Premium. Natural. Grain free. Large breed. Small breed. There are lots of choices out there when it comes to puppy food. The choices often come with some pretty hefty price tags, and you're thinking that maybe there's not much of a difference. You may also be wondering what the difference is between puppy and adult food, too.
Puppy Food Versus Adult Food
Yes, there is a difference between puppy and adult food. If the food is formulated to the guidelines set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO -- and not all dog foods are -- there are both maintenance (adult) and growth (puppy) formulas. Some dog foods are formulated for all life stages, meaning that the food is good to feed to both puppies and adults and provides adequate nutrition. Puppy food needs higher protein and fat for growing pups, as well as more calories and different requirements for vitamins and minerals. Feeding a puppy a maintenance (adult) diet could cause malnutrition.
You're probably asking what's the difference between Cheap Kibble Krunchies and Expensive Premium Puppy besides the price, especially if there's an AAFCO statement on each bag stating the food is nutritionally adequate for growth. The difference is usually in ingredients. Cheap Kibble Krunchies is most likely grain-based and uses lower-quality protein such as soy, plant proteins, and meat and bone meal. If there is a meat protein source, it's usually lower on the list.
Not all protein is the same. The quality of protein is particularly important for an animal that evolved to eat meat. Plant protein is tougher to digest and use compared to meat, which is a quality protein. Your puppy will have to eat more to gain the same nutrition as a bag of high-quality food.
Fillers and Digestiblity
The Cheap Kibble Krunchies is usually loaded with fillers, colors and other stuff your puppy doesn't need. Technically your puppy should be able to thrive on this food, but there are some downsides. To get the same amount of nutrition that two cups of Expensive Premium Puppy, you might have to feed five or more cups of Cheap Kibble Krunchies.
What happens to all that cheap food? It comes out the backside of your pup and fills the poop bag. It doesn't get used for growth or maintaining good health. Instead it ends up in the garbage.
Digestibility is important for your pup's health and your pocketbook. Not only will your pup eat less, but even though you pay more for the food up front, it lasts longer, making it the better deal. Look for food that starts with animal protein as the first ingredient and be sure that carbohydrate sources like corn, wheat, rice, oats or barley aren't listed first or in succession. If they are, then it's likely that there is less protein than carbohydrates.
What About Premium and Other Types?
Because there aren't regulations on words like "natural," "premium," "large breed" and other qualifications, the words are nice marketing slogans. Only "organic" and "lite" food and "dental formulas" have regulations.
Even so, some dog food manufacturers do try to provide unique formulations for what they're offering. To get through the hype and understand what's important, look at ingredients, protein, digestibility (if listed) and calories (if listed).