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Welcoming a new puppy into the family is an exciting time in which you’ll discover all sorts of fun ways to bond. But raising a brand-new puppy can also be a lot of work, and one of the things you’re likely looking into is the best diet for your new puppy.
As you research what’s best for your new addition, you may be considering wet food. Here, we’ll take a look at the nutritional requirements of puppies, and suggest some of the best wet dog food available to keep your puppy happy and healthy.
Regardless of breed, protein is key to a puppy’s healthy diet, as it supports growth and development. Fat is a concentrated source of calories that’ll help your pup absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Though your puppy has no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates (though healthy sources can provide essential nutrients), she will need a mix of vitamins and minerals.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has determined the minimal requirements for key nutrients in dogs. AAFCO recommendations state a minimum of 22% protein and 8% fat for canine growth and reproduction (puppies and lactating females). These numbers are higher than what’s recommended for adult dogs as puppies require more protein, calories, and other nutrients than adult dogs do, because of their developing bodies and greater caloric expenditure.
To meet these requirements, feed your puppy a high-quality puppy food made with real, whole-food sources of these nutrients. Animal protein like meat or poultry should be the focus with higher than average fat and limited carbohydrate content. Keep in mind as well that not all dog foods have the same calorie content, so compare the calories per cup to the feeding recommendations according to your dog’s age and weight.
Remember that AAFCO standards exist to encourage commercial pet food products to adhere to minimum nutritional requirements. However, your puppy deserves more than the bare minimum. Checking for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy on the label is a good way to weed out the really bad dog foods, but it does not guarantee high quality.
As a dog owner, it’s important to understand the truth about dog food. Make sure the food you’re considering is of high quality and will do more than just meet your dog’s minimum nutritional needs.
Breed size plays an important role in what you feed your puppy. Small breeds and large breeds, in particular, have different nutritional requirements based on their bodies’ size and function. For example, small dogs reach maturation more quickly than large breeds. Puppies are generally switched onto adult food once they’ve reached 80% of their expected adult size, which for small dogs means 9-10 months, as opposed to other breeds which reach similar points in 12-16 months.
Hip dysplasia is a health condition that can affect large breed dogs. Too many calories and calcium, along with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, can promote overgrowth and hinder bone and cartilage development. So, you’ll also want to examine the vitamin content of your dog’s food carefully, especially as a puppy when developing strong bones is critical, writes veterinarian Betsy Brevitz in her guide Hound Health Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Dog Happy, Healthy & Active. Brevitz recommends between 1 to 1.5% calcium for your puppy’s diet as a whole.
Conversely, a risk factor for small breed puppies is not getting enough calories. Hypoglycemia occasionally affects small breed puppies, according to Brevitz, and though it may not be a common occurrence, it can be fatal and requires immediate veterinary attention. Hypothermia is also another related consideration. Small breed puppies are susceptible to these issues, because their bodies, while small, have a much higher metabolic rate and energy requirement than large breed dogs. Due to a tinier stomach, they may not be able to eat as much in one sitting as a large breed puppy, but those small meals need to be densely packed in calories, protein, and fat to keep up with their speedy metabolisms to ensure they are getting enough of the nutrients they need.
According to the Clinical Nutrition Service (part of Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University), wet food can be easier for dogs to chew and swallow and is also a good option for picky eaters. Canned food also has higher water content, which can be beneficial for doggos with certain health considerations. Fat and protein are more prevalent in wet food, so this may be a good option if your puppy requires a higher protein diet, but not a good choice for puppies who need to watch their fat consumption.
Dry food tends to have a higher carbohydrate content than wet and, for small breed puppies especially, kibbles can be challenging to chew (unless they are sized accordingly). Dry food, however, does have the advantage of being more affordable and less messy when feeding and cleaning up after mealtimes. It also has a longer shelf life than wet (be sure to check the date on the label before buying). According to PetMD, dry food has been found in some cases to help maintain dental health in dogs (in accordance with regular teeth cleanings and dental chews).
As mentioned above, grain-free is another potential factor to consider. Some owners prefer grain-free as it is closer to the traditionally carnivorous Canis genus diet and can be easier on a dog’s digestive system, especially if your dog has grain allergies or sensitivities.
However, grain-free diets have been potentially linked to heart issues in canines by the FDA, so it’s best to check with your veterinarian before switching or starting your dog on one. Single, whole-grain dog food is another potential option and it is exactly what it sounds like: dog food made with a single whole grain (as opposed to a compound of different grains).
Now that you’ve learned a little more about dog food and what ingredients are best for your puppy, here are some great wet food options available for purchase.
Blue Buffalo’s Homestyle Recipe for pups is about chicken, chicken, chicken. In fact, the first three ingredients are chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver.
This formula also contains wholesome grains, fruits, vegetables, and is high in key fatty acid, DHA—found in mother’s milk. No by-products, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in this can!Shop on Chewy
Budget-friendly, yet made with quality ingredients, Whole Earth’s canned puppy food is grain free and cooked in the USA.
Protein leads this formula with top ingredients of chicken, chicken broth, turkey, chicken liver, and salmon.Shop on Amazon
Wellness Complete Health is known for its quality ingredients and lack of byproducts, fillers, and artificial flavors in its pet food formulas.
Chicken broth and chicken are the top protein ingredients, while ground barley serves as the grain. Made with prebiotics and probiotics and without corn, wheat, or soy.Shop on Chewy
Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, Merrick’s grain free Puppy Plate leads with deboned chicken, but also includes a blend of nutritious fruits and veggies, and is packed with omega-3 and -6 fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat.Shop on Amazon
This is for all you small breed puppies out there! Served in smaller portions for smaller bodies, this grain-free recipe is low-glycemic and gluten-free.
Made in the USA, its top two ingredients are lamb and turkey and it contains zero corn, wheat, or soy.Shop on Chewy
With limited ingredients for easier digestion, family-owned Canidae is known for their quality dog food.
Free of grains, soy, corn, and wheat, this recipe leads with chicken and contains other goodies such as dried egg and salmon oil—plus vitamins and minerals.Shop on Chewy
A “solid” choice—if you will. Made in the USA, beef and beef liver are the leading proteins of this recipe, plus apples, pumpkin, blueberries, cranberries, and spinach provide healthy nutrients.
Gluten-free without fillers, this recipe is packed with DHA fatty acid for cognitive development.Shop on Chewy
We’ve selected some great wet food options for your puppy. But before introducing any new foods into your dog’s diet, we suggest consulting with your vet. Your veterinarian can help you understand any health issues your puppy may be experiencing, and can recommend dog food that’s going to best support her specific health needs.
Learn more about caring for your puppy in the articles below.
- Top 20 Dog Essentials That Every Pup Parent Should Own (but May Not Realize it)
- The Best Dry Food for Puppies
- The Best Dog Crates for Puppies
- How Long Can You Leave a Puppy Alone?
- Bringing Your Puppy Home: Your Step-By-Step Guide to the First Week
Feature image from Pixabay