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10 Best Vet-Recommended Puppy Foods in 2023 – Review & Top Picks

Ashley Bates

By Ashley Bates

cavalier king charles spaniel puppy at veterinary

Our puppies require a nutritious start in life. What you put in your puppy’s bowl determines how their bodies develop as they mature. Giving your dog the best foundation possible can divert from high vet bills and shorter lifespans later in life.

What vets recommend speaks a lot to us here. So, we rounded up ten of the best recipes for puppies on the market—so says trusted professionals. These reviews will give you detailed information to choose the best option.

Divider 7A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Puppy Recipe Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Puppy Recipe
  • Perfectly balanced
  • Soothing carb sources
  • Supports growing muscles and bones
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach
  • Creates healthy immunity
  • Affordable and quality
  • For sensitive bellies
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Forza10 Nutraceutic Legend Puppy Forza10 Nutraceutic Legend Puppy
  • Pure protein source
  • Highly digestible ingredients
  • Excellent for developmental support
  • Wellness CORE Digestive Health Puppy Wellness CORE Digestive Health Puppy
  • Promotes healthy digestion
  • Added DHA and EPA
  • Added prebiotics and probiotics
  • Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Hill’s Science Diet Puppy
  • Trusted brand
  • Palpable recipe
  • High-quality ingredients
  • divider 9

    The 10 Best Vet-Recommended Puppy Foods

    1. Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Puppy Recipe – Best Overall

    Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Main Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken fat
    Protein Content: 28.0%
    Fat Content: 16.0%
    Calories: 406

    Our best overall vet-recommended food for puppies is Merrick Classic Healthy Grains because we think the most puppies could benefit from the recipe. It’s perfect for everyday nutrition as your healthy pup grows up.

    This recipe contains deboned chicken as the first ingredient, providing a protein-dense recipe lineup. In one serving, there is 28% crude protein, nourishing your dog’s growing muscles, joints, and bones.

    This recipe is packed with beneficial nutrients for growth, like glucosamine, chondroitin, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids. It has wholesome ingredients like quinoa, potatoes, peas, and lentils for a healthy carb source that soothes digestion.

    You can give this natural recipe to puppies of any breed size—the kibble is a perfect size for easy chewing.

    Pros
    • Perfectly balanced
    • Soothing carb sources
    • Supports growing muscles and bones

    Cons
    • Not breed-size specific


    2. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach – Best Value

    Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach

    Main Ingredients: Salmon, rice, barley, dish meal, canola meal
    Protein Content: 28.0%
    Fat Content: 18.0%
    Calories: 428

    Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach is a very affordable option for premium puppy food. It is a completely well-balanced, digestion-friendly recipe that is the best vet-recommended puppy food for the money.

    Not all puppies require recipes for sensitive stomachs, but it will avoid general upset, even with perfectly healthy dogs. It has natural prebiotics and probiotics that nourish the gut, creating healthy gut bacteria for optimal digestion.

    This recipe contains omega fatty acid, calcium, phosphorus, and a ton of other minerals. It also helps to create a healthy immune system.

    Pros
    • Creates healthy immunity
    • Affordable and quality
    • For sensitive bellies

    Cons
    • Specialized diet


    3. Forza10 Nutraceutic Legend Puppy – Premium Choice

    Forza10 Nutraceutic Legend Puppy

    Main Ingredients: Water, salmon, lamb meat, minerals
    Protein Content: 8.5%
    Fat Content: 9.5%
    Calories: 366

    If you don’t mind paying a little extra for quality, Forza10 Nutraceutic Legend Puppy is a terrific choice. It is full of nourishing ingredients, but this recipe is grain-free. So, we recommend it best when used in combination with grain-friendly kibble.

    This recipe has excellent protein content, using 100% Icelandic salmon and lamb as the chosen protein selection, with meaty chunks you can see. In one can, there are 366 calories, which bids a modest intake that keeps your pup in tip-top shape.

    This grain-free formula is considered a limited-ingredient diet—free of oxytetracycline. This recipe is enhanced with healthful flowers and herbs like rose hips, thyme, and linden flowers. Each item is chosen for total developmental support.

    This recipe is as yummy as it is healthy, and our pups gobbled it up gleefully. We think you’ll really be impressed with this dog food—and you can stretch out portions if you choose to use it as a wet food topper.

    Pros
    • Pure protein source
    • Highly digestible ingredients
    • Excellent for developmental support

    Cons
    • Grain-free
    • Pricey


    4. Wellness CORE Digestive Health Puppy

    Wellness CORE Digestive Health Puppy

    Main Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oat groats
    Protein Content: 31.0%
    Fat Content: 15.5%
    Calories: 398

    Your puppy is exceptional, and their digestion should be as well. That is why Wellness CORE Digestive Health Puppy is an exceptional choice to get your little guy or gal off on the right foot.

    This particular recipe aims to improve digestive health, ensuring nothing irritating or allergy-inducing enters your pup’s system. Chicken is the first ingredient, creating a great protein foundation. It contains a whopping 31.0%.

    Rather than using irritating grains, this recipe offers brown rice, barley, and oat groats. This recipe also contains DHA and EPA for optimal cognitive development. It also contains probiotics and prebiotics to create healthy gut flora.

    You can use this recipe for any healthy pup—but it might be especially useful for little ones with sensitive tummies.

    Pros
    • Promotes healthy digestion
    • Added DHA and EPA
    • Added prebiotics and probiotics

    Cons
    • Not for poultry sensitivities


    5. Hill’s Science Diet Puppy

    Hill’s Science Diet Canned Puppy Food

    Main Ingredients: Water, chicken, whole grain corn, cracked pearled barley
    Protein Content: 7.4%
    Fat Content: 4.0%
    Calories: 482

    All of our options on the list are vet-recommended. But Hill’s Science Diet Puppy is designed for a canine’s first year and gets raving support from vets all over. Hill’s carefully crafts recipes to suit pups at every life stage, for every diet.

    This wet food can be used as a standalone diet or as an amazing topper for dry kibble—the choice is yours. This particular recipe promotes gentle digestion. However, harsher ingredients like corn can be a bit upsetting to some pups’ systems.

    This particular recipe uses enhanced nutrition with high-quality ingredients, carefully chosen to match a young pup’s needs. This high-protein dish helps with mobility, immunity, digestion, and other areas of target health.

    Pros
    • Trusted brand
    • Palpable recipe
    • High-quality ingredients

    Cons
    • High calorie


    6. Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy

    Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy

    Main Ingredients: Chicken, liver, meat by-products, water, salmon, rice
    Protein Content: 10.0%
    Fat Content: 7.0%
    Calories: 475

    Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy is a well-made formula that provides total body support during your pup’s growing years. This is a wet food recipe, which you could easily pair with Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy’s dry kibble version.

    This puppy chow has 23 essential vitamins and minerals that nourish your canine’s growing body. This particular can has a whopping 10.0% crude protein (chicken and organ meat), which is very high for canned food selections.

    This recipe contains much-needed DHA for brain development, turning your pup into the smartest pal around. It is crafted to build strong muscles, strong minds, and strong immunity.

    Plus, your pup is sure to think it’s delicious! It’s also made in US-based Purina factories.

    Pros
    • Added DHA
    • 23 essential vitamins and minerals
    • Contains organ meat

    Cons
    • Contains by-products


    7. Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy

    Main Ingredients: Deboned turkey, chicken meal, oatmeal, salmon meal, barley, ground brown rice, oats
    Protein Content: 28.0%
    Fat Content: 19.0%
    Calories: 489

    If your tiny pup will stay small their whole lives, why not give them some target nutrition to start them in life? Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy is designed to provide just the right balance of nutrients to support a small breed.

    This recipe has 28.0% protein, offering real deboned turkey as the first ingredient. It also has easily digestible grains, like oatmeal, barley, and ground brown rice. It also has a list of scrumptious fruits and veggies packed with antioxidants for optimal health.

    This recipe contains no harsh fillers, by-products, or artificial preservatives. Instead, it’s fortified with omega fatty acids like DHA for total brain developmental support.

    Each kibble piece is perfectly portioned for tiny mouths, making their eating experience an easy one. It’s not designed for large breed puppies.

    Pros
    • Designed for small breeds
    • Packed with antioxidants
    • No harsh ingredients

    Cons
    • Not for large breeds


    8. Royal Canin Medium Puppy Wet Dog Food

    Royal Canin Medium Puppy Wet Dog Food

    Main Ingredients: Water, pork by-products, chicken by-products
    Protein Content: 6.8%
    Fat Content: 4.5%
    Calories: 132

    If your dog will grow to be medium-sized, this dish was prepared just for them! Royal Canin Medium Puppy Wet Dog Food is designed for dogs weighing 23-55 pounds when fully grown.

    This recipe contains pork by-products as the first ingredient. It has significantly lower protein content than some competitors, so that’s something to keep in mind. It makes an exquisite wet food topper to dry kibble—or you can serve this on its own.

    This recipe is formulated to promote healthy digestion and immunity, preparing the body with natural defenses. It also perfectly meets the energy needs of your medium-sized pooch. So, we love the targeted support areas this recipe offers.

    You can give this recipe to your pup on top of dry kibble or use as a standalone diet—it’s your preference.

    Pros
    • Matches needs for medium-sized pups
    • Perfect for a topper
    • Promotes healthy digestion

    Cons
    • Specialized to breed size


    9. Purina Pro Plan High Protein Large Puppy

    Purina Pro-Plan High Protein Large Breed Puppy Dry Food

    Main Ingredients: Chicken, rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, poultry by-products
    Protein Content: 28.0%
    Fat Content: 13.0%
    Calories: 419

    If you have a large puppy breed, you might be interested in Purina Pro Plan Puppy. This particular recipe aims to support your big guy or gal’s joints as they grow, providing all the right nutrients where it counts.

    This recipe has a standard to high amount of protein, measuring 28.0% per serving. It also contains omega-rich ingredients, like fish oil, that help with areas like coat and skin, brain, and visual development.

    To strengthen bones, it contains a good deal of calcium and phosphorus, accompanied by many minerals for optimal health. It also has an abundance of antioxidants to rid free radicals in the body.

    Even though this won’t work for every puppy, it’s a great option for target health.

    Pros
    • Designed for large puppies
    • Supports joints
    • Nutrient-rich

    Cons
    • Contains by-products
    • Not for small breeds


    10. Country Vet Naturals Puppy Dog Food

    Country Vet Naturals 28:18 Healthy Puppy Dog Food

    Main Ingredients: Chicken meal, brown rice, chicken fat, brewer’s rice, fish meal
    Protein Content: 28.0%
    Fat Content: 18.0%
    Calories: 422

    Our final pick for the best vet-recommended puppy foods is Country Vet Naturals 28/18 Healthy Puppy Food. This product contains 28.0% crude protein, which is higher than many foods on the market.

    It contains protein from chicken, fish, and pork meal so your pup gets a variety of protein types. However, pups with sensitive stomachs or any protein allergies may not be able to eat this food. But, it’s made with natural ingredients and contains no added wheat, corn, or soy.

    Pros
    • High protein from multiple sources
    • Natural ingredients
    • No wheat, corn, or soy

    Cons
    • May not work for sensitive stomachs

    divider 9Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Puppy Food Recommended by Vets

    Making a final decision about your puppy’s food should be between you and your vet. However, you can have a general idea before even asking, especially if you’ve researched brands vets generally approve of first.

    So, here are some categories and must-haves in puppy chow.

    The 4 Types of Recipes for Puppies

    The pet food industry is crawling with different recipes that promise various results. So here are a few different recipes you can expect to see and the target nutrition areas they cover.

    1. Everyday Nutrition

    Everyday nutrition recipes have a combination of ingredients that are well-balanced for normal, healthy puppies. These diets are not specialized, but they contain the right ingredients to provide ideal minerals, vitamins, proteins, and amino acids to nourish our dog’s system.

    a maltipoo puppy eating from a bowl
    Image Credit: marketlan, Shutterstock

    2. Limited Ingredient Diet

    Limited-ingredient diets aim to use as few ingredients as possible while maintaining nutritional profiles. These diets are designed for dogs with allergies or other sensitivities found in commercial dog foods.


    3. Sensitive Stomach

    Recipes designed for sensitive stomachs tend to use gut-friendly ingredients like prebiotics, probiotics, and easy-to-digest grains. Rather than using grains, some recipes use pumpkin and other carb sources instead.

    cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy eating
    Image Credit: Andrew Linscott, Shutterstock

    4. Grain-Free

    Grain-free diets are designed for dogs and puppies that can’t handle any gluten in their daily diet. However, healthy dogs that can digest grains should not be fed an exclusive grain-free diet, as this may lead to potential heart issues later in life, although studies to confirm this are still ongoing.

    divider 9Wet vs. Canned vs. Fresh Food

    If you’re looking for commercial dog food, your options keep growing by the day. But the age-old question remains—is it better to buy dry kibble or wet canned food for your dog?

    Ultimately, it’s up to preference and vet recommendation. One owner might choose dry kibble for several reasons, while wet canned food might work better for another dog. To reap the benefits of both, many pet owners tend to mix the two to create a more robust, versatile dish.

    Wet Canned Puppy Food

    Wet dog food in feeding bowls
    Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

    Wet canned puppy food is available in nearly any online or in-store pet shop.

    Pros
    • Typically more palpable
    • Good for dental issues
    • Boosts hydration
    • Contains more concentrated protein

    Cons
    • Usually more expensive
    • This can lead to dental issues
    • Creates spoilage


    Dry Kibble Puppy Food

    Dry kibble quickly gained in popularity and is sold just about anywhere—though we don’t recommend buying from just anywhere, of course.

    Pros
    • Long shelf-life
    • Convenient
    • Easy to ration
    • Cleans teeth

    Cons
    • Not as tasty
    • No extra hydration
    • Usually contains preservatives


    Fresh Puppy Food

    person feeding petplate fresh dog food
    Image Credit: PetPlate.com

    More than ever, people are turning to fresh food options as traditional dog foods take a backseat. Fresh dog food is readily available now through subscription-based companies. These companies aim to provide a more species-appropriate diet for our dogs to reduce many diseases and ailments as they age.

    Pros
    • Excellent ingredients
    • Subscription service
    • Door delivery
    • Nutritionally superior
    • Tailored to meet the needs of your pup
    • Suitable for puppies, adults, and seniors

    Cons
    • Expensive
    • More difficult to prepare

    divider 9Top 4 Crucial Aspects of Puppy Nutrition

    Canines are omnivorous creatures, requiring both plant and animal material to thrive. When you look at any dog food recipe, you will see a combination of meat, fruit, vegetables, and grains. For puppies, there are a few key ingredients that help your little one grow.

    1. Protein

    Protein is the main building block for your puppy’s growth. Commercial dog foods will use a combination of animal and plant protein and dog food recipes. However, animal protein will account for the majority of the two.

    cute puppy waiting raw dog food in a white bowl
    Image Credit: Jan Dix, Shutterstock

    2. DHA

    DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a crucial omega-3 fatty acid for a puppy’s growth. It plays a key role in the central nervous system and retinal functions. So, DHA is imperative for brain development, giving your pup a sharp mind and excellent cognitive ability.


    3. Chondroitin & Glucosamine

    Chondroitin and glucosamine are two vital nutrients that help your dog in developing strong joints, tendons, and ligaments. This is not always an ingredient in puppy chow, but it is very common to see. Most of the time, these ingredients are used for large breed puppies to make sure they get a very good start, growing efficiently.

    little brown dog eating porridge
    Image Credit: Parichart Patricia Wong, Shutterstock

    4. Fatty & Amino Acids

    Your puppy requires fatty and amino acids—and will continue to throughout their lifetime. These components help keep your dog’s muscles, skin, and coat healthy and fresh. They balance the natural oils and fill their diet with essential antioxidants.

    Divider 7Conclusion

    Hopefully, our reviews were helpful on your venture for puppy nutrition.

    Merrick Classic Healthy Grains is our favorite selection because it will benefit the bulk of puppies across the board. It has all the right ingredients to support growing bodies and help healthy pups thrive. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Skin & Stomach is ideal for rumbly tummies—but it works just as well for healthy pups—nothing wrong with an easily digestible recipe! We think it is the best vet-approved dog food you can buy for the money. Forza10 Nutraceutic Legend Puppy is a pretty penny, but the nutritional quality is outstanding. It can satisfy the nutritional needs of any growing pup and contains unique ingredients not found in other puppy foods.

    No matter what you choose, we hope you found a yummy new recipe for your pup to try.


    Featured Image Credit: ThamKC, Shutterstock

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