Nothing is more important for the proper growth and long, healthy life of your puppy than the quality of the food you feed it - absolutely nothing!

Most pet owners recognize the truth in that statement but are not sure how to sort through the confusing and conflicting information out there to know what actually makes a high quality, nutritious puppy food.

Below is a formula for the Ideal Puppy Dog Food, designed by a Ph.D Animal Nutritionist with 35 years experience in the dog food industry. It is formulated for all life stages, including puppies of small and large breed dogs. It meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth and all life stages including growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult) so it can be used as an adult food as well.

It has been in use for 15 years and has has proved to be a truly exceptional puppy food that has outperformed everything else we sold in our store, and we carried all the best foods. Use it as a guide. It is not a theory of what should work - it is an actual dog food that has produced incredibly healthy dogs of every size for 15 years, from puppy to adult and into the senior years. It is a guide for a kibble formula that has proven successful.

Food that is perfectly balanced nutritionally and follows the guidelines of the formula below works equally well in all stages of your dogs development. Puppies simply need more food while they are growing. High quality, perfectly balanced nutrition is needed in all life stages.

Many puppy dog foods have more Fat than Protein, on a calorie weighted basis, but in the years we observed healthy puppies we found it best if they ate equal calories of Protein and Fat so their energy did not exceed the development of their body and bones.

The activity level of your dog may change with the seasons so be prepared to adjust the amount you feed to maintain the ideal weight. Over 60% of domestic dogs are overweight and it is hard on their joints and will eventually affect their desire to exercise which is very important to maintain their overall health. The age old way to determine the ideal weight of an adult dog is to place a hand on each side of the rib cage. You should be able to feel the ribs but not see them from about 6 feet away.

The following chart lists the length of time different sized dogs remain in the growth phase:

Small dogs (5 to 20 lbs) - 8 to 11 months

Small-Medium dogs (20 to 35 lbs) - 12 to 14 months

Medium-Large dogs (35 to 50 lbs) - 14 to 16 months

Large dogs (50 to 70 lbs) - 16 to 18 months

Extra Large dogs (70 to 120 lbs) - 18 to 24 months


When calculating the percentage of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in kibble it is common to do it on a “Dry Matter Basis” which means first subtracting the amount of moisture in the kibble (usually 10%) then divide the percentage of Protein and Fat listed in the Guaranteed Analysis on the bag by 90%. You determine the Carbs by adding the Protein and Fats together and subtracting that from the 90% dry matter left after removing the moisture. The pie chart below is a look at the Ideal Puppy Food Formula on a dry matter basis.

Guaranteed Analysis:   Converted to Dry Matter %

Protein 36%                   Protein 36% / 90%      = 40% Protein

Fat 16%                          Fat 16% / 90%            = 18% Fat

Dry Matter = 90%    Carbs = 90%-(40%+18%)  = 32% Carbs

However, the most accurate way to get a picture of what you are feeding your dog is by examining the food on a Calorie Weighted Basis.

This is done by multiplying the percentage of Protein, Fat, and Carbs by their caloric content per gram. The pie chart below is the same ideal puppy food  above but with ingredients compared on a Calorie Weighted Basis

Protein @ 4 cal/gm =  4 x 40% =160  Calories  160 / 450 =  36% Protein

Fat        @ 9 cal/gm =  9 x 18% =162  Calories  162 / 450 =  36% Fat

Carbs   @ 4 cal/gm  = 4 x 32% =128  Calories   128 / 450 =  28% Carbs

                                         Total  = 450 Calories

The Anatomy of a Highly Nutritious Large and Small breed Puppy Formula

Calculated on a dry matter basis

  • 40% Protein - High protein content of 30% to 40% (rather than 18% to 28% which is normal) and protein that is over 85% animal sourced protein (instead of vegetable protein).
  • 18% Fat - A quality named animal fat (ie. Chicken fat versus vegetable oil or un-named fat sources) Amount of fat calories equal to the protein calories (1 gram of fat = 9 calories and 1 gram of Protein = 4 calories. 18% fat and 40% Protein provides an equal amount of calories of each (18% x 9 = 162 & 40% x 4 = 160)
  • 32% Carbs - (35% or less) To determine carbs: 100% minus (moisture 10% + protein 40% + Fat 18%) = 32% carbs. Use low glycemic carbs with GI index of 46 or less, preferably with a resistant starch component that delays its absorption into the system and avoids a spike in blood sugar. Resistant Starch also feeds the good bacteria in the gut and helps control the bad bacteria.
  • No high glycemic carbohydrates like grain or potatoes.
  • Specially coated probiotics that survive until they get to the gut,instead of normal probiotics that activate prematurely from moisture and warmth in the dog food and are 99.8% dead within a few hours.
  • Long chain prebiotics that feed the probiotics without feeding the bad bacteria in the gut. Some carbs like Tapioca Flour with resistant starch perform this function as well and do not contribute additional starch to the system.
  • Digestive enzymes to ensure proteins digest completely so they do not contribute to allergies in the presence of Leaky Gut (see blog article on Leaky Gut).
  • Calcium 2.0 to 4.5 g calcium per 1,000 calories; Phosphorus 2.5 to 4.0 g per 1,000 calories; Calcium to phosphorus ratio from 1:1 to 1.8:1


Many people assume they can not afford a high quality dog food but they really can’t afford not to:

The nutritional value of what is in a bag of dog food can, and does, vary a great deal. For example, consider the difference between a pound of chicken versus a pound of grain flavored like chicken. Dog foods are NOT created equal. There is a huge difference in the quality and actual ingredients in different dog foods.


A high quality puppy/dog food does not necessarily cost much more to feed than a poor quality dog food because the recommended feeding amounts can be 2 to 3 times more with the cheaper food. If you buy a $45 bag that recommends 2 ½ cups of food for a 25 lb dog versus a $110 bag that you only need 1 cup of food for the same weight, at the end of the month you will have spent the same amount to feed either formula.

Always take into account the recommended feeding rate of whatever food you are considering, to determine the actual cost to feed your dog with that food. When you compare the monthly cost to feed a highly nutritious food it usually ends up about the same price as the poor quality food. Their bag may cost one half as much but if you need to feed twice as much it is costing you the same to feed your dog junk food as it would to feed nourishing food that will keep your dog healthy.

Buying a poor quality dog food will cost you and your dog much, much more in the long run in health problems, unnecessary suffering, and Veterinary bills. Poor quality cheaper food ends up being far more expensive when everything is taken into consideration.

Your puppy needs to eat like the carnivore it is.

I know there are professionals, nutritionists, and 3 huge conglomerates that control 93% of the dog food market in the US, continually trying to convince dog owners that dogs have evolved from carnivores into omnivores because they have been hanging around people and eating their food for a long time.

To begin with, the families that dogs lived with or around, for the last thousand years or so, probably had the good common sense to feed their dogs left over meat and bone scraps knowing that is what the dog wanted and needed to eat to stay healthy - not the corn, grain, and potatoes they are filling dog food with these days, which they have to flavor like meat to get the dog to eat it.

It has only been in the last 75 years since the end of World War II, when the country had a huge surplus of corn and grain from the war effort, that dog food companies began adding high glycemic carbohydrates to dog food and have steadily been increasing the amount ever since to increase profits. That is hardly enough time for dogs to evolve from carnivores into omnivores.

More accurately, the domesticated dog is considered a facultative carnivore (ˈfak(ə)lˌtādiv ) which means it is able to supplement its diet of meat and fat with some other food as needed. But it is still predominantly a carnivore that is designed to eat meat and fat.

They are able to eat somer carbs in addition to their natural diet of animal protein and fat, which is what the facultative part of their classification means, but that does not imply that it is healthy to feed a carnivore a diet that is 46% to 74% carbohydrates as is the trend these days.

You can still feed your puppy a kibble as long as you keep the ratio of carbs close to 33% or below on a calorie weighted basis, so they are balanced by the protein and fat in the diet. It is very important to make the carbs low glycemic carbs so their body does not need to use insulin to lower the blood sugar levels.

Because dogs can be tricked into eating carbs flavored like meat does not make them omnivores. Neither do the tests that show their system can metabolize some carbohydrates. The ability to metabolize a carbohydrate does not mean it is healthy to feed a dog any amount of it you want. It must be kept in balance.

The problem with too many carbs is the damage they do as they go through the system and over time (from a few months to a few years), the damage can be wide spread and usually results in Dysbiosis of the gut which leads to Leaky Gut and Systemic Candida and a long list of problems.

Meat and fat do not cause Dysbiosis but excessive carbs do.

You can read more about the problems caused by too many carbs in our blog articles LEAKY GUT and BEST DIET FOR SENIOR DOGS.

To power the body and brain people convert carbohydrates into glucose. Dogs convert dietary fat into glucose to do the same. Consequentially dogs have no dietary need for carbohydrates whatsoever.

Another sign that we are putting too many carbs into dog food is that  60% of dogs are obese or overweight. Their fellow carnivores in the wild, on a diet primarily of meat and fat, are never fat or overweight. 

Dogs burn dietary fat for energy and convert Carbohydrates into stored fat, which explains the epidemic of overweight dogs in this country - too many carbs in the diet.

Your puppy needs fat for energy and meat protein to build its new body. Animal protein is far preferable to vegetable protein. Its body is designed by Mother Nature to thrive on a diet that is primarily meat and fat and as a highly successful advertisement once said, “It’s not smart to mess with Mother Nature”

Carbohydrates can be used but should be kept to a minimum.

Put a potato, some grain, and an ear of corn on the floor and see if your dog will voluntarily eat it. Probably not unless it were starving, and maybe not even then. Certainly not if it had meat as an alternative option. Dogs are guided by the instinct Mother Nature gave them to prefer what their system was designed to eat and utilize effectively, and that is meat and fat.

People often think if a wolf can be made to look and act like a beagle then surely a dog can change from a carnivore into an omnivore just as easily but there are two different DNA’s involved.

Nuclear DNA can be manipulated to change a dogs size, looks, and personality, from a wolf into a beagle, because each sex contributes a separate strand of DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA, has been constant tens of thousands of years because it is only passed on by the female. It determiners the metabolic pathways and energy transfer system, including what food they are designed eat and metabolize, and is 99.8% identical to a ten thousand year old gray wolf.

Dogs are predominantly carnivores based on anatomical traits they share with other carnivores in the Canidae family, which omnivores do not have.

Wolves, coyotes, foxes, jackals, and dogs are all classified under the Order Carnivora (Carnivores) in the family Canidae, Genus Canis. They are all in the same family of Carnivores and are designed to eat animal protein and fat. They have absolutely no need for carbohydrates - none whatsoever!

Kibble dog food requires that a carbohydrate be added to help bind the protein and fat together but it is best to use carbs that are low glycemic, contribute some fiber, and some vitamins as well. 

For instance Tapioca flour is not readily absorbed by the small intestine and ends up feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut to nourish it so it can keep the Candida fungus from overgrowing and causing Dysbiosis.

If you have been doing research into dog food then you know how much conflicting information is out there as to what makes a good, nutritious dog food. Who do you believe?

I’d suggest you believe your dog because it will be a reflection of the food you feed it and if you feed it as I have suggested your dog will be a shining example of health and wellbeing that you will easily see for yourself.


Written January 23, 2023

Updated May 30, 2023

by Richard Darlington, CEO

Brothers Dog Food, LLC