Healthy Dog Food for Puppies

Healthy dog food for puppies has slightly different requirements than for adults. Puppies need more protein and fat for their growing bones, but the requirements may vary depending on the size and activity level of your puppy.

General Health Guidelines

The most important thing to remember is that puppies need puppy food. Adult food has fewer calories and fat, geared to keeping your adult dog from getting too obese. On the other hand, puppies need lots of protein and fat to develop properly with healthy bones and a shiny coat. Puppy food should be about 25 percent protein and 15 percent fat.

When selecting a food, look carefully at the ingredients. Many commercial brands advertise a complete and healthy diet but don't deliver. Avoid foods that contain corn, wheat, meat byproducts, dyes or preservatives. Your puppy can't digest these, so he may put on weight, but it won't be healthy weight. Plus, he will need to eat more and more to get enough nutrients.

Instead, look for food that contains protein for the first three ingredients, possibly with a healthy grain such as brown rice or barley. Foods can also contain healthy fruits and vegetables as well as dairy sources such as eggs and yogurt. Many high quality brands will also include vitamins.

There is a lot of debate among health experts whether to feed your puppy grains at all. Many grain-free foods provide carbohydrates through potatoes, because puppies wouldn't eat grains in the wild. However, some grains don't seem to cause harm, though dogs can be allergic.

Wet Food vs. Dry Food

Because wet food has more meat compared to carbohydrate-filled kibble, most puppies will prefer wet food. In fact, once you've placed it on the kibble, many puppies won't eat dry kibble on its own, so use with caution. Wet food can often be 70 percent water, so your puppy may not get as many nutrients. It's also important to add kibble or some type of bones to the mix to clean off your puppy's teeth.

Small Dog Food

Some puppy foods are designed for smaller dogs, called "small bites." The kibble is made smaller for little dogs to chew, but the ingredients are basically the same. Smaller dogs don't need a different food necessarily. Mainly, they just need smaller meals. If you do feed a regular kibble, feed several small meals daily rather than one or two large ones. Small dogs have small stomachs and can't digest as much food. However, they burn off the calories quickly and may be hungry more frequently.

Large Dog Food

Large breed dog food often is formulated differently, since large dogs need just the right amount of nutrients for their bones and joints to grow properly. They grow so much so quickly that they often need fewer calories to control the stress on their bones. Many large dog brands contain fish or poultry based protein and may have lower protein or fat levels than listed above. If the ingredients are high quality, opt for a large dog brand.

Food Allergies

Any puppy can develop food allergies, especially if fed a lower quality commercial brand. Avoiding foods with corn, wheat and preservatives often reduces allergies, but allergies can also be caused by feeding the same food for too long.

While your puppy is young, vary the brand of food as well as the protein source so your dog has enough variety to prevent allergies. Just be sure to introduce new foods slowly, mixing with new food.