Best Puppy Food for 2022: The ONLY Guide You Will NEED

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The best food for puppies provide plenty of protein, calories, and essential nutrients to fuel your puppy’s growth and development. 

Our top overall pick for the best puppy food is Hungry Bark, a custom meal plan subscription that caters your puppy’s diet to his unique and changing nutritional needs. If you’re into sustainability, Chippin offers a unique option in their cricket and silver carp dry foods while Open Farm has a tasty selection of premium-quality wet foods. For fresh dog food, we love Nom Nom

Quality nutrition is the key to giving your puppy a healthy start in life. In this guide, we’ll delve into the nutritional requirements of growing puppies but, more importantly, we’ll take an in-depth look at what pet owners like you think is the best puppy food out there based on more than 400,000 reviews of actual dog owners. 

Before we dive too far (and we will) into the Best Puppy Foods in 2022… here are our top 3 picks:

Overall Best Puppy Food
Hungry Bark
9.8
Hungry Bark
  • 50% OFF
  • Super Premium Puppy Food
  • Custom Meal Plans 
Runner Up
ChippinPet
9.7
ChippinPet
  • Human-Grade Ingredients
  • Wild Caught Carp, Sourced Locally
  • Developed by Veterinarians 
BEST FRESH PUPPY FOOD
NomNom
9.7
NomNom
  • Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists
  • Trials Available 
  • Portioned To Your Dog

What Does the Data from 400,000+ Pet Owner Reviews Tell Us? 

If you’ve ever shopped for pet food online, you already know that there are more options than you could ever possibly evaluate on your own. It’s understandable, then, if you rely on ratings to weed out the products that don’t meet your requirements. 

But what do those ratings really tell you? Unfortunately, customer ratings can be incredibly subjective. In many cases, a poor rating has more to do with problems with pricing or shipping than the product itself. Every individual who writes a review rates it according to their own personal ranking system, but that’s where the average rating can be helpful.

Wading through hundreds of thousands of customer reviews is a daunting task for anyone to take on… but we did it.

We took the time to export every single customer review for dog food from Chewy.com in early January and combed through the data looking for common threads. Using that data – including three common keywords that showed up time and again – we isolated the most popular and favorably reviewed dog food recipes on the market. 

Here are a few highlights from that data to show you how we arrived at our top picks:  

Dog owners used the word “diarrhea” 5,321 times in reviews for the following highly rated recipes (rated 4 stars or higher):

Diarrhea is a common problem in dogs, especially in puppies as they make the transition from subsisting on their mother’s milk to eating solid pet food. According to the experts at the American Kennel Club (AKC), canine diarrhea is most commonly caused by dietary indiscretion, changes in diet, food intolerance, allergies, parasites, or infections and other illness. 

Choosing the right dog food can help relieve diarrhea and choosing the wrong one can make it worse

In reviewing our data from Chewy, we found that customers mentioned diarrhea over 5,000 times in the following five recipes, all of which are rated four stars or higher:

  1. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon Recipe Formula Dry Food (113 – we listed the puppy formula)
  2. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry Dog Food (92)
  3. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP Dry Dog Food (78)
  4. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food (76)
  5. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (49 – we listed the puppy formula)

Dog owners used the word “picky (eater)” 36,417 times in reviews for the following highly rated recipes (rated 4 stars or higher):

We all have foods we simply don’t like and the same is true for our dogs. Some dog foods contain added flavors that make the product more palatable and appealing to dogs and those foods are often a good option for pups who tend to be picky. 

If your dog is a picky eater, you might want to try a recipe that other owners of picky pups have approved.

In reviewing our data from Chewy, we found that customers mentioned diarrhea over 5,000 times in the following five recipes, all of which are rated four stars or higher

  1. American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Puppy Food (317 – we listed the puppy formula)
  2. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (258 – we listed the puppy formula)
  3. Purina Bella Small Breed Grilled Chicken Flavor in Savory Juices Dog Food Trays (253)
  4. Tylee’s Human-Grade Beef Recipe Frozen Dog Food (221)
  5. Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food (219)

Dog owners used the word “sensitive stomach” 6,820 times in reviews for the following highly rated recipes (rated 4 stars or higher):

Dogs that experience frequent diarrhea and other digestive symptoms are often said to have sensitive stomachs. This issue can be caused by food allergies or sensitivities, but it can also be an issue with the digestibility of the food itself. The experts at The Farmer’s Dog suggest trying an elimination diet to isolate the ingredients causing your dog’s sensitivity and then choose a recipe free from that ingredient.

If you’re not quite ready to go the route of an elimination diet, choosing a recipe specifically formulated for dogs with sensitive stomachs might help.

In reviewing our data from Chewy, we found that customers mentioned sensitive stomach over 6,800 times in the following five recipes, all of which are rated four stars or higher:

 

  1. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food (351)
  2. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food (267)
  3. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora Powder Digestive Supplement for Dogs (123)
  4. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Small & Mini Breed Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food (82)
  5. Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (79)

Some other fun facts we learned in our research…

  • A total of 5,471 dog food recipes on Chewy.com have an average rating 4 stars or higher.
  • Of those 5,471 recipes, the average ingredient count is 27.54.
  • The most common first ingredient in those 5,471 recipes was:
    • Chicken (264)
    • Beef (220)
    • Chicken meal (133)
    • Lamb (128)
    • Turkey (87)
  • The most reviewed dog food recipe on Chewy.com is Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog food with 3,272 reviews. 

Reading customer reviews can provide information from a much more objective perspective than the marketing material on the packaging or the website where it’s being sold. That being said, it’s important to take customer reviews with a grain of salt and always do your own research to verify facts. 

To help you do that research, we’ve put together a detailed guide of what you need to know about your puppy’s nutritional needs in order to make an educated decision. 

Doctor Lindsay Butzer DVM talk’s about how much food to feed your puppy:

What Type of Food Should I Feed My Puppy? 

If you’re a new puppy parent, the first step you should taking in preparing to bring your puppy home is pick out a nutritious diet. While it might be easy enough to breeze through the pet food aisle at your local grocery or big box store, it’s important to realize that all pet foods are not created equal. 

In the United States, pet food is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but not quite to the same degree as food for human consumption. There are rules and regulations regarding safe manufacturing practices and labeling requirements, but the FDA doesn’t play any role in determining nutritional requirements. That’s up to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)… at least, sort of. 

While AAFCO has no regulatory power, this organization makes recommendations and it’s in the best interest of pet food manufacturers in the United States to follow them. Most importantly, AAFCO has determined the minimum nutritional requirements for dogs and cats. These are the requirements around which most commercial pet foods are formulated.

Most commercial pet food in the United States meets AAFCO requirements for “complete and balanced” nutrition, but there are a variety of different types of food to choose from. 

Here’s a quick overview of the most common options: 

  • Dry Puppy Food – Dry dog food is generally the most economical option, and it comes with the benefit of being shelf stable. Also known as kibble dry dog food is mechanically shaped into small bite-sized pieces. Prices run the gambit from cheap grocery store brands to ultra-premium single-protein recipes.  The primary benefits of dry puppy food are its affordability and convenience. There’s also a great deal of variety to choose from. The downside is that most dry foods contain a significant amount of carbohydrate (it’s necessary for processing) and they’re very low in moisture, generally a max of 11%. 
  • Wet Puppy Food – Wet puppy food comes in a variety of forms including cans, trays, and pouches. These foods tend to be more expensive per ounce than dry food, but they also tend to be higher in protein and moisture with lower levels of carbohydrate. It’s important to watch out for potentially harmful ingredients, however, including thickeners like carrageenan that are primarily used in wet versus dry foods. 
  • Fresh Puppy Food – Like wet food, fresh puppy food can take several forms. There are the fresh pet food subscription services like Nom Nom and Ollie that make gently-cook food before freezing it and sending it to your door. The same services exist for fresh raw food, and there’s always the option of making homemade fresh dog food yourself.  While quality varies as is the case with any type of pet food, fresh food is generally one of the most nutritious options on the spectrum. Fresh food tends to be less processed than commercial wet or dry food and it is often made with higher quality ingredients. The moisture content is a benefit and gentle cooking methods help preserve more nutrition and natural flavor. 
  • Dehydrated Puppy Food – If you want to maximize the quality of your puppy’s diet but fresh food simply isn’t convenient for you, dehydrated puppy food might be a viable option. It tends to be pretty expensive, but it’s shelf-stable and each serving can be rehydrated before feeding to create a meal similar to fresh food.  The process to prepare dehydrated puppy food involves heat, so there is some potential nutrient loss. This process removes the moisture from the food, creating a product that is dry and lightweight. While you can feed some dehydrated foods directly to your puppy, it’s generally best to reconstitute them with water or broth. It makes the food more palatable and provides moisture for hydration. 
  • Freeze-Dried Puppy Food – Similar to dehydrated puppy food, freeze-dried puppy food is a shelf-stable option that generally offers higher quality nutrition than the average dry food. This type of food is prepared by freezing the food and using vacuum pressure to remove moisture at a low temperature. Because there’s no heat involved, the product generally retains more nutrition than with dehydrated food. Though freeze-dried puppy food is a nutritious option, it also tends to be very expensive. There’s also the same issue with texture, though some freeze-dried foods are a little harder to reconstitute than dehydrated foods. Most products are designed to be fed directly, but there you run into the low moisture problem you have with dry food. 

Nutritional Requirements for Puppies by Size

Puppies are generally weaned off their mother’s milk by eight weeks of age. Once a puppy is able to consume solid food, it becomes important to provide balanced nutrition to ensure healthy growth and development and to optimize immune function. 

The nutritional requirements for all dogs are the same, though there are slight differences for puppies versus adults. To summarize, puppies need higher levels of protein and fat in their diet to support development while adult dogs need slightly lower levels for healthy weight maintenance. 

According to experts at Merck Veterinary Manual (and based on AAFCO nutrient requirements), puppies need a minimum of 22% protein and 18% fat in their diet. 

Keep in mind here that these recommendations are minimums, and your puppy deserves more than the bare minimum. When shopping for pet food, you can use the guaranteed analysis on the label to compare protein and fat levels. That being said, however, the moisture level of the product affects the actual percentage – you’ll need to convert the values to a dry matter basis to make a direct comparison.

The simplest way to make sure your puppy’s basic needs are met is to select a recipe that is formulated for puppies. Before you grab a bag off the shelf, however, know that while all puppies have the same basic requirements, some nutrients should be limited or prioritized according to breed size. 

Here’s what you need to know about nutritional differences for different breed sizes: 

Extra Small and Toy Breeds

Dog breeds that are considered extra small or toy breeds generally weigh less than 12 pounds at maturity. As you might expect, these breeds reach their adult size much faster than large breeds that might weigh 75 pounds or more. Toy breeds reach maturity as early as 7 months of age.

The primary concern regarding nutrition for very small puppies is hypoglycemia. Very small puppies burn through calories extremely quickly, so they may need to eat more frequently than larger puppies. Hypoglycemia can result in weakness, lethargy, muscle tremors, and seizures. In extreme cases, it can even be fatal. Feeding small puppies three to four times per day with a calorie-dense puppy food recipe is recommended. 

Small Breeds

The same rules generally apply to small breeds as to extra small and toy breeds. Small breeds are those that weigh less than 20 pounds at maturity and they generally reach their adult size by 10 months old. 

Like toy breeds, small breed dogs burn calories at a higher rate than medium and large breeds. The risk for hypoglycemia may not be as high for breeds closer to 20 pounds than 12, but it still applies. A calorie-dense diet with high levels of fat and plenty of animal-based protein is best. 

The easiest way to meet the unique nutritional needs of toy and small breeds is to select a puppy food formulated for that breed size. These recipes are generally formulated with higher levels of fat which provides additional calories to support a small breed’s high metabolism. 

Medium Breeds

A medium breed is generally one that weighs 30 to 50 pounds at maturity. These puppies usually reach their adult size between 10 to 12 months of age, though some more slowly developing breeds may take an extra month or two. It’s important to have regular vet visits to track your puppy’s weight so you can switch to an adult dog food when his growth starts to slow down. 

Medium-sized puppies don’t have any size-specific requirements. The best option is a nutritionally balanced puppy food that contains optimal levels of protein and fat. Feeding recommendations are generally determined by the puppy’s age (in months) and weight. 

Large Breeds

Puppies that weigh more than 50 pounds at maturity should be fed differently than small breeds. While small breeds can be expected to grow very quickly and have fast metabolisms, slow and controlled growth is recommended for large and giant breeds. 

A large breed puppy is one that is expected to weigh 50 to 80 pounds at maturity. These breeds generally take at least 12 months to reach their adult size. 

Controlled growth is important for bigger dogs because rapid growth puts a lot of stress on the developing bones and joints. If the puppy grows too fast, he’s more likely to experience orthopedic issues as an adult. Protein is just as important for large breeds as small breeds but moderating the fat content of your puppy’s diet can help control calorie content.

It’s also important to balance the calcium and phosphorus content of a large breed puppy’s diet. According to the experts at VCA Hospitals, calcium is needed for strong bones, but excess calcium can be harmful. High calcium levels can actually contribute to skeletal malformations, and it may contribute to deficiencies of other essential nutrients like phosphorus. A calcium to phosphorus ratio between 1:1 and 1:3 is recommended for large breed puppies. 

Giant Breeds

As is true for large breeds, giant breed puppies take much longer than smaller breeds to reach their adult size. Giant breeds weigh over 80 pounds at maturity and they generally take 18 to 24 months to fully develop, though some take up to 3 years. Again, it’s absolutely essential to control a giant breed puppy’s growth to limit the risk for orthopedic issues in adulthood. 

Giant breed puppy foods should be rich in high-quality animal protein with lower levels of fat to control calorie content – at least 30% protein and only about 9% fat on a dry matter basis. The ideal calcium content is around 1.5%, or about 3g per 1,000 kcal. 

Both large and giant breed puppies should be fed puppy food formulated for large breeds. This is the best way to ensure the ideal balance of protein and fat to support controlled growth with optimal levels of calcium and other essential nutrients. 

Keep track of your puppy’s weight and check in with your vet to make sure he’s developing at the right rate. Once your puppy reaches about 80% of his expected adult size, it’s time to start thinking about switching to adult dog food. 

The Best Puppy Food for 2022

Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about your puppy’s nutritional requirements, you may be wondering which option is best. We’ve already given you a preview of our top picks and provided some insight into what other pet owners are buying, but now it’s time to dig into the details.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Overall Best
Hungry Bark
Hungry Bark
  • Custom Meal Plans
  • Veterinarian Approved
  • Made in the USA
  • Access to Clinical Pet Nutritionists
  • Exclusive Facebook Community
RISK FREE TRIAL
Most Affordable
American Journey
American Journey
  • Nutritious fruits and vegetables like blueberries
  • High-protein dog food with real, deboned chicken
  • Salmon oil and flaxseed provide omega-3 and 6 fatty acids
35% OFF
Best Dry
Chippin Pet
Chippin Pet
  • Made with guidance from board certified veterinarians
  • Highest Safe Quality Foods (SQF) certification kitchens
  • Meet AAFCO guidelines
  • Supports a healthy gut microbiome
CHECK RECENT PRICE
Runner Up
Open Farms Puppy Food
Open Farms Puppy Food
  • High in protein and fresh chicken, salmon and pork
  • Meats from audited higher welfare farms
  • 100% traceable ingredients
  • Source of prebiotic fibres to support healthy digestion
CHECK LATEST PRICE
Most Popular
Taste of the Wild 
Taste of the Wild 
  • Trusted by dog owners
  • Roasted bison as first ingredient
  • Contains species-specific K9 Strain Proprietary Probiotics
  • Made in the USA by a family-owned brand 
35% OFF
Best Fresh
NomNom
NomNom
  • Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist on Staff
  • Every Nom Nom meal is made in a Nom Nom kitchen
  • Carefully sourced ingredients
  • No high temp vats, no extrusion
50% OFF

A Word About Fresh Puppy Food

The truth is you really can’t go wrong with fresh dog food. More specifically, raw dog food may be the most species-appropriate choice for your dog in any life stage. That being said, most pet owners find gently cooked fresh food to be a more convenient and affordable option. 

The benefit of fresh food for puppies is that it is less processed than many commercial dog foods and it is often made with higher quality ingredients. Many fresh pet food companies manufacture their products in smaller batches and flash freeze them to preserve nutrition, shipping them directly to the customer within days of being prepared. On top of the convenience of predictable deliveries right to your door, you may also receive a customized meal plan specifically designed for your puppy.

While fresh pet food can certainly be costly, you really can’t put a price on your puppy’s health and wellness. In fact, feeding your puppy a nutritionally balanced and calorically appropriate diet while he’s growing and developing may protect him against potentially costly health problems in the future.

To give you an idea how much fresh pet food costs, here’s a handy chart: 

NomNom
Chicken Cuisine Recipe
The Farmers Dog
Chicken Recipe
Spot & Tango
Beef & Millet
Product Title
Product Title
Chicken Cuisine Recipe
Chicken Recipe
Beef & Millet
5lb Dog Cost
5lb Dog Cost
$74
$76
$92
20lb Dog Cost
20lb Dog Cost
$154
$141
$183
40lb Dog Cost
40lb Dog Cost
$217
$223
$212
56lb Dog Cost
56lb Dog Cost
$280
$255
$327
kcal/kg
kcal/kg
1255
1300
NA
Crude Protein
Crude Protein
8.5% min
11.5 min
11.85% min
Trial Period?
Trial Period?
YES
YES
YES
Initial Discount
Initial Discount
50%
20%
20%
Please keep in mind we tried to keep this as fair and consistent as possible, but prices due change based on multiple reasons. We assume normal activity level.

If fresh pet food simply isn’t in your budget (or if you just want to explore other options), there are still plenty of recipes worth considering. Read on to see over a dozen more of our top picks.

13 More Picks for the Best Puppy Foods in 2022

There are plenty of factors to consider when choosing puppy food and it’s your prerogative as a pet owner to make the decision yourself. To help you narrow down the options to only the best, most highly rated recipes on the market, we’ve put together another list for you:

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Sundays Food for DogsSundays Food for Dogs
  • Gently Air-Dried
  • Created by a Veterinarian 
  • Human Grade
  • Subscription Available 
SAVE 20%
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula PuppyBlue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy
  • DHA and ARA for healthy brain and eye development 
  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
  • Vitamins, chelated minerals and antioxidants for immune system health
  • No corn, wheat, soy or chicken (or poultry) by-product meals
35% OFF
Fromm Family Gold Puppy Food Fromm Family Gold Puppy Food 
  • Salmon oil for a healthy coat
  • Formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles
  • 5th Generation family owned & operated
CHECK LATEST PRICE
Wild Earth Complete Protein FoodWild Earth Complete Protein Food
  • Expertly crafted by veterinarians and food scientist
  • Guaranteed levels of omega -3 and -6 fatty acids
  • Guaranteed amounts of DHA, Taurine, and L-Carnitine
20% OFF
Wellness Complete Health Deboned ChickenWellness Complete Health Deboned Chicken
  • Developed without any GMOs, meat by-products, fillers or artificial preservatives.
  • Specially formulated to provide whole-body nutritional support for your growing guy.
  • Crafted using carefully chosen ingredient
SAVE 35%
Merrick Grain-Free Puppy Plate Chicken Recipe Wet FoodMerrick Grain-Free Puppy Plate Chicken Recipe Wet Food
  • Grain-free wet dog food
  • Features real, deboned chicken
  • Made with real apples, sweet potatoes and carrots
  • Contains DHA to support healthy brain development.
SAVE 35%

Wrapping Up 

Choosing the best puppy food is one of your biggest responsibilities as a puppy parent. A nutritious diet will support your puppy’s growth and development and set him up for a long and healthy adult life. 

Balanced nutrition should be your primary concern when choosing a puppy food, but after that you have a great deal of flexibility in terms of the type of food. Consider what you’ve learned about the different options and decide which option seems most convenient for you. From there, you can compare options at different price points according to your budget. 

While it may take some time and research, it’s well worth putting a lot of thought into your choice of puppy food. Your puppy will thank you for the effort with a lifetime of wet kisses and cuddles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is dry food or wet food better for puppies? 

Nutritional balance and quality are generally more important factors to consider than simply wet vs. dry. Both of those factors being equal, however, wet food may be a better option simply because it contains higher levels of moisture to support your puppy’s hydration. 

Generally speaking, commercial wet foods tend to be higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than dry food. That being said, you can find low-quality and high-quality examples of both. 

How much should I feed my puppy? 

In most cases, you don’t need to worry about feeding your puppy an exact amount. Most puppies will naturally eat as much as they need to. That being said, it is important to moderate calorie intake for large breeds to prevent excessive growth.

The best thing you can do is choose a nutritionally balanced puppy food formulated for your puppy’s breed size and follow the feeding recommendations on the bag. Keep in mind that you’ll need to adjust your puppy’s portion as he grows. 

How often should I feed my puppy? 

Most puppies require at least two meals a day, though many can benefit from as many as three or four. Toy and small breeds have high metabolic rates and require a steady influx of calories to prevent hypoglycemia. Three meals should be sufficient for medium and large breed puppies for the first six months or so, and you may be able to transition to twice daily meals after that point.

Kate Barrington

Double-certified Pet Food Nutrition Specialist  & Expert Pet Writer

Kate Barrington holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is the published author of several self-help books and nutrition guides. Also an avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate holds a certificate in fitness nutrition and enjoys writing about health and wellness trends — she also enjoys crafting original recipes. In addition to her work as a ghostwriter and author, Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines.

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