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What am I buying when I pick up dog food labeled “for puppies?”
Generally speaking, puppy food is higher in protein and enriched with vitamins, minerals, and fats essential for growth–that is, when compared to dog food made by the same manufacturer.
Still, ingredients across brands can vary greatly. Commercial puppy food must meet AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nutrient standards for growth, and many companies will go above and beyond those standards, testing their products to make sure they support puppies’ development. They don’t have to, though–they’re only required to meet the minimum nutrient standards.
In most cases, what you pay for is what you get. Lower-quality ingredients are found in the cheaper brands while “premium” and “performance” varieties tend to include higher-quality ingredients for improved digestibility.