Puppy nutritional needs and comparing formulas

I've been thinking a lot about puppies and puppy food lately after Toby's vet has been all up in arms about us feeding an ALS formula.  I was wondering - what exactly ARE the nutritional needs of puppies?  So I've been doing some digging and thought I'd share my results.


The AAFCO guidelines are here (based on dry matter basis, not the "as-is" basis)"



In general what I've found:

- High fat  (AAFCO says minimum 8.5%)

- High protein (AAFCO says minimum 22.5%)

- Minimum Calcium 1.2%, maximum 1.8%

- Minimum Phosphorus 1.0%, maximum 1.6%

- Calcium : Phosphorus ratio of 1.2-1.4:1    from most sources, AAFCO says 1:1 minimum and 2:1 maximum


- Higher calorie intake (I use the RER calculator to calculate this which makes it straightforward)

In an attempt to balance Riley and Toby's nutritional needs I've been taking a hard look at some of the Fromm formulas.  They've both been doing well on the Pork and Peas but I am trying to find a second one to rotate in that won't cause issues.  I wanted to try to find a grain inclusive one as well just to add another level of variety.  I'm also trying to stay away from salmon and chicken for Riley since she had a huge allergy flare up while eating Surf&Turf.

With the Highlander Beef I have some concerns about the Haddock but Riley has done well on that one in the past so it may be worth a try.  All three of these formulas meet my "no chicken or salmon" requirements (other than some salmon oil) and seem more than adequate according to AAFCO's puppy guidelines.


 % dry matter basis   Comparison with AAFCO minimums (Food - AAFCO minimum)
 ProteinFatCaPCa:P ProteinFatCaPCa:P
Fromm pork and peas31.4519.391.271.011.26 8.9510.890.070.010.26
Fromm Beef frittata veg34.2519.451.411.051.34 11.7510.950.210.050.34
Fromm Highlander beef29.6819.061.681.191.41 7.1810.560.480.190.41


Here is the spreadsheet I used to make the comparison, you can enter your own in the green area and it will compare on the right.  The comparison values are the food entered on the left minus the AAFCO values, so in these three examples the foods are above the minimums recommended by the AAFCO for puppies.  If it were a negative value then that food would be under the minimums.


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  • According to Marion Nestle, puppies basically need more fat, more protein, and more calories than adult dogs, and that's about it. They can get these things from foods that are more nutrient dense, and also simply from just eating more in relation to their body weights.                                                                                    

    The AAFCO values are the absolute bare minimum needed to sustain life. 8.5% fat is absurdly low for any dry dog food, and in fact you would be hard pressed to find any kibble with a fat percentage under 10%. 
    22.5% is also very low, too low for a puppy IMO, and too low for most adult dogs, in fact.

    Regarding the haddock, remember that a molecule of salmon looks very different to the body than a molecule of haddock. In the same way that a dog who is allergic to chicken does perfectly well with turkey or duck, a dog who is allergic to salmon does perfectly well with trout or whitefish. or haddock, lol. So even if Riley does have some food sensitivities to salmon or chicken(I doubt actual allergies), other poultry or fish would be no more likely to cause a problem than beef would. And salmon oil is entirely different from salmon.

    I feel like you might be over-thinking this, which is understandable given your vet's attitudes towards ALS formulas for puppies, but the science does not support his views. 
    Millions of puppies do perfectly well with ALS formulas from the time they start solid food. I know it is anecdotal, but I have never fed puppy food to any of my puppies, and they all lived long healthy lives. My last Poodle lived to be 16 without ever having tasted a single morsel of "puppy" food.
    It would be interesting to find any study not sponsored by a dog food company that shows any harm from puppies eating ALS formulas, or conversely, any proveable benefit to puppies eating "puppy" formulas. That's just about the only thing that would make me question the wisdom of feeding puppies ALS formulas.

    • This is all mostly for my own curiosity and attempts to educate myself :)  The vet can sputter all they want I know Toby is perfectly healthy eating what he is eating.  It's a different vet at his upcoming appointment next week, we'll see what this one says or if they even bring it up.  Riley needed a follow-up related to her allergies so both dogs are going for back to back appointments.

      I can't seem to find actual percentages that are not those AAFCO values, I'd happily update my chart if I can find them, I am just looking things up here and there, work is super busy these days.  I was just curious how the foods I'm looking at compare to the "needs" of a puppy.  I like excel sheets in case you didn't notice lol.  

       Riley may be totally fine with haddock, we've just noticed that she never did super well on fish-based formulas (though they may have all been salmon, I don't know) so if there is another option I will take it.  I wouldn't call this one "fish based" because it's not the first ingredient but it's pretty high up there.

      Food is food - I don't feed my human "puppy" differently (other than the way it's prepared - lower salt/seasonings, more mushy and pieces that are not choking hazards for a toddler).  They also eat more relative to their size but that doesn't change the actual content of the food. Why would dogs be any different?  


      • Your comparison to feeding your "human puppy" is brilliant. Really, that says it all.


  • This article from 2014 might interest your vet:

    I am going to continue researching this, but so far, the only sources I have found that support feeding puppies only "puppy" formulas, and not ALS formulas, comes from Purina. 
    As I have read before, it's really only about marketing.
    And the info that vets get about this topic comes directly from the sales/marketing departments at Purina, Hill's and Mars. :) 

    Are Life Stage Dog Foods Credible?
    • It's tough to explain myself with the COVID restrictions at the vet these days, our conversations are over the phone while I sit in the parking lot with my dog.  If she gets really insistent I'll ask her to try to explain herself and counter with some facts about the food we're eating vs. recommendations.

      The comment at the end of the article you linked is interesting - the highlander beef is 1.41:1 for Ca:P, I wonder if it's actually too high for Toby.  The one concern I've read about with larger dogs (I wouldn't really consider him "large" but he will certainly be tall) is that if they have TOO much calcium it can cause issues.

  • Whew I am back after a decade of raising babies! Now I have a new doodle, Chewie, who hates his Puppy Fromm and I have been worried to switch him to his sister's ALS Fromm (he loves it) but this sealed the deal. He will get what he needs from the All life stages food. Thanks Karen for straigtening us out! ;)

    • My vet keeps moaning about me feeding Toby the same ALS food as Riley but I just do it anyway :p

      I have some facts to back up my decision should the vet ever really get into it with me thanks to Karen's words of sanity :)

    • It's good to have you back, Ally!

    • Hi Ally!  You'll have to share photos of this latest puppy :). And OMD, is your oldest ten!?!?

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