Is There Really a Difference in Puppy Foods?

Puppies need the right nutrients to develop into healthy dogs.
Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Puppy foods are not all alike; they range considerably in price and quality. Look at the ingredient list to determine the amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals in the food. A quality puppy food is complete and well-balanced, and bears an endorsement by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.


Puppies grow at a tremendous rate. Protein, the building block for the tissues, is necessary for your pup's development. Not all proteins are equal, though. Meat protein has a higher biological value than vegetable protein, so you want the first ingredient in your puppy food to be meat. Moreover, the better quality puppy foods list the specific meat and do not use byproducts such as beaks, feathers and bone meal. To meet AAFCO requirements, a puppy food must have 22 percent protein.


A 10-pound puppy needs 990 calories a day, whereas, an active adult dog of the same weight only needs 404, the National Academies notes. Carbohydrates supply the puppy's extensive energy needs. Carbohydrates also prevent the body from using protein for energy. Better quality puppy foods contain rice bran, brown rice, oatmeal and barley, which are more digestible than other grains. Wheat, cornmeal and soy meal may cause food allergies in some dogs and are usually found in lower quality kibble.


Fats come from animal fat and the seed oil of plants. They provide a multitude of needs for your growing pup. The most concentrated energy, fats also transport fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and keep your pup's skin healthy and coat shiny. They also play a role in cell structure. Puppy food should have a minimum of 8 percent fat, according to the AAFCO.The National Academies stresses the importance of including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Too much fat can cause weight gain.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins are necessary for the body's chemical reactions A complete and balanced puppy food contains all the needed vitamins for your pup so you do not have to give him supplements.

Minerals are essential nutrients such as calcium and phosphorous for strong bones and teeth. An excess of calcium can cause skeletal abnormalities in some dogs, especially large breeds, and not enough calcium can cause bone loss. Choosing a dog food with the AAFCO approval guarantees that your pup is getting the correct amount of minerals.