The Best Puppy Food for Your Growing Dog

If you’ve just brought home a new puppy, finding nutritious food for them can seem overwhelming. But don’t stress; we have plenty of the best puppy food options for a range of puppies and are here to help you learn more about puppy feeding basics.

Best Dog Food for Puppies

With any puppy food (or dog food in general), always check the back of the label and look for the AAFCO statement, or nutritional adequacy statement. This is especially important for puppies because the statement should include the term “growth”. For example, here is the nutritional adequacy statement for our Puppy Vantage recipe:

Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth, gestation and lactation, including growth of large size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult).

This statement confirms that this dry dog food recipe is complete and balanced and has all of the nutrients necessary for your puppy’s growth and development. In other words, an average puppy can eat Puppy Vantage as a healthy diet without the need for additional supplements.

Another thing to potentially look for is an all life stages recipe. These recipes offer more flexibility for families with multiple dogs and decrease the need to switch to an adult recipe as your puppy gets older. All life stages recipes have a nutritional adequacy statement similar to our Primitive Natural recipe:

Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages excluding growth of large size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult).

This means that Primitive Natural is complete and balanced and you’re able to feed this food to your dog for their whole life because it has all the necessary nutrients for each life stage. We have a whole variety of all life stages dog food if this is what you’re looking for. Primitive Natural is made with a mix of turkey and chicken proteins as well as a tasty blend of pumpkin and sweet potatoes, but if your pup prefers a different protein we have plenty of options. 

Whether you feed a puppy recipe or an all life stages recipe, the best dog food for puppies will have docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the guaranteed analysis. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oils that helps support healthy brain development. DHA along with a variety of other important amino acids are the building blocks that make up a healthy puppy food.

Best Food for Small Breed Puppies

If your puppy is a small breed, there are other things to consider when it comes to what you should be looking for. Smaller breed dogs require different nutrition, and the same goes for small breed puppies. 

In general, the best puppy food for small breeds is a high-calorie diet. Small breeds have a much higher metabolism rate than larger dogs (those little legs move faster!) so they’re able to process calories faster than large breeds. Our Small Breed recipe is a turkey-based recipe with a high calorie content (400 kcal/cup) and is also formulated for all life stages, so it has all of the nutrients necessary for your small breed puppy as well. 

If turkey is not your small pup’s protein of choice we also have our Coastal Catch recipe with herring meal as the main ingredient. This recipe is developed for all life stages and has a small enough kibble for those tiny mouths to enjoy!

Best Food for Large Breed Puppies

Similar to small breeds, large breed puppies also have more specific nutritional needs. With large breed adults, their nutritional needs are quite opposite from small breeds. Large breed dogs have much slower metabolisms than average or smaller dogs, so they require lower calories. With large breed puppies, however, this is a little different because puppy nutrition is different from that of adult nutrition. 

Because puppies, even large breed puppies, have higher metabolisms so they require more calories to fuel their growing bodies. Our Puppy Vantage recipe is made with 405 kcal/cup and is formulated to support large breed puppies as well.

One important thing to note when looking for a large breed puppy food is that if you’re looking to feed an all life stages formula, you need to pay extra close attention to the Nutritional Adequacy Statement. For example, our Primitive Natural recipe that we mentioned earlier is suitable for puppies and dogs alike, but is actually not suitable for large breeds or large breed puppies:

Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages, excluding growth of large size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult).

So while Primitive Natural is an all life stages recipe, you’ll need to look to other formulas like Puppy Vantage, Coastal Catch, or our UNREFINED recipes if you have a large breed puppy.

A Newfoundland puppy sits next to a bag of Coastal Catch dog food

Best Puppy Food for Allergies

Finding dog food for a puppy with allergies can be a whole different ball game. But first, it’s important to know how allergies in dogs work. What many dog owners don’t realize is that there is a much higher chance of your dog having food intolerances than allergies. However, we turned to Dr. Anne Huss, Earthborn Holistic’s Director of Nutrition Services:

“A food allergy is a result of a flaw in a pet’s immune system and is an abnormal reaction to normal foods triggered by an animal’s immune system. In some cases, a pet’s immune system can misidentify or misjudge safe compounds (usually proteins) as a threat which causes the body to attack–leading to a food allergy.

“A food intolerance, on the other hand, can be either an unusual reaction to normal food or normal reactions to abnormal foods that does not trigger a response from the immune system. 

“Food allergies can take months to years to develop to a particular food. Once developed, the allergy will persist with a negative reaction to that particular food or allergen. On the other hand, a food intolerance will come on more quickly due to the immune system not mediating the response.”

Because allergies and intolerances are so similar and have similar symptoms, we always recommend talking to your vet when trying to decide if your dog is allergic to any foods. They may recommend an elimination diet to hone in on the specific ingredient your dog is allergic (for example, a chicken-free dog food) to or a limited ingredient dog food, which we can help with!

A limited ingredient diet is pretty much what it sounds like–a diet with fewer and less-common allergens. For example, two of our Venture recipes are crafted for all life stages and are great for puppies with allergies. Our Roasted Lamb & Butternut Squash recipe and Rabbit Meal & Pumpkin recipes are both limited ingredient diets for adult dogs and puppies with allergies alike. They’re made with fewer ingredients but still contain all of the nutrition your growing puppy needs. 

A Newfoundland puppy stands next to a bag of Venture Rabbit Meal & Pumpkin dog food

Best Puppy Food for Skin Allergies

If your puppy struggles with skin allergies, we typically recommend a diet with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids are known to help support skin and coat health, which can help relieve skin allergy symptoms. Where are Omega fatty acids found? Fish! 

Often, finding a fish-based recipe for your puppy will help tremendously with any skin allergies your puppy has developed. That being said, fish proteins are typically more popular for puppy recipes because DHA is actually an omega-3 fatty acid. So while Omegas are great for all dogs and their skin and coat, they provide extra benefits for puppies and their growth and development. 

A great option for dealing with skin allergies in puppies and dogs alike is our Coastal Catch recipe. This grain-free, all life stages recipe is made with herring meal as the first ingredient and also features salmon meal and pacific whiting meal for an extra boost of Omegas. Additionally, both of the all life stages Venture recipes mentioned earlier have added Alaska Pollock Meal, aiding in Omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat for your puppy with skin allergies.

How Much Food Should a Puppy Eat?

Just like adult dogs, how much puppies should eat depends on a variety of factors. While you should always consult with your veterinarian when trying to determine exactly how much your puppy should eat, you can get a starting point by looking at the puppy feeding chart on the back of your puppy’s food bag. 

To read the feeding chart, simply find your puppy’s age and weight and then the corresponding amount of food you should feed based on that food’s puppy feeding guide. This will give you a great starting point for how much to feed your puppy. For example, here’s a feeding chart from our Puppy Vantage recipe:

The feeding chart for Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage

If you had a puppy that was 5 months old and weighed 25 pounds, you would feed between 2 and 3¼ cups of Puppy Vantage per day. Again, this is meant to be a starting point and your vet will be able to help you determine the exact amount. Another important note is that the feeding chart for each recipe is different, so just because you feed 2 cups of Puppy Vantage doesn’t mean you’ll need to feed 2 cups of another recipe.

How Long do Puppies Need to Eat Puppy Food?

Generally, most puppies are ready to be switched to adult dog food when they reach 12 months of age. Puppies grow quickly, so it’s important to make sure you’re waiting to switch their food until they’re reached maturity so their nutrition can keep up with their growth. That being said, if you’re feeding an all life stages formula, switching to an adult food isn’t necessary unless you want to, which we’ll discuss later. 

However, there are exceptions when it comes to switching from puppy food to adult food. For example, large and giant breed dogs should remain on puppy food until they reach maturity at about two years old. Because of their size, it takes longer for their bodies to grow and mature. You should always consult your veterinarian before switching foods to make sure you’re feeding a food that meets your dog or puppy’s individual needs.

How to Gradually Switch Dog Food for Your Puppy

Once you’ve determined how long you should feed your dog puppy food, it’s important to know how to switch their food. If you’re feeding an all life stages formula you’re good to go, but if you’re wanting to switch from a high-quality puppy food recipe to an adult recipe there’s a specific way to do it to avoid problems.

A puppy sniffs a bag of Puppy Vantage dog food

Switching dog food cold turkey is typically not recommended, as it can lead to major stomach upset for your dog or puppy. Instead, make sure you’re switching from the old food to the new food over a course of seven days (aka the seven day switch). This allows your pup to grow familiar with their new food and it helps alleviate tummy troubles that come from switching to a new food too fast. Here is the recommended breakdown of the seven day switch:

  • Days 1 & 2 – 25% new food, 75% old food
  • Days 3 & 4 – 50% new food, 50% old food
  • Days 5 & 6 – 75% new food, 25% old food
  • Day 7 – 100% new food

Once you learn how to gradually switch dog food, you’ll use the same process throughout the rest of your puppy’s life if you’d like to switch their food. Even adult dogs can get an upset stomach from switching their food too quickly.

In the end, it’s important to take into consideration your own puppy’s nutrition and take time to talk things out with your vet to make sure your puppy is getting all of the nutrients they need to support their growth. All puppies are different, but at Earthborn Holistic we’re proud to have the perfect recipe for every paw–even the small ones. 

Need help choosing a recipe for your puppy? Send us a message and we’ll be happy to help!