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What to Look for in Best Dry Dog Food for Puppies


Yellow Labrador puppy enjoying their dry dog food

When you adopt a puppy, you’re committing to keeping that lovable ball of fur healthy, active, and living their best dog life. And, as a new pup parent, you’re most likely wondering how to choose the best dry puppy food. The first few months of their first year are vital for your puppy’s health, after all. 

If you’ve scoured the internet and learned that most companies care more about sales than the health of your pup, we understand. Choosing your dog’s food can be tricky when there’s so much information out there. This is why we’ve written this article, dedicated to understanding the ins and outs of puppy food.

What’s the Difference Between Dry Dog Food for Puppies and Adults?

Many new pup parents are surprised to learn that food formulated for puppies exists. Shouldn’t dogs and puppies have the same general nutritional needs? Well, when your puppy is growing into a dog, they can benefit from higher levels of certain elements such as protein and fat [1]. 

Here’s a breakdown between the different requirements mandated by the AAFCO for a food to be labelled as a “puppy” dry food formula versus adult dry dog food [2].

Nutrient (%)

Puppy Formula

Adult Formula
















Methionine + cystine



Phenylalanine + tyrosine



























As you can see, there’s quite a shift in your dog’s needs as they reach adulthood. This is because your puppy is growing, and needs elements, such as protein, for the creation of new cells.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the AAFCO regulates the bare minimum of what dogs need to thrive.

What Else Should You Look for in the Best Dry Dog Food for Puppies?

Litter of puppies scattered over the floor eating dry dog food

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA)

Experts agree that puppies also need omega-3 fatty acids in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) [3]. Before you panic, we know that DHA can sound overly scientific, but it’s not as complicated of an ingredient as it sounds. 

So, what is DHA? DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid. It comes from eggs, some organ meats, and cold-water fish. While this omega-3 fatty acid is pivotal in the development and maintenance of your dog’s brain, your dog cannot produce DHA on its own. It must come from an external dietary source [4].

How Does DHA  Benefit Puppies and Dogs?

A dog’s brain is composed of various elements--50% of these elements are fats [5]. Of these fats, an average of 15% are DHA. Furthermore, 90% of the fats that play a vital role in the immune system, blood clotting, neurotransmitters, metabolism, and membrane phospholipids in the brain and your dog’s eyes are composed of DHA [6].

And while this is all quite complex, it’s important to know that your puppy’s body needs DHA to function at an optimal level. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of what DHA does in common terms, it:
      • Is used in the brain’s ability to create memories
      • Boosts your dog’s thinking and reasoning skills
      • Reduces the risk of eye disorders
      • Plays a vital role in the development of the brain and eye tissue
      • Reduces the risk of heart disease later on in life.
What Dry Dog Food Ingredients Are Naturally Dense Sources of DHA?
      • Herring
      • Mackerel
      • Tuna
      • Halibut
      • Salmon

The Best Dry Puppy Food Has Higher Caloric Density

Growing big, strong, and smart requires a lot of energy. This is why your puppy needs a calorie-dense diet. In fact, puppies need twice the calories per kilogram per day as adult dogs to maintain healthy growth [7]. Half the calories your puppy consumes are used to create new tissue.

This comes to 34 calories per kilogram for puppies compared to 17 calories per kg for adult dogs.

What About Dry Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies?

If your puppy is a large or giant breed, such as a German Shepherd or Great Dane, you’ve likely noticed many dog foods are labelled “Large Breed Puppy.” You may have wondered if this is simply a ploy to get you to purchase their food or if your large, lovable pup has different nutritional requirements than other sized dogs. So, here’s your answer:

Yes, large and giant breed dogs should eat dry dog food formulated for them [8]. No, you should not risk feeding them general puppy food.

Why do large breed puppies have special requirements when it comes to their kibble? Large breed puppies can grow too fast, causing joint issues and skeletal problems sooner or later on in life [9]. Yet your puppy still needs calories for growth and fun. This means they may need a calorie and protein intake tailored to their unique needs--and this can be quite the nutritional balancing act.

Do Small Breed Puppies Need Special Dry Dog Food?

Just as large and giant puppy breeds have their own unique dietary needs, so do small breed puppies. Their itty bitty frames and higher metabolic rates require a diet designed specifically for their needs. The danger of feeding your small breed puppy a generic puppy food is even more amplified if you own a toy breed.

Without food tailored to their needs, small breed puppies can become hypoglycemic [10]. This is when their blood sugar drops too low. To combat this issue, small breed puppy foods are very calorie-dense. 

The kibble size of small breed puppy food is also designed to be easier for them to chew. And these smaller bits of kibble create less of a choking hazard.

Transition Your Puppy to Adult Dry Dog Food

Once your puppy reaches 80% of its adult weight, you can begin transitioning them to their adult dog food. You will want to do this by slowly replacing their existing kibble with more and more of their new dry food.

Provide Your Pup What They Need to Grow Strong and Healthy

Australian shepherd puppy enjoying his dog food

When selecting the best dry dog food for your puppy, be sure you choose a brand and recipe that is designed for their needs. Even dogs refusing to eat dry food benefit from it. If you’re still unsure of your puppy’s nutritional needs, consult your vet. And once your pup is big enough to chow down on adult kibble, consider feeding them the best dry dog food in Australia: Petzyo’s Kibble That Counts.