Difference Between Puppy Food and Adult Dog Food
It’s important to understand why it’s not ideal to feed your pet for his whole life. There are nutritional differences between grown-up food and puppy food that make each more appropriate for a different life stage.
Put simply, puppy food fuels growth. Adult dog food, on the other hand, simply helps your dog to keep at a certain healthy weight. Here’s how they do this…
Puppy Food = Growth Food
Good puppy food is formulated specifically to fulfill the high energy needs of growing pups. If you’ve ever seen a mother dog alongside her litter, you’ll realize just how much building and growing those newborns have ahead of them. And they require the right nutrition for all of it.
“Puppies need food to grow properly, but these needs change once a puppy gets older”
From their food, puppies need a few things.
- Puppies need relatively high levels of protein.
In most puppy foods, proteins come primarily from meat. Some of the best puppy food brands will also include non-meat-based proteins such as garbanzo beans, lentils, egg, or even quinoa so that your puppy has a wide variety of different protein sources. In all instances, your pup will break these down into amino acids, then back up again into muscle.
Eventually, your puppy stops needing to grow new muscle on such a scale. Once he’s a grown-up, therefore, there’s no real need to pick out a special formula for growth.
- They also need relatively high levels of fat.
The word ‘relatively’ is key here, because we’re not suggesting you look for a puppy food with the highest fat possible. Rather, they simply need more lipids than your adult pet in order to have enough energy.
Canine adults, in contrast, will not need this extra ‘fuel’. The additional fat calories in a puppy food will simply be stored as excess body fat. If this isn’t burned off through hard work, it can lead to your adult pooch becoming overweight.
- Pups need slightly higher calcium.
Puppies don’t just grow muscle, they need to grow bones and teeth, too. For that, they require slightly higher amounts of calcium from their meals than grown-up dogs.
- Puppies need DHA.
DHA is just a short way to refer to docosahexaenoic acid. It’s an Omega acid that has a large role in helping your little puppy grow a healthy brain and nervous system. DHA also assists in a pup’s neural development, and in developing good eyesight.
Grown dogs can still definitely benefit from DHA, but it’s not a must-have in adult dog food. So if other concerns are a priority for your grown-up dog, such as a sensitive digestive system, allergies, or gluten intolerance, those will usually be a higher priority.
- Different kibble size.
Last, but not least, you’ll find that a lot of puppy food is made with smaller (or at least differently shaped) kibble pieces. They have smaller mouths and slightly weaker teeth, after all. These may not be necessary when your fluffy pal matures.
In a nutshell, puppy foods are fortified, or enriched, in certain ways. Feeding your four-legged friend with puppy food his whole life is not appropriate and can result in complications such as obesity and too-fast growth.
“Feeding grown dogs with puppy food may cause obesity or lead to health complications. It’s critical to understand when he’s ready to switch to grown-up food and transition him accordingly”
How Long Should I Feed My Dog Puppy Food?
As each dog differs in many ways, there’s no iron rule about how long to feed puppy food. Generally, this will be around the time that your four-legged buddy reaches three-quarters of his or her grown-up body mass.
“Think about switching your puppy to adult food when he is about ¾ of his final adult body mass”
This will always be earlier for smaller pooches, so Poms, Shih Tzu, Yorkies and the like will be ready to move on before their larger friends. Medium dogs, like our English Bulldogs or Huskies, will take slightly more time to stop growing. Larger breeds like Golden Retrievers and German Shepherd may take more than one year, and if you’ve got a gentle giant, he may take up to 2 years to mature.
Here’s a table to help you get an idea of when you might want to start transitioning your dog to his adult food.
|Size of Breed||Average Adult Mass||Average Age of Adulthood|
|Small||20 – 25 lb||6 months – 1 year|
|Medium||25 – 50 lb||1 year – 15 months|
|Large||50 – 75 lb||16 – 18 months|
|Giant||80+ lb||18 months – 2 years|
We have one other helpful tip. If you’ve seen the same-sex parent of your ‘teenage’ puppy, this can be a more accurate indicator of how large or heavy your puppy will be once grown. This will then be useful when you’re deciding when to switch your pooch over to grown-up kibble.
How to Make The Switch
Puppies are adorable, playful, and oh-so-cute. But just like kids, it can often seem like they grow up incredibly fast!
While it may seem like a shame not to have a tiny puppy in the house anymore, don’t worry. It just means you and your little roly-poly pup can do a whole lot more together. Grown-up dogs can handle much longer walks and adventures by your side, and they never stop being loyal, loving companions. If you’ve ever wanted to run or exercise alongside your dog, larger dogs, once grown, can make excellent running buddies!
But just like puppies don’t grow up magically overnight, they’ll need a little time to switch gradually from puppy food to grown-up chow. Here’s how to go about it.
Picking Out The Best Adult Dog Food
Your first step is to pick out the healthiest, best adult food that you can find. This may be a breed-specific kibble for their particular size, or it may be a special food for your pooches with sensitive tummies. Every dog is different!
“If your puppy’s ready for the transition, the first step is to find a good adult food that meets all his new requirements.”
On our breed-specific dog food pages, we also cover the special dietary or nutrient requirements for pure-breds such as Huskies, Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzu, Boxers, and so much more. These can be particularly useful if you’re wondering whether your Pit Bull needs a certain amount of muscle-building protein, how frequently your little Yorkie should eat, or similar.
If you’ve got yourself a puppy-turned-dog who needs to be on a grain-free diet, we even have dedicated pages for limited ingredient and gluten-free food.
Once you (and your dog, of course!) have made a decision, then it’s time to begin transitioning.
Making a Gradual Transition
The switch from puppy food to adult dog food should usually be done over a week or so. Before this week, you’ll be feeding your puppy each meal time with 100% puppy food.
We’ve included a helpful table that should guide you through the transition.
Here’s an example of how it works:
If you’re feeding your puppy 100 grams of puppy food per day before you start to switch, on Day 1 you’ll give him 25% adult food (25g) and 75% puppy food (75g)
On Day 2, you’ll give him the same. Through Days 3, 4, and 5, you may choose to give him 50% puppy food (50g) and 50% adult food (50g). By the end of the week, depending on how he’s taking to his new combination, you may be ready to switch him over to 100% (100g) of adult doggy dinner.
|Day||Puppy Food (%)||Adult Food (%)|
|Day 3||50 – 75%||25 – 50%|
Every Dog Is Unique
Have you ever switched between different puppy food brands before? If so, you may already be familiar with this idea of a gradual transition. Nonetheless, it’s important to bear in mind that each and every beautiful doggy is different. Some, especially those with sensitive tummies, may require more time to make a more gradual switch to grown-up food.
If your dog is not taking to his new adult chow so well, you may notice signs such as:
- gassiness or bloating;
- loss of appetite;
- he’s eating very slowly; or
- he’s got a sore tummy.
There are many potential reasons why a (now grown) puppy may not be adapting well. If you think that your dog isn’t reacting very favorably to the transition, just stop. It may be that he is intolerant to a certain ingredient, or that he simply isn’t coping well with the change.
In either of these cases, the best thing to do is seek advice from your vet. There will always be an alternative!
Double Checking With Dog Food Calculator
Finally, it’s one thing to transition your puppy over onto his adult chow, and it’s another to ensure that he’s getting just the appropriate amount. This is especially important if you are also switching between brands, for example: from Brand A’s puppy kibble to Brand B’s grown-up kibble.
Take a moment to check whether you’re feeding Fido the right daily calories using a dog food calculator, and keep a sharp eye on his figure. If you switch over to grown-up food and you notice that your little one’s gaining or losing weight, you may need to check in with his or her vet.
Hopefully, this post has answered your questions about how long you should feed a dog puppy food. If you’re still unsure, we also have a ‘Helpful Tips’ section that may be useful. Or reach out to us, and we’d be happy to help!