Puppy Trying to Eat a Sandwich off a Table

What Dog Food is Best For Puppies And Small Breeds?

Navigating your way around all the contrasting health advice can be hard enough when you’re thinking about what you need to eat. Do you go for the Paleo diet? Do you try intermittent fasting? Should you avoid saturated fats? Or should you avoid carbs instead?

That all depends on who you ask and all you know, is that you don’t feel as healthy or as energetic as you probably should do and that’s likely due to at least some degree of malnutrition.

You can obsess over all this for a long time and never come to a conclusion. But what about your dog’s nutrition?

It’s tempting to think that feeding a dog is easy – you just give them some canned food a few times a day and be done with it right?

Wrong! Dogs and puppies actually have just as many complex requirements as humans when it comes to their diets and if you fail to get this right, then they will be much more likely to become ill and won’t be as happy and healthy in general.

The problem is that we know even less about canine nutrition and many of us don’t even realize that it’s something we need to think about.

In this post then, we’re going to take a deeper look at canine nutrition and at the best dog food for puppies and small breed puppies in particular.

Puppy Nutrition vs. Human Nutrition

The first thing to consider when deciding what will be the best dog food for puppies, is exactly what it is that you’re trying to accomplish through your dog’s diet and how that is lacking with many conventional dog eating plans.

And this is actually where our dogs are quite similar to us. This is what we need to understand when choosing the best dog food for puppies.

Mistakes We Make With Our Own Diet

You see, both our diet and that of our pups, was defined during our evolutionary history. Back when we were living in the wild as hunter gatherers, our biology adapted to the circumstances we were surviving in and thus we learned what to eat and what not to eat.

When you walk past a piece of fruit as a human for instance, you will find it very hard not to stop and eat it. Why? Because in the wild, fruit was rare, it was only ripe for a few days and it was packed with highly crucial nutrition.

This is why we crave sweet things and actually, the plant itself is designed to appeal to our appetite as it wants to be eaten so that we will transport and propagate its seeds. This is a somewhat symbiotic, mutually beneficial arrangement and one that affects the way we eat even now.

The problem is that today, it’s all too easy to come across a wide variety of sweet-tasting foods in our day-to-day lives. And because we still find it hard to turn down that sugar crash, we end up binge eating sweets and chocolates and then wondering why we’re constantly ill – why 1 in 3 Americans is obese and the same proportion of us will develop cancer at some point in our lives.

Assortment of fine chocolates

We’ve become domesticated but our body still sends signals associated with starvation. And worse, is that we didn’t really understand this until recently and we have traditionally always viewed food as a source of fuel rather than as the essential source of ‘building blocks’ that we can use to create muscle tissue, strengthen bones and even formulate hormones and neurotransmitters.

The irony is that we’re eating far too much and still dying of conditions related to chronic malnutrition!

How We’re Making The Same Mistakes With Our Pets

And now we’ve domesticated our pets and we’re doing the exact same thing to them! We’re feeding dogs calories to make sure that they don’t feel hungry (and it’s all too easy to use treats and snacks every time our dog pesters us) but we’re not always as good at ensuring our dogs get the actual nutrition and building blocks they need.

We know basically that dogs need protein but how is your dog for magnesium? Calcium? Zinc? Vitamin C? Antioxidants?

And you better believe that if you drop a bowl of calories in front of your dog, it’s going to eat them!

puppy eating grass on a grass field

Is this something that you’ve ever actually examined? THIS is what really matters when it comes to finding the top dog foods for puppies. THIS is where you can start to really think about your puppy’s diet and how it might be affecting their mood and health.

Paleo For Dogs

If this is all sounding a little familiar, then that’s probably because you’ve read about the Paleo diet. This is a diet that revolves around one simple rule: we must eat the way our evolutionary ancestors ate.

That means no refined sugars, no wheat, no grains, no empty calories… no Mars Bars, Coca-Cola, pasta or chips… Instead, you live on fish, on vegetables, on seaweed, on meats, on eggs, on fruits – just like our great, great, great, great (add a few more) grandparents.

And yes, dogs can eat a Paleo diet too! The difference is that they need to eat what their ancestors ate – what wolves are still eating today. While your poodle might look pretty different from a wolf, in terms of evolution and biology they are still closely related.

Guess what wolves didn’t eat? Dog snacks!

They also didn’t eat grains or wheats, or refined sugars.

And that’s why the best natural dog food for puppies doesn't include those things. This becomes even more important for small dogs and puppies too – because they are so much more sensitive to toxins in their diet.

puppy eating a turkey on a table

If you have a small dog and you give them a chocolate bar, then they will probably die from the sugar overdose.

That should instantly tell you something about what that kind of food is doing to your own health. But it also demonstrates just what a concern it should be that so many dog food products include added sugar.

Here’s the problem: dog food manufacturers want you to buy their products. That’s understandable. And seeing as most of us don’t do all that much research on the top dog foods for puppies, we don’t have much information to go on. So how do we decide if we should order more of the dog food we bought last?

If Fido eats it, that’s how! And if Fido seems to gulp it down, then it must be good! And we’ll probably develop a bit of brand loyalty as a result.

But Fido is gulping down that food often because it has added sugar and other unwanted ingredients. And this tricks Fido’s body into thinking he’s eating a nutritionally-rich carcass. Meanwhile, he’s getting fat, low on energy and at increasing risk of canine diabetes.

Once again, this is exactly what’s happening with us too!

Navigating Puppy Paleo

So, what does a puppy Paleo diet look like?

puppy looking at a plate with vegetables

For one, it means looking for the best dog foods that don’t include lots of additives and that are made from real meats. These include:

Both these brands have actively removed grains to create a healthier product that is much closer to what your dog would have eaten in the wild.

Meanwhile though, you can also look at supplementing your doggy diet with lots of additional foods that aren’t specifically ‘dog foods’. For example, dogs feel very healthy when they’re given meats to eat off the bone. Those bones are packed with collagen and calcium which helps to prevent many of the joint pains that hound our hounds as they reach older age.

Dogs will also have a great time with this and the action of tearing the meat off the bones is literally what they’re designed to do!

If you want to go one step further for your dog – and you should – then try to stick to grass fed and free range animals. These foods are more nutrient-dense because they have been able to eat from the Earth. When a cow eats grass, it is getting a ton of nutrients in the grass but also from the soil and that is highly bioavailable nutrition that is the result of countless other animals and biomatter decomposing there over centuries.

Are you starting to see the common thread here? The best dog food for puppies is the food that has had the least input from humans!

puppy looking at a piece of raw meat

There is some contention these days as to whether humans really need to eat the strictest version of the Paleo diet. After all, there is no evidence that our ancestors did not eat grains and in fact, some skeletal remains unearthed from around that region suggest that they did.

But the good news is that it’s much simpler for dogs. No wolf has ever farmed and is ever likely to. We know that they thrive on meats!

How to Manage The Paleo Puppy Diet

So that’s the idea, the question is how you’re going to get your dog to eat that kind of food?

Top meats to give your dog include:

  • Turkey: The neck, back, wings, gizzards, drumsticks and hearts in particular
  • Chicken: Carcasses, backs, legs, wings, organs, eggs, necks
  • Fish: Sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel
  • Beef: Stew meat, organs, marrow bones, ground chuck

Be cautious of any foods that may contain even trace amounts of toxins or heavy metals. Tuna for instance contains a lot of mercury and this is a bigger issue for smaller dogs. Conversely, what you don't need to worry about is saturated fat. Dogs actually love fatty meat and this is very good for nutrient absorption among other things!

Puppy Making a Mess out of Its Food

Your dog is likely to make a right mess when eating this kind of food, so probably the best way to feed them is to throw the meat outside and shut them out until they’re finished.

The other issue is finance – because it can get expensive feeding your dog meats all the time! The solution is to look for cheaper cuts of meat (remember, fatty is fine) and perhaps to visit a butcher’s at the end of the day to get their leftover scraps.

You can also feed your dog leftovers after you have finished dinner but be sure to remove things like chips from the plate and if you’ve covered your meat in sauce and gravy, give it a rinse. Your dog won’t care!

Another tip is to combine this type of food with the kinds of dog foods we described earlier. This will help provide fuel and sustenance without the harmful additives and can be enough to tide them over between chicken legs.

Likewise, you can use other dog foods in order to give your dog yet more natural, healthy meat that is actually intended for them. A brilliant example is Wilderness Blue Buffalo High Protein Dry Adult Dog Food.

Tips And Warnings

Oh and here’s the other thing to know about dog food when it comes to meat – you can feed it to them raw! In fact, dogs prefer fresher, raw foods and they have all the necessary antibacterial properties in their saliva to combat any negative effects you might be worried about from bacteria.

Of course that is another very good reason to give your dog this type of food outdoors and not to allow them to run around the house with them. You can let your dog lick you thanks to that saliva but you’re going to need to think about a contingency plan when it comes to disposing of bones etc.

Puppy Eating Raw Meat Outside

There can be something of a ‘transition’ period here for older dogs. Older dogs will have become used to eating kibble and their immune systems will therefore might not be as strong as they could be. Expect a small amount of time as your dog ‘detoxes’ and vomits, a little. Try to stick with the more basic foods first.

But again, this is what makes this the healthiest dog food for puppies in particular. You have a chance to strengthen your dog’s immune system and prevent it from ever developing a soft and weak body! If only someone had done that for us when we were infants!

Nutrient Dense Diets For Growing Puppies

So now you know how to feed your dog generally and you know why it becomes even more important to avoid sugars and other harmful ingredients when you’re feeding up a smaller dog.

But there is more to good dog nutrition than simply getting lots of meat and avoiding sugar. What’s also important is that your dog get enough nutrients and that’s why organ meat in particular is so good.

Organ meat is actually packed with nutrients because that’s where those nutrients are sent when an animal eats another animal, a plant or anything else. Heart, liver, kidneys and brain are packed with goodness and your puppy needs this in particular while it’s growing.

Dog Looking at a Table with Plate with an Egg on it and Orange Juice

That’s one of the reasons that eggs are so good and it’s one of the reasons that oily fish – which are full of omega 3 – are so good. Omega 3 helps to improve communication in a dog’s brain and it needs more of this while its brain is still developing. Give your dog fish and it will be smarter and happier as an adult!

Another way to do this is with fortified food that will come packed with extra nutrition to really help them thrive during development.

So With All That in Mind: Here is The Best Dry Dog Food For Puppies

Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Dry Dog Food for Puppies

This is a grain-free formula which makes it ideal for a Paleo puppy diet. It is also filled with particularly bio-digestible energy that your dog needs while growing and includes lots of fruits and vegetables to fortify your dog with antioxidants and micronutrients. These can help to combat cancer as your dog gets older. Puppies love this mix and overall, it’s ideal for supporting an active lifestyle.

Merrick Grain Free Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food

Another excellent choice if you want to give your dog a more natural diet. The key ingredient in this specific recipe is deboned chicken, which makes it a convenient way to give your dog the protein it needs to build muscle. What’s more, is that the food contains ‘industry leading’ levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, which can help to support your dog’s joint health and happiness as it grows!

Merrick Grain Free Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Puppy Chicken and Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

This is once again made primarily from chicken which means you’re providing your dog with a natural and healthy source of protein for supporting muscle and bone health. It tastes great and you should have no problem getting your dog to eat up, while the rice is a great source of energy that will keep them fuller for longer.

Royal Canine Size Health Nutrition Mini Puppy Dry Dog Food

Like all the best natural dog food for puppies, this brand is aimed specifically at growing pups and comes in different formulas to suit different sizes. You can order in different bulks too - either 2.5 or 13-pound varieties - and both will support digestive health, healthy teeth and general energy levels.

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Puppy Food

This is a dog food that should please both owners and dogs alike. It is a ‘complete’ solution designed to contain all of the crucial nutrients and ingredients that your dog needs to thrive. What’s more, is that it also tastes the part and combines a combination of great food sources.

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Puppy Food

Specifically, this contains deboned chicken, oatmeal and salmon (with added DHA for extra brain benefits). That’s some surf and turf that some humans might even be jealous of right there!

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food is once again made from entirely natural ingredients and comes with a zero-grain guarantee. It is aimed specifically at puppies and contains additional DHA to help with healthy brain function and development. Other formulas exist for bigger dogs, including ocean whitefish and wild game!

Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food

If your dog is a larger breed, then you may want to consider this excellent formulation for its development and growth. Again, you get added glucosamine for joint health (which is even more important for big dogs), lots of antioxidants for combating cancer and DHA-enriched omega 3 fatty acid for brain health. The key ingredient is chicken.

Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Dry Dog Food

And finally, this option is ideal for puppy Labradors and retrievers. It contains antioxidants and lots of added vitamins, minerals and amino acids with proven antioxidant benefits. Once more it also tastes excellent and will be easy to get your dog to chomp on!

Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Dry Dog Food


As you can see then, there are plenty of things to think about if you want to give your pup the healthiest diet possible. Thankfully though, many manufacturers are now realizing this and making it easier than ever to do just that.

The best dog food for puppies is natural, nutritious and packed with protein – while avoiding unwanted sugar and additives. Give these a shot as a starting point and your pup will stand the best chance of living a long, healthy life! And if you’re feeling really adventurous, then you can try throwing in some raw meat for your dog to chew on as well.

Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section below and share any of your favorite tips for a healthy doggy diet!

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