One of the most common questions we get asked by new puppy owners is how long to feed a dog puppy food. Food is food, right? Wrong! There is a difference between adult and puppy food and there is also a time to switch your puppy into adult dog food.

In this article, we will address all the questions you may have regarding when exactly to switch out your puppy’s food, what the differences are between adult and puppy food, how to do it, how much to feed, some common problems and more.

What are the Differences Between Puppy and Adult Dog Food?

Much like human children, puppies are still growing and need all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and protein they can get. They need an abundant amount to keep up with their demand, which is why puppy food is higher in nutrition.

Other than a higher nutritional content, puppy food is also further enriched with more enzymes, calcium and other micronutrients essential to the development of your puppy.

Another difference between the foods is the physicality. As you can imagine, puppies have smaller mouths and even tinier teeth. Before they get their real canines in, their baby teeth are only strong enough to break down smaller amounts of hard kibble. Due to the size of their mouths and teeth, dry puppy food is come in smaller sizes.

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Adult dog food on the other hand, is infused with other types of nutrients that are geared towards adult maintenance. The richness in vitamins and minerals are decreased, because adults are no longer growing. What are more important for adult canines are support, maintenance and prevention.

The type of nutritional support your dog needs depends on the breed. For example, many large breeds suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, which will eventually lead to joint pain and mobility issues. Added specialty supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can help battle this issue.

Beta-carotene has been linked to improving eyesight in humans and dogs as well.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which can boost your pup’s overall immune system. Although adult canines have no problem processing smaller kibble, the more compact size of the bites can encourage speed-eating, which will lead to gassiness and bloating.

The bottom line is, when the time is right to switch your dog to adult food, it’s important to do it.

What Happens If I Don’t Switch in Time?

Let’s say you are off by a couple of months, there is no worry there since the transition will also take a week or two so there is no deadline. However, you shouldn’t exceed the threshold to adulthood by more than a few months. If you are consistently feeding your adult dog puppy food, it could lead to health problems including obesity.

We understand that the growth period is difficult to predict, especially if you have a mixed breed. So if you have any questions about the puppyhood of your particular breed, you should consult your trusted vet.

When to Switch My Puppy to Adult Dog Food?

Happy Bichon Havanese puppy dog is lying beside a red bowl of dog food and looking at camera, semi frontal view - isolated on white background

The big question is how long to feed a dog puppy food, but there is no simple answer. However, we can give you a general rule of thumb when it comes to switching to adult food for different breeds.

As we mentioned, when to switch is highly dependent on the breed and the size of your dog. Because there are a lot of mixed and designer breeds out there, more focus should be on the projected weight of your pup rather than the breed alone.

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For example, there are pomskies (Siberian Husky+Pomeranian) than can range anywhere from 10 pounds to the size of an adult purebred Husky at 60 pounds depending on the generation. Since the estimation of growth is so unpredictable, you have to look at the overall growing process, but more on that later.

Smaller breeds tend to grow more quickly than larger breeds and reach maturity around 10-12 months. Conversely, some giant breeds can take 2 years to reach their full size. You don’t have to wait until your fur baby stops growing to make the switch. Dogs are ready to make the change anywhere between 75%-90% of their full size.

If you have a teacup or toy breed, maturity is reached even faster at anywhere between half a year to 8 months time. A dog is categorized as a toy breed when it is under 10-12 pounds.

For small breeds, or those with a mature weight of 13-25 pounds, their growth spurt ends just shy of a full year. You’re looking at anywhere between 10-12 months.

Medium-sized breeds have a longer growth period by 2-3 months more than the small breed, which means it’s between 12-15 months. Medium-sized breeds fall between 25-50 pounds.

Golden Retriever Puppies eatingLarge breeds are over 50 pounds and cap out at 75. Their growth period is anywhere from 15 months to a year and a half. Lastly, the giant breeds, which are the dogs are over 80 pounds when fully mature, complete their growth cycle at a year and a half to two years.

Switching your fur baby’s diet anywhere within the dates given above is a good time to switch. If you have a mixed breed and aren’t sure just how big he will be and which category he falls under, look at how fast he is growing.

If you notice your fur baby adding a pound or two every month or bi weekly, it’s more likely that he will be of a smaller size. This is because smaller dogs grow and reach maturity faster and the opposite holds true for large to giant breeds.

Also account for your dog’s energy levels. For example, a much more rambunctious dog anxious for exercise every day can stay a little longer on the puppy diet compared to a more relaxed lap dog.

You can also look at your dog’s behavior to gauge whether or not it’s time to switch. Puppy behavior includes very high energy levels, restlessness, long naps, and a whole lot of gnawing, chewing and biting. Once you have noticed these tendencies have started to subside, you can also consider switching out the food.

We don’t suggest looking at just of these factors but to consider them collectively to get the best idea when to switch your dog. When in doubt, you can always consult your trusted vet or breeder.

How to Start Feeding Adult Food?

So you have reached the conclusion that it’s time to make the transition, but just how do you do it? It’s not as simple as just replacing one with the other. The transition takes time, just as it would with a human child switching formulas.

When starting to make the change, one word should always be at the forefront of your mind, and that word is: slowly. It’s vital that the transition is a slow and gradual process. If the switch is done too quickly, it could upset your dog’s stomach and make him sick.

Dachshund eating on a aluminum bowlYou can do it in quarterly changes or 10-15%. Start with 75-90% old puppy food and fill in the rest with the new adult food. Keep this ratio consistent for a few days just to observe if there are any complications. Once you are sure there are no problems, increase the amount of new adult food to 20-40% and keep at it for a day or two. If all is well, increase to 30-60%, then around 50-75% and maintain it until you change out the entire bowl.

You don’t need to follow our percentages precisely, some pet owners opt to switch much faster, but you should have made the full switch in around 1-2 weeks time. In general, puppies will eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day and adult dogs will only eat around 2 larger meals a day. While you are switching out the food, you should also be increasing the amount with each meal and feeding less frequently.

Remember that a dietary change like this should extend to all food, including snacks. No longer will your dog need puppy treats when he can graduate to adult snacks. For a more precise guideline on how to manage the amount in accordance to the switch, consult with your vet.

If you are considering switching from kibble to raw food, you should be extra vigilant during the transition. The RAW or BARF diet, which was brought to light by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, suggests that it is the simplest and healthiest way to go.

Another issue many pet parents face when switching food is their dog might not like the flavor of the new food. It may take some trial and error to find the one that suits your dog, but don’t give in to his picky eating habits. The food you choose is important, so make sure you understand the labels and ingredients and what’s best for your particular breed.

Conclusion

How long to feed a dog puppy food is a tough question to answer as it varies on a case by case basis. Even with the same breeds you may find different feeding habits for different dogs.

Keep your attention focused on your dog and not the food. If feeding him two full bowls twice a day is diminishing his waistline, it could be time to consider reducing the amount. Remember to consider every aspect such as your dog’s activity levels, projected size, and breed among others to make the best decision.

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Jess
Jess' life is never boring and full of loyalty and love from her fur babies. Being able to write about all of these products and being a doggy mom herself, gives Jess insight into what’s important when choosing the right products for our cuddly pals.