When Should I Switch My Dog to Adult Dog Food?
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As puppies grow into adult dogs, it’s crucial to switch to adult dog food. The timing depends on factors like breed, spaying or neutering, and health concerns.
This article provides guidance on when to switch, understanding the differences between puppy and adult dog foods, selecting the best adult dog food, and transitioning foods smoothly to ensure your pup’s good health.
This transition is essential for a healthy life for your pup.
When Do Pups Start Eating Adult Food?
The general rule for switching to adult dog food is to switch from puppy food to adult dog food when your puppy has reached about 80 percent of their full growth, usually when they reach adult height.
This rule is applicable to all sizes, as puppies and dogs mature at different times. Some dogs still have some growth and filling to do beyond their first birthday.
You can use these guidelines for puppies in general:
Toy, teacup, and tiny breeds (dogs under 10–12 pounds when grown) can begin eating adult dog food when they are 6–7 months old.
Small-breed dogs (dogs that weigh 20 to 25 pounds when fully grown) can usually eat adult dog food when they are 9 to 11 months of age.
Medium-breed dogs (dogs that weigh between 20 and 50 pounds as adults) normally mature between 12 and 14 months and can start eating adult dog food at this time.
Large dog breeds (dogs that weigh 50–75 pounds when grown) can start eating adult dog food between 15 and 18 months.
Giant-breed dogs (dogs weighing more than a healthy 80 pounds when fully grown) may need to eat puppy food for a longer time. They may not be ready to switch to adult dog food until they are 18 to 24 months of age.
Puppy food is not recommended for adult dogs due to its high calories, protein, and fat content.
However, occasional consumption is acceptable, but not regularly.
It can be beneficial for certain situations, like thin or picky eaters, active performance dogs, and senior dogs, but senior dogs should consult a veterinarian for kidney and protein issues.
Does Spaying or Neutering Effect the Switch?
Breed size isn’t the only factor in deciding when to transition a puppy to adult dog food. Spaying or neutering before 80% of a puppy’s mature size can decrease their calorie requirement, potentially up to 30%.
Proper feeding during the remaining months is crucial to prevent obesity. Spaying or neutering doesn’t slow growth but may affect bones, potentially leading to joint issues later in life.
Non-spayed female dogs may need to stay on puppy food longer for gestation and lactation.
What’s the Difference Between Puppy and Adult Dog Food?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates the sale and distribution of animal foods, recommending that puppy foods should be higher in protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorous than adult dog foods.
These nutrients support lean muscle and bone growth, provide enough caloric density for basic bodily functions, and include omega-3 fatty acids for brain and eye development.
Large-breed puppies need specially formulated foods with less fat, calcium, and phosphorous to prevent skeletal diseases.
Can An Adult Dog Eat Puppy Food?
Puppy food is not recommended for adult dogs due to its higher calories, protein, and fat content than their optimal diet. However, occasional consumption of puppy food is acceptable, but not regularly. Regular feeding can lead to overweight dogs.
Puppy food can be beneficial for certain situations, such as thin or picky eaters, active performance dogs, and senior dogs.
However, senior dogs should consult a veterinarian before feeding, as they may have kidney issues, and too much protein can be problematic.
Good-performance dog foods are available for active dogs, and senior dogs may benefit from easily digestible calories in puppy food.
How to Transition Puppy to an Adult Dog Food
When transitioning from puppy food to adult dog food, it’s important to change the number of meals and portion sizes. Adult dogs can eat only two meals per day, and the feeding guide on the food label should guide you. Gradually transitioning to adult dog food helps prevent stomach upset.
A sample transitional feeding plan is:
Feed 3/4 of the normal amount of puppy food, and add 1/4 of adult dog food.
If your dog resists or experiences stomach upset, extend the transition time as needed. Consult your veterinarian for further assistance.
How to Pick the Right Adult Dog Food
When transitioning to adult dog food, choose the right formula for your puppy’s young adult stage, typically 1-4 years old. This helps reduce the risk of obesity, arthritis, and dental disease as they age.
Examine the Guaranteed Analysis panel on the food bag or can to ensure it meets major nutritional requirements.
Look for a food with:
- 18% protein
- 5.5% fat
- iodine and selenium,
- and vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E,
- pantothenic acid
- folic acid
- vitamin B12
Consider additional ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, probiotics, or beef or salmon-based formulas. Ask your veterinarian if unsure.
Switching your puppy to adult dog food is generally recommended when they reach their full height, around 80 percent of their full maturity. Toy and small-breed puppies mature earlier than large and giant-breed puppies, so they can start switching to adult dog food earlier.
While there are special circumstances where feeding adult dogs puppy food is not recommended, it can lead to overweight or obese dogs and protein issues for senior dogs. If there is a good reason, it should not harm the dog. Consult your veterinarian if you are considering feeding adult dogs puppy food. Research on these recommendations is limited, so the advice given is based on personal experience.