development dogs their size need when young. You’ll also be pleased to know no artificial colors or additives are used.

Although this dog food is developed for puppies that will be larger than 55 pounds when they are adults, the kibble size can still be difficult for puppies. If your puppy has an issue chewing this kibble, you may need to step in and offer assistance by breaking the pieces until they grow enough to eat it comfortably.

  • Kibble pieces are large
  • High-protein formula
  • Made in the USA
  • No artificial colors or ingredients

CANIDAE PURE Petite Puppy Small Breed Salmon

CANIDAE PURE Petite Puppy Small Breed Grain-Free with Salmon Dry Dog Food
Size: 10-pound bag
Breed Size: Small, extra small, and toy breeds

If you’re looking for a freeze-dried option for your small breed of dog, Canidae Pure is a nice option. Using real salmon as the main ingredient this food is grain-free and hypoallergenic. The absence of wheat, corn, and soy makes it a great food for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Each piece is coated with raw salmon, to make it more enticing for even the pickiest of eaters. Pet parents will love this eight-ingredient recipe that ensures your puppy is being fed foods with ingredients you can trust.

Unfortunately, when dealing with freeze-dried food, the texture can be an issue. Many puppies may feel this kibble is too hard for them to chew. Luckily, water can be added to help. Another issue we experienced, however, was the smell. The kibble, and the bag itself, had an unpleasant aroma that made some of our pups avoid the food altogether.

  • Kibble is very hard
  • Has an unpleasant odor
  • Real salmon is the main ingredient
  • Grain-free with no wheat, corn, or soy
  • Hypoallergenic

Rachael Ray Nutrish Puppy Real Chicken & Rice

Rachael Ray Nutrish Bright Puppy Natural Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
Size: 14-pound bag
Breed Size: All breeds

While Rachel Ray gained popularity as a chef, she is steadily making a name for herself in the world of pet food as well. Her puppy formula, Bright Puppy, features real chicken as the main ingredient and avoids using wheat or wheat gluten. DHA and EPA are also included in this puppy formula to promote proper vision and brain development in your pup while the included calcium helps with strong bones during early growth periods. Rachel Ray’s Bright Puppy is intended for puppies but can be used throughout all life stages.

This puppy food is available at an affordable price but unfortunately, not in larger bags. This can become an issue if you have several puppies to feed. You may also find that the kibble may be too hard for smaller dog breeds and requires soaking to make it easier to chew.

  • The bag size is small
  • Kibble pieces may be too hard for smaller dogs
  • Features chicken as the main source of protein
  • Uses DHA and EPA
  • Promotes strong bones

Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Dry Puppy Food

When deciding which puppy food you should buy, there are several things you should keep in mind. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll take a look at a few of the guidelines we used when reviewing dog food brands and choosing the ones we felt should make the list. We’ll also give you a bit of important information on puppy food and why it’s important to choose foods formulated for the proper life stage for your dog.

Puppy Size

If you have a small breed of dog, and only one, you may not need large bags of dog food around the house. For those of us with large dog breeds and multiple pups to feed, bigger bags are your best friend. Keep this in mind when making your purchase. The last thing you want is dog food your puppy absolutely loves but is only available in small bags. This leaves you purchasing often or needing to get enrolled in auto-shipping options.

Puppy Food Ingredients

Of course, as a pet parent, you want the absolute best for your growing puppy. This is why you should always be well aware of the ingredients each dog food brand uses in its products. While having the right blend of vitamins and minerals is important, for the best results for your puppy you should try to choose dog foods that feature protein such as chicken as the first ingredient. This ensures your puppy is getting a high protein diet with fewer fillers and by-products. You’ll also want to watch for omega 6s and 3s. This will promote better your pup’s development and better digestion.

Puppy Food Price

Price is something else you should keep in mind when choosing the right puppy food. If you’re on a budget, pricier brands may be difficult for you to keep around the house. While it is true that the more expensive brands often use better protein sources, it is still possible to find budget dog foods that provide the complete and balanced nutrition your puppy needs for this important stage of its development.

The Difference Between Puppy Food and Adult Food

  • You may be wondering why your puppy needs a different food when they are young. Yes, you still want your adult dog to get great protein and the benefits of omegas, vitamins, and minerals. When they are younger, however, they need dog food that is formulated for their rapid growth. This is where puppy formulas excel.
  • Puppies also require more calories throughout the day than adult dogs. This is due to their high energy and constant growth. Once a dog reaches maturity, they slow down a bit and aren’t required as much food. This is when you will make the switch to adult food and veer away from the high-calorie content of puppy formulas.

Final Thoughts

Wellness Complete Puppy Food made with deboned chicken is easily our choice for the best overall dry puppy food on the market today. This food is full of the healthy protein your puppy needs for their growing needs. If you need budget-friendly puppy food, our best dry puppy food for the money is Purina’s Puppy Chow Complete. This food offers balanced nutrition and is readily available in most stores. Either of these pics will help your puppy grow up happy, healthy, and strong. If these foods aren’t right for your pup, check out the others on our list to choose the best option for your youngest fur baby.

Edward Hollon is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Edward has been writing for petdii for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Edward has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Edward knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.