Many companies have, or are coming out with, higher protein, grain free foods. While these can be wonderful for the full grown dog, not all of them are appropriate for puppies under one year of age.
It is not the high protein that is a concern but most of these foods are too high in calcium for growing pups.
Some people and breeders are still skeptical about feeding pups higher protein. I disagree with this as I have seen pups raised on high protein foods and they are doing great. I correspond with breeders feeding high protein grain free food to weaned pups and plan on doing so with my next litter.
Here is a link for your review:
Now for the calcium: Nature’s Variety Instinct is what my girls eat and do great on. However with calcium at 2.49% it is too high for growing pups under one year of age.
EVO is another excellent grain free food but at 3.0% calcium it is also too high.
The best one I have seen on the market is Origen, specifically the Large Breed Puppy formula at 1.4% calcium.
The puppy formula is 1.6% but I prefer the 1.4% for weaned and growing pups.
Calcium to phosphorour ratios should be 1.2:1 in any dog food for proper absorption, whether feeding a pup or an adult or senior.
Grain free foods will tend to have higher calcium because the high protein results in higher phosphorous. Therefore the correct amount of calcium must be added for the proper ratio resulting in levels of calcium too high for growing pups.
For those who prefer not to feed grain free I would use at least 28% protein for pups. I also like to stay away from corn, soy, wheat, sorghum and by products.
Choose a dog food with a specific meat protein as the first ingredient. Not meat meal, poultry meal, etc. but rather, chicken, lamb, beef, etc. Having a protein source as the second to fifth ingredient, following the first (protein) ingredient is also desireable.
Ingredients are listed by weight so keep in mind if ingredients are listed as Lamb meal, ground brown rice, whole brown rice, brewers rice, etc. one would think the food is mostly made up of lamb. However, all the rice weighed together would outweigh the lamb and you are feeding mostly rice rather than the desired protein. By listing the rice ingredients separately they are weighed separately and this is deceiving IMO.
Dogs do not draw energy from carbohydrates like humans do. They get their energy from fat. Therefore, large amounts of carbohydrates in a dog food are not desireable, nor are they necessary. They are just fillers. You will find that you have to feed more food to keep weight on and you will have larger, more frequent stools because the body does not need all those fillers so it does not absorb it.
While grain free foods are more expensive you will need to feed quite a bit less to maintain proper weight and in the end you end up spending just about the same as you do for foods with grains.
For those of you with small breed dogs, I have never raised them so have no experience with feeding guidlines for pups. I recommend you discuss this with the breeder you purchase(d) your pup from.