You wouldn’t choose a collar, bed or squeak toys for your puppy that are meant for a much larger adult dog, right? When it comes to the best puppy food, your dog food shouldn’t be formulated for adult dogs either. 

Puppy foods were formulated to ensure that puppies ranging from diminutive Dachshunds to giant Great Danes receive the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients to grow from small, wriggling puppies into healthy adults.

Our Picks:

Puppy vs Adult Dog Food: What’s the Difference?

Adult dog and puppy outdoors

It might be impossible to tell the difference between a bowl of puppy food and a bowl of adult food, but that doesn’t mean both formulas are the same. 

“Puppies have different nutrient needs than adult dogs,” says Dr. Angela Rollins, clinical associate professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center and diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Specifically, puppies need different amounts of calcium and phosphorus; adult foods don’t contain enough of these essential nutrients for healthy bone development in younger dogs, Rollins says. 

Puppy foods also contain higher amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid that puppies need for healthy brain development.

Puppy Food: What to Look For

Cute puppy laying in the grass

When it comes to choosing the best foods for your growing (and adorable) puppy, obsessing over individual ingredients isn’t important, according to Rollins.

Instead of reading endless ingredient labels, Rollins suggests looking for two things: the “life stage” listed on the bag and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) seal. Puppies need puppy food, not adult food, to ensure that they receive all of the essential ingredients for optimal growth and development. The AAFCO seal is another indication that a dog food is complete and balanced. In other words, it contains all of the nutrients that dogs require at each life stage and the nutrients are in the correct proportions. Any puppy food with the AAFCO seal is a good choice for a healthy diet, Rollins says.

If you have a large breed puppy—we’re talking about you, German Shepherds, Mastiffs and Rottweilers—look for foods designed with their size in mind. 

Rollins notes that large breed puppies have specific nutritional needs and require foods with the right balance of nutrients. These formulations have higher protein levels and essential fatty acids like DHA that were designed to promote slower, steadier growth; large breed puppy foods are also less calorie dense, allowing growing puppies to eat enough to feel full without overeating.

Best Puppy Food Brands

cute puppy dog smiling looking at owner

There are several quality pet foods on the market, including these top brands:

  • Blue Buffalo
  • Diamond Naturals
  • Raised Right
  • Fromms
  • Iams
  • JustFoodForDogs
  • Nutrisource
  • Open Farm
  • Pedigree
  • Royal Canin
  • Science Diet

9 Best Puppy Food Formulas to Try

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Best Puppy Food: Overall Winner

Our pick: JustFoodForDogs Chicken and White Rice

Just Food for Dogs puppy food

Made with fresh whole foods like chicken, white rice and nutrient-rich fruits and veggies. It’s chock full of nutrients like vitamin B5, B6, iron, selenium, zinc and niacin. The fresh, frozen food is a premium alternative to conventional kibble and was designed to provide optimal nutrition and flavor. Treat your puppy’s palate to the Puppy Variety Pack featuring Chicken & White Rice and Fish & Sweet Potato. Your puppy gets the wholesome goodness and you save 50 percent on your first variety box.


  • Contains the optimal amounts of calcium and phosphorus to support the nutritional needs of growing puppies.
  • Made with meat from chicken thighs, which is more nutrient dense than white meat.
  • The recipe underwent feeding trials using AAFCO-designed protocols.
  • Meats are USDA inspected and approved for human consumption.
  • Gluten-free, no preservatives.
  • Vet-trained consultants are available to make recommendations and an online feeding calculator provides portion recommendations. 
  • Available via auto-ship deliveries in small, medium and large boxes (ranging from 7.8 pounds to 31.5 pounds).

Things to Consider

  • Transitioning from conventional kibble to fresh frozen puppy foods can take up to 10 days to avoid stomach upset.
  • Must be kept frozen and thawed before serving.
  • With prices starting at $55.65 for a small box, fresh frozen dog foods could be cost prohibitive.

Best Dry Puppy Food

Our pick: Open Farm Ancient Grains High-Protein Puppy Food

open farm ancient grains dry puppy dog food

20% off first auto-ship order with code VETSTREET

This kibble is billed as “ethically sourced from farm to bowl.” All of the ingredients from chicken, wild-caught salmon, millet, quinoa, cranberries, apples, chia seeds and pumpkin are humanely and sustainably sourced and 100 percent traceable using the lot code on the back of the bag. 


  • Chicken and pork are 100% Certified Humane and raised without antibiotics.
  • Ocean Wise certified salmon, wild caught using sustainable fishing practices.
  • 90 percent of protein comes from animal sources.
  • No corn, wheat or soy.
  • Non-GMO ingredients.
  • No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Things to Consider

  • The ancient grains recipe is not grain-free.
  • Not available in big-box pet stores; must be purchased at local stores or purchased online and shipped.
  • The kibble comes in one size (small).
  • It’s priced as a premium pet food.

Best Human-Grade Puppy Food

Our pick: Raised Right

Get 20% off your first 16-bag box with code PETS20

Raised Right has made a name for itself as a family-owned human-grade dog food company, working with veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker and pet food formulation expert Steve Brown to formulate limited ingredient recipes that are high in protein and low in carbs.

We especially like the brand’s human-grade puppy food options because every ingredient in Raised Right dog food has passed the same standards necessary for human consumption and all their food is lightly cooked in a USDA-inspected human-grade facility. Plus, every single batch they cook gets lab safety tested for pathogens like E.coli, listeria, and salmonella to help ensure their food is safe for pups to eat.

Then there’s the stellar nutritional makeup of Raised Right dog food. Most of their recipes contain less than 2 percent carbohydrates because the company doesn’t use any high-carb fillers like potato, rice, oats, yam, pasta, barley, parsnips, corn, or wheat. 

There are three recipes that are specifically formulated for puppy growth, including turkey, beef, and chicken. And when your puppy is ready to transition to adult food, Raised Right offers eight adult dog food recipes that uphold the same high standards of safety and quality. 


  • Veterinarian-formulated, limited-ingredient recipes are rich in protein and low in carbohydrates
  • Each recipe is made with human-grade ingredients in a USDA-inspected facility
  • Most of their recipes have less than 2% carbs because they don’t use any high-carb fillers like potato, rice, oats, yam, pasta, barley, parsnips, corn, or wheat
  • Three different puppy recipes to choose from, designed for your young dog’s life stage
  • Meets AAFCO’s requirements for a completed and balanced diet for puppy growth, including growth of large-size dogs (70 lb. or more as an adult) 
  • Puppies can transition to Raised Right’s eight adult dog food recipes
  • Each batch is lab tested and placed on a hold release program to make sure that the food does not ship out until it passes the lab safety test
  • Choose from custom meal plans or sample boxes to try first

Things to Consider

  • Follow the packaging and feeding instructions carefully, as each puppy’s caloric requirement is unique
  • Food arrives fresh frozen and must be defrosted in the refrigerator overnight

Best Small Breed Puppy Food

Our pick: Hill’s Science Diet Small Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Small Paws Puppy Food

This nibble-size kibble from Hill’s Science Diet is tailored for the developmental needs of small and mini puppies so they can grow and flourish. Made with chicken meal, barely, and brown rice, Hill’s small breed dry puppy food contains DHA from fish oil for healthy brain and eye development, balanced minerals for strong bones and teeth, and high-quality protein for building lean muscles. It also features a proprietary antioxidant blend, vitamin C and E to support a healthy immune system. 


  • Small-sized kibble for small breed dogs 1 year and younger
  • Chicken meal is the first ingredient
  • Veterinarian recommended
  • No artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or chicken by-product meal
  • Made in the USA with global ingredients
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back

Things to Consider

  • On the expensive side, but many pet parents like the peace of mind that comes from feeding a research-based, veterinarian-recommended brand 
  • Only available in 4.5- or 15.5-lb. bags

Best Puppy Food for Medium Breeds

Our pick: Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food

Diamond naturals small breed puppy formula dry dog food

The formula, which includes chicken, kale, pumpkin, blueberries and oranges, was designed to provide the right balance of nutrients for small breed puppies. The nutrient-rich recipe also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support healthy skin, coat, vision and brain health.


  • Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient.
  • Formulated without corn, wheat, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.
  • The combination of soluble and insoluble fibers support healthy digestion.
  • Made in the USA by a family-owned company.
  • AAFCO-certified as a complete and balanced food for puppies.
  • Available in three sizes: 6-,18- and 40-pound bags.

Things to Consider

  • Some ingredients are purchased from global sources.
  • It’s not a non-GMO or grain-free formula.

Best Large Breed Puppy Food

Our pick: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

Blue buffalo large breed puppy chicken food

In addition to meat, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, the recipe contains LifeSource Bits, a blend of antioxidant-rich ingredients like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat. A balance of calcium and phosphorus also helps large breed puppies achieve optimal growth and development. 


  • Made with deboned chicken and whole grains.
  • Formulated for healthy muscle growth and bone development in large breed puppies.
  • No corn, wheat or soy; no poultry byproducts.
  • Available in 15-and 30-pound bags.

Things to Consider

  • One formula with chicken as the main ingredient.
  • It’s not grain-free.

Best Wet Puppy Food

Our pick: Wellness Complete Health Just for Puppy Canned Dog Food

Wellness just for puppy dog food

The combination of chicken, salmon, barley, sweet potatoes and flaxseed supports energy, digestive health, immunity, healthy skin and coat, vision and oral health. Antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids support your puppy’s developing brain.


  • Made with two sources of proteins (chicken and salmon).
  • Wet food is more aromatic and might entice picky eaters.
  • Can be added as a topper to kibble.
  • No byproducts, fillers, artificial preservatives or flavors.

Things to Consider

  • It’s a paté, and the manufacturer notes that consistency can vary between cans.
  • Not designed for large breed puppies that will reach adult weights over 70 pounds.

Best Puppy Food for Sensitive Stomach

Our pick: CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Puppy Limited Ingredient Chicken, Lentil & Whole Egg Recipe

Canidea grain free puppy food

A limited-ingredient diet might be exactly what your puppy needs to calm a roiling tummy. PURE is made with just nine ingredients: chicken, Menhaden fish meal, lentils, peas, potatoes, dried whole egg, chicken fat, alfalfa and flaxseed.


  • Made with limited ingredients to minimize stomach upset.
  • Contains probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support healthy growth and development.
  • Made in the USA.
  • No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Things to Consider

  • It’s not a veterinary diet and may not address the underlying cause of stomach upset.
  • Expensive compared to other brands.

Best Grain-Free Puppy Food

Our pick: Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato Puppy Food

Merrick grain free puppy food

With deboned beef as the first ingredient—and 75 percent of the proteins from animal sources—this grain-free formula provides complete and balanced nutrition. The combination of protein and fats add flavor while contributing to healthy skin, coat, joints and brain development.


  • Grain-free formula.
  • Added glucosamine and chondroitin help maintain healthy joints.
  • Contains DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for puppy brain development.

Things to Consider

  • Some pet parents reported that their puppies didn’t like the food.

Puppy Food: Tips and Advice

Puppy eating from bowl

Your puppy needs optimal nutrition for proper growth and development. Follow these feeding tips to keep them healthy.

Use a measuring cup: More than half of dogs are overweight or obese. Measuring out your puppy’s food (instead of filling the bowl and allowing her to graze) can help prevent her from overeating.

Limit treats: Treats are great training tools but avoid offering too many. “Treats shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily calories,” Rollins says. Too many treats could also spoil your dog’s appetite, making it harder to get the right balance of nutrients from her puppy food.

Store food safely: Wet food should be kept refrigerated after it’s opened and kibble should remain in its original bag (which lists the expiration date) and stored in a cool, dry place.