How To Choose Your Puppy's Food

How To Choose Your Puppy's Food

Nothing compares to the excitement of bringing home a new puppy. Naturally you want what’s best for your newest family member, but when it comes to puppy nutrition, knowing what's best can be tough. Not only is there a wealth of choice, the internet can sometimes be a minefield of misinformation. In this guide I’ll explore the science behind what makes a great food, and show you what to look out for when shopping for your puppy.

What is the best food for puppies?

Puppies have unique nutritional needs, which are very different from adult dogs. Puppies are growing and developing their bones, muscles, and internal organs. Not to mention their mental development. This, coupled with how energetic puppies are, means puppies need a higher level of calories than adult dogs.

As your puppy grows, they must also have the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Any deficiencies or excesses could cause serious and long-term health issues for your pup.

This means the best food for puppies is a nutritionally complete food, formulated for puppies. These foods will state on the label that they are 'complete and balanced', and will say that they are 'formulated for growth', or 'suitable for puppies'.

It's important not to forget that puppies also need continuous access to fresh drinking water.

Does breed matter when choosing a puppy food?

Large-breed puppies have different nutritional requirements than small breed puppies. For example, large breed puppies need to grow at a slower rate and must have a careful balance of nutrients to support this growth. In particular, the balance of calcium and phosphorous is crucial. This is because they are more prone to joint and skeletal problems.

Breed also matters in relation to kibble size. A tiny Chihuahua puppy will struggle to chew the same size kibble as a Great Dane puppy, for example.

So yes, breed does matter and the best puppy food for a Cockapoo will not be the same as the best puppy food for a St Bernard.

Puppy in sand

How do I choose the right puppy food for my puppy?

When looking for the best puppy food for your puppy, there are a few things to consider:

  • Your puppy's breed: the size they will be as an adult affects the nutrition they need now
  • Their activity levels: a working puppy in training needs more calories than a sofa pup
  • Their current weight, or body condition: it's really important to keep your puppy at a healthy weight, as obesity in puppyhood can cause ongoing health issues
  • Whether they have any health issues which may necessitate a special diet, as advised by your vet.

The best puppy food will be a nutritionally complete food, formulated for puppies, and specifically for your puppy's breed (or adult size). Pet foods are often tailored to miniature, small, medium, large or giant breeds.

When choosing a brand of puppy food, there are a few things to look for:

  • Does the manufacturer employ nutritionists? If so, this is a good sign.
  • Who formulates the pet food? This should be someone suitably qualified, such as vets with specialist nutrition training or someone with a PhD in animal nutrition.
  • Does the food meet the AAFCO (US) or FEDIAF (EU) guidelines?
  • Does the company carry out, or sponsor, nutritional research? This also tends to be a good sign.
  • The company should actively display contact information.

When choosing a puppy diet, consider:

  • Is it labelled as nutritionally complete? (rather than 'complementary', or for 'occasional or supplemental feeding')
  • Is it formulated for puppies?
  • Is it formulated for the size your puppy will be as an adult? (for example, small or large breed)
  • Is it easily digestible, meaning that your puppy can actually digest and use the nutrients in the food?
  • Is it made by a reputable brand?
  • Does it have good reviews?

If you aren't sure, you can always contact the manufacturer for further information. If they can't provide it, it's best to steer clear! You can also ask your vet or vet nurse for advice. They are perfectly placed to offer guidance on your puppy's unique needs.

What puppy foods do vets recommend?

Vets recommend a variety of puppy foods, all backed with scientific research, formulated by qualified nutritionists. Their recommendation may also be based on their own experience and familiarity. This in itself is valuable; vets see enough puppies to know which puppy foods help them thrive!

That said, most vets don't advise a home-cooked diet for puppies. It is very hard to produce a nutritionally complete and balanced diet for puppies yourself, and nutritional deficiencies can be catastrophic in a growing dog. If this is something that you really wish to pursue, you should only do so under the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist.

Raw diets can be dangerous for puppies, due to the high levels of bacteria and the possibility of bones getting stuck. Like other homemade diets, they may not be nutritionally complete, which quickly causes problems. If this is something you are interested in, speak with your vet for advice first.

Should a puppy eat wet or dry food?

There are pros and cons to both wet and dry food. Dry food is often better for dental health, but lacks moisture. Wet food can help ensure that your puppy's water intake is adequate. Dry food can be left down if your puppy is a grazer, whereas any left-over wet food needs to be thrown away. It really comes down to personal choice. Often a combination is best, so that you get the benefits of both.

In conclusion, puppies need to be fed a high quality, easily digestible, nutritionally complete puppy food, which is appropriate for their breed. If you have any questions about your puppy's diet, speak with your vet or vet nurse, who will be happy to help.

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