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Dog Food Nutrition

When To Switch To Adult Dog Food

June 7, 2021

When To Switch To Adult Dog Food

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Puppies are adorable but even the cutest ball of fur eventually grows into an adult dog. At some point you will need to make the switch to adult dog food. The big question is when is the right time to change your puppy to an adult food? We’ve got answers for you!

When Do Dogs Start Eating Adult Food?

Actually, this question is not as hard as it may seem at first. Even though there are over 400 breeds of dogs in the world – not to mention mixes and designer dogs – there is one generally accepted rule about making the switch to adult dog food.

You should make the switch from puppy food to adult dog food when your puppy has achieved about 80 percent of his full growth*.

This is usually when your puppy has achieved his adult height.

Obviously, puppies and dogs come in all sizes so they will mature at different times. Your puppy may begin to look like an adult dog even though he’s not quite mature yet. Many dogs still have some growing and filling out to do past their first birthday, for example.

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 to 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 a puppy food for a longer time. They may not be ready to switch to an adult dog food until they are 18 to 24 months of age.

When to transition to adult dog food
This chart shows when to transition to adult dog food by your puppy’s size.

All of these figures are based on dogs of healthy weigh – not overweight or obese dogs.

Keep in mind that these are general guidelines for puppies and dogs based on their sizes. An individual puppy might grow faster or slower so you should use your best judgment and talk to your veterinarian if you’re unsure about switching your puppy’s food.

Of course, if you feed your puppy an All Life Stages dog food, you don’t have to worry about making a switch to an adult dog food.

All Life Stages dog foods are suitable for both puppies and adult dogs so your puppy can continue to eat the same food as he becomes an adult dog.

Is Puppy Food Bad For Adult Dogs?

Puppy food isn’t recommended for adult dogs but it’s not “bad” for them.

Puppy food typically has more calories, protein, and fat than adult dogs need in their diet. It also contains slightly different vitamin and mineral percentages than are considered optimal for adult dogs.

Click here to read our full guide on the best dog food for puppies.

If your adult dog occasionally eats some of your puppy’s food, it’s not a disaster.

However, we wouldn’t recommend that you regularly feed your adult dog a puppy food. An adult dog that eats a diet of puppy food without a good reason runs the risk of becoming overweight.

Can An Adult Dog Eat Puppy Food?

In some circumstances adult dogs eat puppy food with good results but these are special circumstances.

Some people who have very thin dogs or picky eaters do feed their adult dogs puppy food to help them get more calories and put on a little more weight.

The extra calories in puppy food can help these dogs put on a little weight.

Puppy food also seems to tempt some dogs to eat when they aren’t interested in other dog food.

Some people who have active performance dogs that burn up a lot of calories have also fed puppy food to their dogs to get more protein, fat, and calories.

That is an option but there are many good performance dog foods today that should be able to fill this need for active dogs.

Some people with senior dogs have fed puppy food to their dogs because of the calories and nutrients in the food.

Many senior dogs can start to lose weight as they age and puppy food has easily-digestible calories that can help some dogs regain some weight.

However, do be careful if you are feeding a puppy food to a senior dog since puppy foods usually have more protein than many adult dog foods.

Some senior dogs can have kidney issues and too much protein can be a problem. Please talk to your veterinarian before changing dog foods if you have an ailing senior dog.

The Last Word On When To Switch To An Adult Dog Food

In general, you should switch your puppy to an adult dog food when he has reached his full height.

This is usually when your puppy has achieved about 80 percent of his full maturity.

He’s as tall as he’s going to get but he still needs to fill out before he’s really an adult dog.

This age will vary depending on your individual puppy.

Toy and small breed puppies will mature earlier than large and giant breed puppies so they can begin to switch to an adult dog food at an earlier age.

As for feeding adult dogs a puppy food, there are some special circumstances where people do feed their adult dogs a puppy food.

In most cases this is not recommended. The problems with feeding puppy food to adult dogs are the extra calories that can lead to some dogs becoming overweight or obese; and the extra protein which can cause problems for senior dogs.

But if you have a good reason for giving your adult dog a puppy food, it should not hurt him. We suggest that you talk to your veterinarian if you are thinking of feeding your adult dog a puppy food.

*Recently we have noticed a trend for some dog food companies to advise customers to feed all puppies a puppy food until the puppies are more than a year old — even two years old in some cases!

Even after searching online we could not find any research to back up these recommendations. Hence the advice given here.

Carlotta Cooper is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine DN Dog News. She's the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, a Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) award winner. In addition, she is an American Kennel Club Gazette breed columnist and is the author of several books about dogs. She has been reviewing pet foods and writing about dog food for more than 10 years.
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