Mastering the switch from puppy to adult dog food is a crucial aspect of responsible pet parenting. The diet transition, however, is a balancing act and it’s therefore essential to know just how long a puppy should eat puppy food before you switch to the adult alternative.
Generally speaking, a puppy should eat puppy food for between 9 months and 2 years, depending on the dog (which we’ll come onto). Getting it wrong and switching prematurely can lead to impaired development, so getting your puppy feeding timeline square in your head is pivotal to ensure your young pup grows up both happy and healthy.
Running short on time? Here’s what you need to know:
The length of time that puppies should eat puppy food typically ranges between 9 and 24 months, depending on the breed and size.
Switching from puppy food prematurely can impair the dog’s growth and development.
Besides their age, other indicators that it’s time to transition to adult dog food include behavioural changes, slowed growth and the emergence of adult teeth.
When switching to adult dog food, monitor your dog’s weight, watch for signs of allergies, ensure the change is gradual and consistent, and if in any doubt, consult with your vet.
Understanding the Importance of Puppy Food
To ensure proper growth and development, puppies need a specially formulated diet. A puppy's dietary needs vary based on their age, so here’s a brief breakdown as outlined by MSD Vet Manual:
6 to 12 weeks: Puppies should have 4 meals a day on a puppy diet.
3 to 6 months: Decrease to 3 meals a day, still on a puppy diet.
6 to 12 months: (up to 24 months in the largest breeds) Decrease to 2 meals a day on a puppy diet.
Adult: 1 or 2 meals a day on an adult diet.
When to Switch Puppy to Dog Food
Deciding when to switch your furry friend from puppy to adult dog food should not be a sudden process. This transition should happen gradually over a few days to prevent any digestive upset – more on that later, though. First, when should this change occur?
When Can a Puppy Have Adult Food?
The recommended time for transitioning to adult food varies, depending on the size of the breed:
Small breeds: can transition at 9 to 12 months
Larger breeds: should switch at around 18 months
The Role of Breed and Size in Food Transition
Different breeds of dogs have different sizes and growth rates, which directly influence the timing of their transition from puppy to adult food. The bone growth in small and large breed dogs occurs at a different pace. The same holds for the time they take to reach their adult weight.
Small and Medium Breeds
In smaller breeds, growth is usually rapid and completed by nine months to a year. Hence, their dietary transition happens earlier.
Large and Giant Breeds
On the contrary, larger breeds like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, or Mastiffs continue to grow and develop until they are 18 to 24 months old. Thus, these breeds need to stay on puppy food for a longer duration.
When to Stop Feeding Puppy Food to Large Breeds
For large and giant breeds weighing more than 80 lbs, the switch may occur later, around 2 years of age, to reach full maturity.
Potential Risks of Premature Switching
Switching a puppy to adult dog food prematurely can hamper their growth and development, leading to long-term health issues and, according to PetMD, “increasing their risk of future bone, joint, brain and eye issues”. Since puppy food is specially formulated to support rapid growth, switching to adult dog food too soon can deprive puppies of those essential nutrients that they need for optimal, healthy growth.
How to Identify the Right Time to Switch
Your puppy's behaviour and physical changes can serve as indicators to determine the correct time for the switch:
Once your puppy's growth starts to slow down, it might be time to consider transitioning to adult food. This usually happens around the age of one year for many breeds.
When a puppy reaches adolescence, their behaviour might change, showing more independence and less "puppy-like" antics. Such behavioural changes can also indicate it's time to switch to adult food.
If your puppy is gaining too much weight, it might be due to the high-caloric content of puppy food, indicating that it's time to switch to adult dog food with lower calories as their growth has plateaued and they no longer need such a calorie-dense diet. At the same diet, dogs' activity levels tend to lessen as they reach adulthood, which again can contribute to this weight gain on the puppy food diet.
Neutering and Spaying
Once a dog has been neutered or spayed, their energy levels also tend to dip; this can also be around the time that you’ll want to switch your dog from puppy food to adult food.
The switch can also be dependent on your puppy's dental health. When your puppy loses their baby teeth and the adult teeth emerge, they might be ready for adult dog food, which is often harder and requires more chewing.
Different Dog, Different Needs
It's crucial to remember that every dog is unique. While breed and size can provide general guidelines, it's essential to assess each puppy individually. Their activity level, growth rate, and any medical conditions should all be taken into account when determining the best time to make the switch.
Understanding the Difference between Puppy and Adult Dog Food
When it comes to puppy food vs adult food, it's essential to realise they are designed to cater to very different nutritional needs. Both varieties support different life stages and are therefore formulated uniquely.
Caloric, Protein and Fat Content
Puppy food is higher in calories, proteins, and fats compared to adult dog food. This supports their rapid growth and high energy levels, given they burn a tremendous amount of calories through exercise, play, and tissue growth.
Puppy food has slightly higher levels of calcium and phosphorus compared to most adult dog foods. These higher nutrient levels, including a range of essential amino acids, are designed to promote healthy bone and muscle development.
Purpose of Puppy and Adult Food
The ultimate purpose of puppy food is to support their rapid growth and development, while adult dog food is designed to maintain an adult dog's health.
Let's consider a quick comparison:
|PUPPY FOOD||ADULT DOG FOOD|
|Nutrient Density||Dense, for growth and development||Balanced, for maintenance|
|Essential Nutrients||High amounts of calcium, phosphorus, DHA||Adequate amounts for maintenance|
|Main Purpose||Supports rapid growth, development, and high energy levels||Supports body maintenance, energy needs of an adult dog|
How to Transition From Puppy to Adult Dog Food
The process of switching your pet's food should be gradual to avoid gastrointestinal upsets. When changing any dog diet, a 7-day transition period is recommended:
Day 1 & 2: 75% puppy food, 25% adult food
Day 3 & 4: 50% puppy food, 50% adult food
Day 5 & 6: 25% puppy food, 75% adult food
Day 7: 100% adult food
Note, these are general guidelines, and individual pets may require modifications based on their tolerance.
What to Consider When Switching Puppy to Adult Dog Food
There are a few things you should consider before making the switch. Each dog is unique and might need slightly different care.
Monitor Your Dog’s Weight
Obesity in dogs can lead to numerous health problems. Therefore, it's important to monitor your dog's weight during the transition. The calorie content of adult dog food is usually less than that of puppy food. If your puppy begins to lose weight, you may need to consult your vet about increasing food quantity or transitioning later.
Check for Allergies
Some dogs may have food allergies or sensitivities that could be triggered by new ingredients in adult dog food. If you notice any adverse reactions, such as skin problems, gastrointestinal issues, or changes in energy levels, consult your vet immediately.
Gradual Changes are Crucial
Puppies might resist the switch to adult food if the change is made too abruptly. A gradual change helps them adjust to the different taste and texture. Even well-managed dietary transitions can lead to some temporary looseness in the stools, however this isn’t an immediate cause for concern. Once your dog has adjusted to the new food properly, things should return to normal.
Talk to Your Vet
It's always beneficial to have your vet involved in the process. They can provide you with advice based on the breed, size, and specific health needs of your dog.
Final Thoughts on How Long a Puppy Should Eat Puppy Food
Transitioning your puppy to adult dog food is a vital part of your pet's growth and development. This process should be carried out gradually and under the guidance of a vet, as abrupt changes can lead to health problems.
Remember, the right time to switch will depend on the breed and size of your dog. Smaller breeds may transition at around 9 to 12 months, while larger breeds might need to stay on a puppy diet until they're about 18 to 24 months old. Always be attentive to your pet's needs, as each dog is unique and may require special care.
Whether you’re after specially-crafted puppy food, or want to move on to adult dog food, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Beco. View our comprehensive range of grain-free dog food, here!