Table of Contents
- The Difference Between Puppy and Adult Dog Food
- When Should You Change from Puppy to Adult Dog Food
- How to Decide on an Adult Dog Food
- How to Switch
- Final Thoughts
Sadly, the dog that I helped place with them years ago died this past winter. They recently adopted another dog.
The new pup is only eight months old and they wanted to know when to change her from puppy to adult food.
I explained to them that for a medium-sized dog, it is usually around 12 months of age.
However, since I’m not familiar with their new dog and its health, I suggested they consult their vet first.
I switched Daisy a little later than usual since she was an extremely active puppy, and keeping weight on her was a chore. I added a sporting breed dog food to her food when she was about 13 months old, but kept her on a blend until she was almost two years old.
When I picked up Calvin and Ginger, they were both eight months old, but both extremely malnourished. I decided to keep them on puppy food a little longer than average, but only until they were about 14 months old.
When to change your puppy from puppy to adult food is a very common question and the answer isn’t always the same.
Knowing when to switch your pup to adult food depends a lot on the breed as well as your dog’s health and activity level.
The Difference Between Puppy and Adult Dog Food
Puppies require more specific and higher quantities of proteins and amino acids.
They also need more fat, calories, minerals, and vitamins than adult dogs.
Some puppy food manufacturers enhance their foods with omega-3 fatty acids, which help aid in mental development in puppies.
Also, some foods contain DHA, another type of fatty acid found in their mother’s milk.
The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) has put together a chart representing the recommended minimum nutrient levels required for a healthy diet for puppies and dogs.
The AAFCO states when choosing a puppy food to look at the guaranteed analysis. Specifically, look at the levels of protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus.
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For most puppy foods, the guaranteed analysis should look have:
- A minimum of 22.5% crude protein
- A minimum of 8.5% crude fat
- A minimum of 1.2% calcium – Not always listed
- A minimum of 1.0% phosphorus – Not always listed
A more detailed list is available on the AAFCO website, which contains different vitamins and minerals.
However, large and giant breed puppies require less fat, calcium, and phosphorus.
The lower quantities of fat, calcium, and phosphorus aid in ensuring that the puppy doesn’t grow too rapidly.
If large or giant breed puppies grow too fast, it can result in orthopedic diseases frequently found in these breeds.
When Should You Change from Puppy to Adult Dog Food
The traditional rule is to change your puppy to adult food when they reach a specific age.
The age depends on the breed of your dog.
Smaller breed dogs are switched to adult dog food earlier than large breed dogs.
Large and giant breed dogs transition to adult dog food later in life since it is vital to slow their growth rate down.
Below is a guide on when to switch your dog based on their age and breed.
- 9 months old for toy breeds like Chihuahuas and miniatures like poodles or pinschers
- 12 months old for small and medium breeds like Brittanys, Border Collies, and Beagles
- 18-24 months old for large and giant breeds like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Great Danes
Basing it on the breed and age is a general rule, but some individual dogs are on the bigger or smaller side of their breed’s range, and some dogs are a mix of breeds.
Also, dogs like Daisy, who can’t keep weight on, or a dog that is malnourished and underweight like Calvin and Ginger, may need to stay on puppy food for longer.
If you have a dog that has special needs or you aren’t positive what breed they are, you may want to base it on your dog’s current size and weight.
If you have a dog that needs to stay on puppy food for a longer or shorter time, you can use their size and weight as a guide.
Once your pup has reached 80%-90% of their full growth in size and weight, you can transition your puppy to an adult dog food.
How to Decide on an Adult Dog Food
Transitioning your puppy to an adult dog food can be a difficult decision.
Often, I write about different dog food brands and the importance of deciding on the right food. It is just as important, if not more so, to choose the right dog food when transitioning from puppy to adult food.
When picking the best adult dog food, it is essential to consider:
- Your dog’s weight
- Your dog’s activity level
- Your dog’s size
For Daisy, I transitioned her to a sporting breed formula for extremely active dogs.
For, Calvin and Ginger, I transitioned them to a higher protein, high-calorie food.
But, for my mom’s Golden Retriever, Gussie, we put her on a large breed dog food, since she’s bigger and less active than my Brittanys.
Below are some options for high-quality dog foods for dogs with unique needs.
- A minimum of 18% crude protein
- A minimum of 5.5% crude fat
- A max of 4% fiber
Large Breed Options
How to Switch
Once you have decided on the right adult brand, then you will want to transition your pup over gradually.
It usually takes about 8-10 days to make the full switch.
Also, when changing your puppy over to adult dog food, many people begin to change the quantity of food and frequency of feedings.
Most puppies need to eat about four times a day, and as they transition to adult food, they don’t need to eat that frequently.
So, while transitioning your pup’s diet, you can also transition to fewer meal times as well.
Most adult dogs eat only 2-3 times a day; it just depends on your dog’s energy level and overall health.
Daisy eats three times a day, even as a senior. When Daisy was younger, she needed additional calories, but as a senior, she can’t eat large meals, so instead she eats smaller meals more frequently.
Deciding on a new food for our dogs can be a challenging task, but switching a puppy to an adult food can seem even more daunting.
As dog parents, we don’t want to get it wrong. Instead, we want to make sure our pups have the best food and care we can give them.
One of the most helpful ways we can keep our dogs happy and healthy is through proper nutrition.
If you are ever uncertain about when to switch your puppy to adult dog food, such as if you have a puppy that you aren’t positive of their breed, or if your pup has health issues, or maybe you even just have a high energy pup:
Ask your vet.
Never feel self-conscious about asking your vet questions. They’ve heard them all.
For new dog parents, having a puppy isn’t always easy, and no one expects you to have all of the answers.
Even with my background, things are ever-changing, so I always take the time to research when new challenges or changes happen in my dogs’ world.
Can you feed a puppy adult dog food?
It is safe to feed your puppy a food listed as “formulated for all life stages.”
All life stages foods are created to meet the dietary needs of dogs from puppy to senior.
However, it is recommended to use a puppy formulated food since it is specially designed for growing puppies and likely to be higher than the minimal nutritional recommendations.
When to switch from puppy to adult food for a Labrador?
18-24 months old or when they reach 80-90% of their full size.
When to switch from puppy to adult food for a Chihuahua?
9-12 months old or when they reach 80-90% of their full size.
When to switch from puppy to adult food for a Pitbull?
18-24 months old or when they reach 80-90% of their full size.
Still Have Questions?
Ask a Vet!