When to Switch from Puppy to Adult Dog Food?

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A puppy’s nutritional needs are different than those of adult dogs, but as your puppy grows, how will you know when it is time for adult dog food? The answer is more complicated than just your puppy’s age, but it is possible to make a safe and healthy choice for your growing friend.

How Puppy Food Is Different Than Adult Dog Food?

Puppies require richer food higher in protein, nutrients, and calories to support their accelerated growth, energetic play, and changing physical condition. Many types of puppy food also have smaller kibbles or softer formulas to better accommodate a puppy’s size and more delicate teeth. Puppy foods are often higher in calcium, sodium, and potassium than adult dog food, as well as more heavily enriched with different enzymes that puppies need for healthy growth.

As puppies grow older, however, their natural growth slows and their energy levels decrease, and they no longer need a rich, puppy formula food. In fact, giving adult dogs a diet of puppy food can lead to obesity or other health problems, such as faster growth that can contribute to hip or elbow dysplasia or other deformations that can create difficulties for adult dogs. It is important, then, to recognize when your puppy is ready for adult dog food and change its diet accordingly.

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How do you know when to switch your dog’s food?

“Growth” foods necessary at the puppy stage have higher protein levels and calorie counts to meet your pup’s developmental needs. But once your pup is six to 12 months old those needs change.

That’s usually when your puppy is nearing his adult height and can transition to adult food. Spaying or neutering usually occurs at this age as well, lowering your dog’s need for increased energy; hence a reason to switch from puppy to adult dog food.

Breed size matters

Switching to adult food coincides with maturity, but due to the large variety of breeds, different dogs mature at different rates. Smaller breeds tend to mature faster than larger breeds:

  • Dogs up to 30 pounds mature around 10 to 12 months of age.
  • Some toy breeds can mature as early as seven to nine months old.
  • Medium breeds, up to 80 pounds, mature between 12 to 16 months.
  • Large breeds can mature at 12, 13, or even 14 months old.
  • Giant breed dogs (over 80 pounds) can take up to two years to reach full maturity.

Your veterinarian can recommend the best time to start feeding adult food based on your dog’s specific needs. Since obesity is the most common nutrition-based issue for canines, it’s crucial adult dogs no longer eat puppy food, which can also cause orthopedic problems in older dogs. Instead, serve your best pal high-quality food formulated for adult maintenance.

No more three squares a day

Growing pups who have higher metabolism and energy needs usually eat three times a day. When you switch your dog to adult food, you’re not only cutting back on protein-dense, calorie-rich food, you’re cutting down on the number of meals. Most pet parents feed two half-portions of adult food when their dogs are over a year old.

Watch your dog’s body

When gauging portions, watch your dog’s body not his bowl. Food that’s vanished without a trace or left behind isn’t the issue. Your dog’s nutritional needs are determined by his individual metabolism and body type, not a pre-designated amount of adult food.

If your dog starts skipping meals or picking at the food he would otherwise devour, it might mean he’s ready to switch from a puppy to an adult diet. The higher calories in puppy food may make him feel full with less of a need to eat. If you’ve already switched to an adult formula, it could mean your dog just needs fewer servings per day or less food at each meal.

Switch slowly

The recipe for successful food transitioning is to do it gradually. Mix a small amount of the adult food with your dog’s favorite puppy formula and slowly increase the amount over a week, while decreasing the puppy food. By the end of that week, you should only be feeding your dog adult food. Changing his food gradually makes it less likely he’ll experience any gastrointestinal issues.

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How Should You Switch The Dog’s Food?

Some dog owners wonder “is it bad to switch dog food?” Or question how to transition dog food the best way. Whether your puppy is growing or your dog has changing dietary needs, there are many reasons puppy and dog owners consider making a change. In fact, transitioning dog food can be safe, healthy, and relatively simple. Owners should focus on patience and planning. These two elements make the process easier for you and for your pet. 

Before you start, don’t be worried that you don’t know how to switch dog food. It becomes easy in a short period of time. Although you’ll be anxious to get the process started, switching dog food is a process. In order to see the difference your new food can make in your dog, please allow 7 – 10 days to ease the transition from his current food. Each day, simply feed a little less of the previous food and a little more of the new food until you’re feeding the new food exclusively. This gradual transition will help avoid unnecessary stomach upsets or dietary problems.

10-Day Schedule to Make a Food Switch:

DAY 1-2:

When transitioning dog food, introduce new food to your dog in small amounts, still primarily feeding him his old food. When switching dog food, measure the amount of new food that you’re adding in and make sure to remove an equal amount of your dog’s current food. (For example, if you are adding in a 1/8 a cup of the new food, remove 1/8 a cup of the current food.)

DAY 3-5:

By now, transitioning dog food is part of your routine. Feed a little bit more of the new food to your dog each day, while continuing to remove the equivalent amount of the current food.

DAY 6-7:

Continue adding in your dog’s new food, and removing an equal amount of the current food. By now the new food should be making up the majority of your dog’s meal.

DAY 7-10:

Continue increasing the amount of the new food and decreasing your dog’s former food until you are feeding the new food exclusively. Now you’ve successfully completed switching dog food! These basic guidelines will set you and your dog up for a positive transition to a new food.

Final thoughts:

Regardless of the exact period of the food switch, you should have plenty of patience with your dog. If you see your dog isn’t quite fully ready to eat adult food, you can slow down the process to make the adjustment a bit easier.

The shortest switch period is 4 days, as recommended by most dog food producers. The longest switch period is 10 days, as seen with a few rare dog food brands.

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