How to Choose Food for Puppies?

Helloooo, new puppy owner!

You are starting a great phase of your life with your new mini-friend. I am sure you are very excited and you have already started your research.

The first and most important thing is what food my puppy can eat, right?

That’s why we are here, buddy. To help you in this seemingly easy but actually difficult task.

In this article, you will find a lot of tips, a lot of comparisons, and a lot of useful information about choosing food for puppies.

Life stages of dogs

I want to start first with the life stages of dogs as they are very important.

If you got your puppy as a gift and you know that it’s not just a newborn but already a few months old, then you may wonder for how long it is considered a puppy and when starts the adult phase.

That depends on the size of the breed you have gotten. Here I made a table that I hope will be useful to you.

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Differences Between Dog Sizes

You already know by the table that dog size is an important factor for understanding what stage your dog is in. But this factor is also used as there are different types of food for puppies and they contain different concentrations of minerals and vitamins.


Well, you can’t give food that is for giant dogs to small dog breeds.


For example, large and giant breeds need different amounts of calcium and phosphorous. These minerals are used for bone development and they need their bones to be much stronger than the bones of small and large dogs as their bones should carry more weight during their lifespan. So they need proper bone development to decrease the chance of joint issues at an early age.

Another difference that you should consider is that a small puppy can’t eat big pieces of kibble while a large puppy probably won’t have any issues with them. The same goes for wet food and the size of the chunks inside.

Differences Between Breeds and Their Foods

For adult and senior dogs, it’s not that important if the food is made exactly for their breed. Like they can eat food made for all breeds, you just need to check the nutrient content and what your dog needs. If your dog needs more protein, then you just search for food with more protein.

For puppies, it’s a bit different. It’s really better if you get food that is specifically for your dog because of the different sizes they have. Different size demands different amounts of nutrients. For example, small breeds need much more calcium because their bones are smaller than the bones of large and giant dogs. Also smaller breeds in many cases are more active than large ones.

But also no matter the difference in sizes, there also differences between the breeds and what they need. So if you have a baby chihuahua then look for food for chihuahuas, NOT for any other small breeds.

Veterinarian Advice

When you start searching for puppy food, you should first consult with the vet of the puppy. As they made advise you to check for food that doesn’t contain some ingredients or directly tell you which will be the best food for your dog as they already know the dog’s health condition.

Then when you already know what to look for, start your research. But not before because it will get really confusing for you. Many people on the internet are advising this and this food but it may not be a good choice for your dog, so first listen to your vet.

Amount of Food for Puppies and Frequency

First, let’s start with the fact that puppies should be fed three to four times a day while adult dogs should be fed only twice. Why such big a difference, you may ask, right?

Puppies need to eat more often because they are much more active than adult dogs and they need it often because of their development. You know all the growing and development is right in the puppy’s stage. That’s why it should be our responsibility to give them all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need for normal growth.

Eating four times doesn’t mean that puppies eat more, they need smaller amounts but more frequently.

Depending on the weight, dogs should start with different grams of food. The bigger the dog bigger the amount of food it should take.

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You should check your puppy. By that, I mean that you will get to know when you should lower the times of eating but increase the amount. Around 6 months dog should eat two times a day but of course in a bigger amount.

Food Allergies

Sometimes the safest food is hypoallergenic food.


Many dogs develop allergies right during the puppy stage. And that’s okay. That’s the moment when they develop and get to know a different kind of food.

Your puppy may be allergic to:

  1. grain foods
  2. food containing peas
  3. foods containing animal by-products

For dogs that have allergic to grains, a good option is grain-free food, the same goes for pea allergic and they can consume pea-free food.

Wet food VS Dry food for Puppies

Pros of wet food:

  • great for puppies that don’t get enough amount of water during the day;
  • canned foods are not containing preservatives or artificial colors;
  • picky eaters find wet food yummier;
  • when they are unopened they have a long shelf life.

Cons of wet food:

  • more expensive than dry food per amount and calories;
  • fast spoiling process when opened and puppies must eat it in an hour;
  • the amounts of unused canned food should be refrigerated;
  • when opened they have a short shelf life.

Pros of dry food (kibble):

  • much more affordable;
  • doesn’t require any preparations, just put it in the bowl of your puppy;
  • chewable – so it helps with plaque buildup;
  • great for dog’s teeth health;
  • much easier cleanup;
  • shelf life is long no matter whether opened or still sealed.

Cons of dry food:

  • isn’t as tasty as wet food;
  • some puppies experience difficulties in chewing it;
  • many dry foods contain preservatives and/or artificial colors.

If you have a picky eater you can use a few tricks to make them eat dry food. You can put on top of dry food a bit of canned food or mix them.

In the first weeks of their lives when they aren’t getting milk from their mothers anymore they may have difficulties with dry food and that’s normal. There is a trick for that, too. You can add a bit of water to the dry food, but remember only a bit so they can slowly get used to the crunchy kibble. Don’t make the dry food turn wet.

But you should more concentrate on what is really important and that is the quality, not the moisture level.

What is AAFCO and why is it so important?

AAFCO is the abbreviation of the Association of American Feed Control Officials. AAFCO is a non-profit, voluntary membership association.

What does AAFCO do?

They have established guidelines for ingredient definitions, product labels, feeding trials, and laboratory analyses of the nutrients a dog food contains.

Then the third-party testing agencies test them by the established guidelines.

What are the guidelines?

The guidelines include:

  • Product Name
  • Species of animal that the food is intended for
  • Net quantity
  • Calorie Content and Descriptive Terms
  • Ingredients
  • Nutritional Adequacy and Substantiation
  • Nutrients
  • Feeding directions
  • Guaranteed Analysis

I made a table so it is easier for you when you look at the label if the brand really met the AAFCO requirements.

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The growth column is for puppies and pregnant or lactating females.

Check the Label and Ingredient List

The most important thing that you should search for is the following sentence:

Formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food Nutrient Profiles for growth.

You should also check the ingredient list as you should know if your dog is getting quality food. The first ingredient that you see on the list should be some type of meat like chicken, lamb, beef, or turkey. It shouldn’t be meat by-products.

Needed Nutrients For Puppies

1. Fatty acids – DHA

DHA is helping and improves the brain function, central nervous system, and vision of dogs. Puppies first get DHA from the mother’s milk and it’s a key ingredient for the baby’s neural development. DHA is also known for improving heart conditions and reducing inflammation.

2. Protein

Puppies need much more protein than adult dogs. The protein should be of high quality and if your puppy isn’t allergic to meat, then it should be an animal protein. This high-quality protein is needed for puppies to create new body tissue while they are growing up.

3. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates shouldn’t be cut from any food diet for dogs, even more at the puppy stage as they need all the nutrients they can get.

The only thing you should make sure of is that carbs aren’t first or one of the first ingredients. As puppies don’t need that much amount of carbs. carbohydrates help the kibble for its texture.

There are 2 types of carbs simple and complex ones.

Simple carbs are more easily digested and it happens quicker than complex carbohydrates, but they are a source of short-term energy. Complex crabs provide slow-release energy, they are digested slower but help regulate the metabolism.

4. Calcium

It’s important for a puppy the food to be rich in calcium as it is needed for strong teeth and bones. But for large breeds it should be the opposite, calcium should be less so the bones don’t grow too fast.

5. Iron

Iron also should be high it’s important for quality and healthy blood. As you may know, iron deficiency may lead to anemia, you should make sure that your puppy gets enough iron through their food. In most cases that isn’t possible that’s why vets recommend supplements.

6. Prebiotics

They are important for a strong immune system and digestive tract. An interesting fact is that at least 65% of a puppy’s immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract, that’s why it should be protected from bacteria. The best way of prevention is the intake of prebiotics.

7. Antioxidants

Antioxidants are much needed for dogs and they should them daily as they help the immune system to be strong, and aid the healthy blood vessels. Antioxidants that are good for puppies: Vitamin E, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and selenium.

How to Know If I Give the Right Food to My Puppy?

It’s actually a very easy and fast process to understand if the food for puppies that you have bought is working.


If puppies don’t get enough nutrients or they get the wrong amount of them, you will notice that:

  • their skin and coat are in poor condition – dry skin and dull coat;
  • they are into lethargy – puppies are full of energy usually;
  • they have gastrointestinal problems.

Human Food for Puppies

It’s essential for you and all your family members to understand that giving human food isn’t always good for dogs. Don’t give them your leftovers or right from the table because this food first of all adds unnecessary calories and you can’t be sure if it doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients.

On our site, you can find many fruits and veggies that are safe for your dog but given in very small amounts and very rarely. And these treats shouldn’t be more than 10% of the calorie intake for the day.

Dogs should stick to their dog food.

Switch to Adult Food: When and How?

Different breeds get into the adult stage at different times. You can check the first table of information in this article. Usually around 12 months you should already look for adult food. But you should consult with your vet first and see how the puppy is developing and see if they need to stay on puppy food for a bit more or if they are already ready for the adult food.

All this should happen with the help of your vet as the change in food should happen slowly and don’t be like the one day giving puppy food the next one adult food. Or one meal of puppy food, one of adult food.

Adult food should be included slowly while your dog is still taking puppy food.

Video Guide

The video down below includes all the information you need to know about the food for puppies and it will be really good if you watch it.


You are a new puppy owner. Congratulations!

Now you need to learn what is good for your puppy and what isn’t. Learn the nutrition needs of your dog.

If you have more tips and maybe some advice about how a new puppy owner should choose their first food then let us know. Or if you see that we have skipped something really important let us know in the comments.

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Desislava Asenova
Desislava Asenova

Desi is a dog-lover and proud parent to Daisy, her sweet and sassy Chihuahua. She's always been fascinated by the different diets and eating habits of different animals, and she's especially interested in how food affects a dog's overall health and happiness.

When she's not busy writing about dog food, Desi enjoys pampering Daisy with long walks and playtime in the park. She's also an avid home cook and loves coming up with new recipes for her and Daisy to try out together. She's excited to share her passion for dog food and help other pet owners find the best food for their fur babies.

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