12 min

What Is The Best Puppy Food? Advice For New Pet Parents

Wondering what the best puppy food is for your new addition? We chatted with a vet to get the scoop on nutrition, ingredients, and portion sizes.

Bridget Reed

Updated November 06, 2022 • Published February 25, 2022

Share to

What Is The Best Puppy Food? Advice For New Pet Parents

As a new pet parent, providing your new puppy with the care they need to live a healthy, long life is likely a top priority. Choosing a high quality food is just one way—albeit a very important one—that you can do that.

If you're curious about what food is best for your new puppy, you've come to the right place. The team at Pawp is passionate about equipping new and experienced pet parents alike with the resources they need to make the right decisions for their pets.

Here's everything you need to know about choosing the best food for your new puppy.

What should I look for in puppy food?

According to Pawp veterinarian Dr. Jenna Olsen, there is a tremendous amount of debate regarding what constitutes “good” puppy food. “You could ask ten people and get ten different answers about what is the best puppy food,” Dr. Olsen says.

“First and foremost, I would recommend talking to your veterinarian based on your pet’s size and breed. To do some of your own research, I would recommend following the guidelines for picking a food set by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WASVA), which can be found easily online.”

Of course, there are also some must-haves in formula recipes. 

Important ingredients to look for in puppy food:

  • Protein

  • Vitamins and minerals

  • Fats

  • Carbohydrates


Just like humans, dogs have nutritional requirements. Protein is a crucial component in a dog's diet. Though several factors should be taken into consideration when you're attempting to decipher exactly how much protein should be in your pet’s diet, it’s generally considered to be a must-have.

The reason that protein is so essential for dogs is because it contains amino acids that are vital for your puppy's health, and that they're unable to manufacture on their own. 

Protein, specifically DHA, is critical to proper brain development. Salmon is a great protein option that is rich in omega-3s and glucosamine. Glucosamine is a key ingredient in forming healthy joints.

Some popular choices for protein include:

  • Lamb 

  • Chicken

  • Beef

  • Salmon

Vitamins and minerals

While your puppy requires several vitamins and minerals, you should think twice before you give them a supplement.

Instead, you should look for a food brand that will provide your pooch with all of the vitamins and minerals that they need at this specific stage in their life. Adult dogs and senior dogs have different needs and feeding guidelines than puppies.  

Read: Does My Dog Need Supplements? How To Optimize Your Dog's Diet


Fats have garnered a bad reputation, but they’re an essential part of any dog’s healthy diet. They actually provide your puppy with a highly concentrated form of energy.

In addition, essential fatty acids are helpful when it comes to helping your pup maintain a silky, smooth coat. Fatty acids also play a role in both cell function and structure.


Carbohydrates are another important component to look for when choosing your new puppy's food. Carbohydrates, along with fats and protein, are the puppy’s main source of energy. There are different types of carbohydrates in dog food, so if you have questions about what’s best for your pet, ask a vet. 

Popular sources of carbohydrates include:

  • Sweet potato

  • Brown rice

Should I feed my puppy wet or dry food?

For the majority of dogs, feeding them wet or dry dog food is fairly the same. In other words, you can select the food that your pet seems to enjoy most and digest the easiest.

Most of the time, pet parents will predominantly feed dry food to their dogs. Not only is this less expensive than wet food, but it can also be easier to store. There’s some conversation about if dry food is better for your dogs’ teeth, too. 

How can I choose food my puppy will eat?

According to Dr. Olsen, there are several things that you should take into consideration when looking into potential puppy foods. For example, it’s a green flag when the company employs a nutritionist.

"This is either someone with a master’s in animal nutrition, a PhD, or a veterinarian who is residency trained and board-certified in nutrition," says Dr. Olsen. "Formulating a diet is difficult! This can not be done without someone with appropriate qualifications.” 

It's also important that the company you are purchasing your puppy’s food from has done their due diligence regarding the food they’re selling. You should ask how they ensure their food meets the claims they're stating on their packaging and ingredient labels. It's also worth looking into whether or not they conduct research and nutritional studies on their product.

"Pet food companies are not actually required to conduct or sponsor nutritional research in order to produce and sell a food," Dr. Olsen explains. "But if they do, it indicates a commitment to animal health and wellness. There are very few brands out there that actually do this, which I find particularly scary.” 

Lastly, Dr. Olsen believes that you should take quality control into account. She says that this involves an in-depth look at the quality control involved in the food processing chain.

Look into the company’s screening process and the cleanliness of their manufacturing centers. It's also wise to examine packing processes and techniques along with shelf-life screenings.

Look at breed-specific foods

One way you can tackle choosing a puppy food is by looking into breed-specific food. This is more relevant for some breeds of dogs than others. Not only will a small breed dog eat less, but they also have different nutritional needs.

For example, large breeds will eat more but may also benefit from foods geared towards hip development and protection. 

Mix dry and wet food for younger dogs

In order to make food appetizing for your puppy, you can consider mixing wet and dry food. The wet food will provide moisture and flavor, which puppies will find appetizing. This could make it easier for your puppy to eat. 

Introduce new foods slowly

When you introduce new foods to your puppy, it's very important to do so gradually. This will likely take about a week or more in some cases. Be sure to take your time with the transition so that your puppy doesn’t experience gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea. 

Read: What To Do When Your Puppy Has Diarrhea: Causes & Solutions

How often should I feed my puppy?

How often you should feed your puppy depends on how old they are in months. 

For puppies that are 6-12 weeks old, feedings should occur approximately four times a day. Once they reach between 3-6 months, you should feed three times a day. And finally, pups between 6-12 months of age should be fed twice a day.

When it comes to portion sizes, it depends on your puppy's metabolism and weight. It's best to consult your vet about this, because appropriate portions can range anywhere from 1/2 cup for smaller breeds to 2 cups for larger breeds.

What foods should I avoid feeding my puppy?

Pawp veterinarian Dr. Olsen has some thoughts regarding what you should avoid feeding your new puppy.

“In terms of what not to feed, I would recommend avoiding raw diets (whether homemade or store-bought), or starting right off the bat with home-cooked diets," Dr. Olsen says. 

Read: These Are The Ingredients You Should Always Avoid In Your Dog Food

"Puppies are more susceptible to infectious disease, and raw meat is known to have a higher incidence of bacterial and parasitic contamination. Given this, feeding raw food to a puppy can put them at increased risk for GI upset and other infections. Home-cooked diets are difficult to balance out minerals and micronutrients, and so in a growing puppy, this is especially risky."

In addition, if your dog has specific food allergies or has demonstrated that they're unable to tolerate a certain ingredient, you should avoid it.

In general, food with plenty of fillers does not have nutritional adequacy. Corn, soy, and wheat are all common fillers. These are not considered high quality ingredients and are known to upset a sensitive stomach. 

A healthy puppy is a happy puppy

The best way to choose food for your new puppy is to consult a veterinary professional. They'll be able to make an informed recommendation based on your pup's breed, size, and medical history.

With Pawp's telehealth visits available 24/7 , there's no wait or appointment necessary. We can help you get the answers you need about your puppy’s food. 


Behavior & Protein: Does Protein in Dog Food Play a Role in Your Dog’s Behavior? | Tufts 

Dog Nutrition | National Research Council

Dietary Supplements for Pets: Harmful or Helpful? | Tufts Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School  

Should I feed canned or dry food? | Tufts Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School 

Selecting the Best Food for a New Puppy | Mississippi State University

Puppy Feeding Fundamentals | AKC

How Often Should I Feed My Pet? | Tufts Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School 

​​How do I switch my pet's food? | Tufts Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School 

Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review | NCBI

WSAVA | World Small Animal Veterinary Association

Talk to a vet now — it's free!

Text, call, or video chat with a vet within minutes.

Talk To A Vet Now