The Best Dog Food for Your Puppy, According to a Vet
Just brought home a new puppy? First off, congratulations, and may you be able to bravely bear all the cuteness that’s about to ensue. Secondly, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to feed your little one and how you can establish healthy food habits to support your pup’s growth and development.
Puppies become adult dogs between one and two years of age, depending on their breed, but during those early years, the food you feed them truly matters. “I advise all my patients to go for a high-quality, commercially available diet,” advises Dr. Carly Fox, Staff Doctor at NYC’s Animal Medical Center. It’s best to stick with brands available at large retailers like Amazon, Chewy, Petco, PetSmart, and PetFlow, to name a few.
“The general trend to feed our pets less processed food is a good one; however, these subscription format diets are expensive and less extensively available than commercial diets,” says Dr. Fox. “But if I were to feed my dog [from a subscription service], I would pick either Ollie or The Farmer’s Dog, since both offer AAFCO-standard meals formulated in conjunction with an expert.”
How to Set Healthy Food Habits for Your Pup
When it comes to food shopping for your puppy, opt for a high-quality commercial kibble that’s specifically designed for its growing needs. Most brands list puppy breeds and size details on the packaging, making it easier to narrow down your options. But before you add your pup’s food to your cart, scan the back of the bag, box, or can for an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) seal of approval, which means it has been thoroughly researched and tested for nutritional adequacy. “Large, commercial-grade companies employ full-time veterinarians, full-time Ph.D.s, and it’s their job to make sure their diet meets all your pet’s needs,” says Dr. Fox.
If you’re planning on introducing your puppy to table food, Dr. Fox warns it’s a complete no-no! “I wouldn’t recommend that as a normal diet,” she says. “It’s not a complete and balanced diet, and it’s not something that should be used to feed your dog throughout its life because your dog will definitely be deprived of nutrients and vitamins it needs.” Table food can also cause gastrointestinal upsets and pancreatic issues that can inadvertently lead to toxicity over the course of your puppy’s life, so you’re better off sticking with wet and dry food options from large pet food brands.
Food Shopping for Large-Breed Puppies
If your pup belongs to a larger breed, it’s going to be experiencing a massive growth spurt for at least the first 18 months. “Since they grow very quickly, they’re extra sensitive to imbalances and excessive nutrients in their food,” says Dr. Fox. “You always want to make sure that large-breed puppies are on a specific large-breed puppy diet that has less fat, less calcium, and less vitamin B, which allows them to grow at a safer rate and avoid developing orthopedic diseases, which these puppies are prone to, given their large body size.” Most commercially available diets have a special range of food that’s designed for large-breed puppies to make sure they’re getting the appropriate percentage of nutrients.
Food Shopping for Small-Breed Puppies
“Even though they’re smaller than large-breed puppies, they require more calories per count, since their metabolism rate is super high, which makes them prone to episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar),” says Dr. Fox. “They also have an immature liver which isn’t developed enough to regulate its blood sugar as an adult dog would.” This means that diets formulated for smaller-breed puppies are very calorie-dense, even for a small amount of food. “When you’re feeding a small-breed puppy, as a pet owner, aside from getting them a specific type of food, you should also feed them more often throughout the day,” adds Dr. Fox. Consider giving your pup four to six small meals a day to help maintain consistent blood sugar levels.
Do you have a large-breed or small-breed puppy at home? We would love to hear your favorite pet food brands and meal options in the comments below!