When and How to Switch from Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food
Table of contents:
- When to start puppy food
- When to switch to adult dog food
- How to choose dog food for my puppy
- How to switch from puppy to dog food
- How often should I feed my dog?
- How much should I feed my dog?
- What to do with the balance of your puppy food
Each dog breed has different growth rates, sizes and dispositions. Thus, the first step before making the switch from puppy food to adult dog food is to forecast your puppy’s adult size and weight.
From there, you can calculate backwards. The switch should happen after your puppy reaches sexual maturity and has grown to at least 75% of its adult size.
Transition from puppy food to adult dog food slowly. Depending on your pup’s adaptability, it can take anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks.
Read on for more details about how to go about this as well as other factors to consider, such as spaying/neutering, wet dog food, whether to give treats and so on.
1. When to start puppy food
Puppies’ tiny front incisors start showing around the second to third month. This is when weaning should begin.
It is best to feed them puppy food labelled for growth during this period. Find out the proper amount per serving size and frequency of feeding to avoid excess calorie intake.
Each dog breed has varying growth rates. Smaller breeds will begin to resemble their adult forms by the time they reach 6 months.
While the preceding 3 to 6 month stage was the fast-growing juvenile stage akin to adolescence, after 6 months your puppy’s growth will slow down. Proper nutrition is still important after 6 months of age.
2. When to switch to adult dog food
There is no blanket rule for when to make the switch from puppy food to adult dog food. Each breed has different growth rates, therefore reach maturity at different rates. The timing for the switch becomes more complicated if the dog is a mixed breed.
In general, puppies are ready for the diet change when they reach 75 to 85 percent of their adult size. Here is a rough guideline on the maturity age of various breeds.
- Toy, teacup, and tiny breeds (under 10 to 12 pounds when grown) – 6 to 7 months old
- Small dog breeds (up to 20 to 25 pounds when mature) – 9 to 11 months old
- Medium dog breeds (25 to 50 pounds adult weight) – 12 to 14 months old
- Large dog breeds (50 to 75 pounds when grown) – 15 to 18 months old
- Giant dog breeds (80+ pounds when grown) – 18 to 24 months old
Maturity is generally marked by the time in which a dog becomes sexually productive. Complete adulthood is achieved when it is fully grown. A dog can become sexually productive before it reaches its full growth.
It is important not to overfeed so as to avoid obesity. How fast your pup grows depends on the density of nutrients in the food as well as the amount of food given. The best type of growth is slow, i.e. optimal growth. Too fast a growth can cause joint issues and other health problems for some breeds.
The main reason for switching your puppy to adult food is not just because it is reaching maturity but also because puppy food is higher in calories and nutritional percentage.
Other factors to consider:
1) Type and brand of food
Feeding recommendation varies according to the type of food – whether kibble, wet canned food, raw or gently cooked. This is because each type and brand would have varying percentages and quantities of nutrition.
Some brands are made for small breeds or large breeds while some are made for all breeds. You’ll need to work with your vet for the right serving size for your pup.
2) Energy level of the dog
More active and energetic breeds or dogs that get more exercise may rely on the extra energy of puppy food to meet their needs until they are closer to their adult size.
If your puppy has a more relaxed, less energetic personality and begins to gain extra pounds on rich puppy food, it might be beneficial to switch to an adult dog food sooner.
3. How to switch from puppy to dog food
Transition from puppy food to adult dog food in 1 to 3 weeks. This switch depends on the puppy’s sensitivity to change of diet. Some dogs adapt better than others.
Those with hardy tummies can tolerate a fast switch of 1 week. Some pups have very sensitive bellies, and may need up to 3 weeks for the transition to be complete.
Here is a guide on how to make a slo-mo switch for uber-sensitive puppies.
Week 1 - to transition from 100% puppy food to 75% puppy food:25% adult food
Day 1 and 2 : 95% puppy food 5% adult food
Day 3 and 4 : 90% puppy food 10% adult food
Day 5 and 6 : 80% puppy food 20% adult food
Day 7 : 75% puppy food 25% adult food
Week 2 - to transition from 75:25 to 50:50
Day 1 and 2 : 70% puppy food 30% adult food
Day 3 and 4 : 65% puppy food 35% adult food
Day 5 and 6 : 55% puppy food 45% adult food
Day 7 : 50% puppy food 50% adult food
Week 3 - to transition from 50:50 to 100% adult food
Day 1 and 2 : 45% puppy food 55% adult food
Day 3 and 4 : 35% puppy food 65% adult food
Day 5 and 6 : 20% puppy food 80% adult food
Day 7 : 5% puppy food 95% adult food
How do you quantify all this?
Simple, use a measuring cup. Example:
1 full cup of food = 100%
a quarter cup = 25%
How do you judge whether your puppy is adapting well to this diet change?
Observe your pup’s stool and behaviour. If its stool doesn’t become runny after the first two days of the puppy-adult mix, you can increase the adult food portion by another quarter and reduce the puppy food portion accordingly.
If your puppy vomits or looks unsettled after the first session of food mix, that is a sign it is having a hard time adjusting to its new food. You shouldn’t revert to 100% puppy food because of this.
Instead, check with your veterinary whether your puppy has any predisposed allergies. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to use the slo-mo way of transition as mentioned earlier.
Can I give my puppy treats during this transition?
No. Try to avoid that, as treats will spoil your puppy’s appetite during feeding time. If you really must give it treats as part of its behavioural training, opt for adult dog treats.
What if my puppy refuses to eat the puppy-adult food mix?
There is the chance that your dog will simply reject the new dog food that you have chosen. Some pups are very smart. They may refuse food because they know they will get something else yummier by not eating the first option.
Don’t give in too easily to those pleading puppy eyes. Put the food down and leave the room for ten minutes. Then come back and throw any uneaten food away.
Don't give your dog anything else until the next meal. At the next meal, repeat the process of putting the food down and leaving the room.
If your dog simply refuses to eat after a few days of fasting, then you may need to find a new dog food. Wet food is usually more appetizing to dogs due to its stronger aroma.
Switching from dry to wet dog food
The ratio of change still applies whether your switch is from dry to wet food. The difference is this – if there is any unfinished food in the bowl, you must throw the food away and wash the bowl immediately.
Wet food can spoil quickly after it is exposed to air for some time. This is particularly true for raw dog food (uncooked meat) and gently cooked food.
A dog that is used to a type of food may have a hard time eating a different consistency of food. In general, however, wet food is often more palatable to dogs. You may have a hard time getting your dog to eat kibble once it has eaten wet food.
4. What if my puppy has been spayed/neutered?
Generally speaking, a puppy’s energy requirements will decrease immediately after surgery. Some dogs have been known to gain weight very quickly after the surgery.
Spaying or neutering is best done after the puppy gains sexual maturity. If you see your puppy becoming chubby based on its existing diet plan, it may be time to reduce the portions. Again, it’s best to work with your veterinarian on this.
5. How to choose dog food for my puppy
Puppies require more protein than adult dogs because their bodies are busy growing. Puppy food should also be higher in calories than adult food to compensate for the energy puppies expend by growing and playing.
About half of the calories they consume are spent on tissue growth and development. Calories from food come from fat and carbohydrate as well as protein in the food.
Excessive protein in a diet of large breed puppies can result in an unbalanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus. This can make the puppy’s bones grow too quickly, resulting in abnormal joint development.
Large breed puppy food has a specific calcium and phosphorus ratio to ensure the bones develop properly to help prevent joint disease.
Most puppy-formula have smaller-sized kibble pieces to be more puppy-friendly for smaller mouths and more delicate teeth.
For adult dogs:
Choose a pet food company that invests in scientific research and consults with veterinary nutritionists to produce dog food that is specially balanced for the pet’s life stage.
If the food is labeled as an “All Life Stage” food, the formula may have more fat and phosphorus than your adult dog needs.
Just as for puppies, you need to consider your dog’s current weight and its energy level. If it is already on the thinner side and has high energy levels, it will need higher calorie food.
Some dog breeds will not do well if they are overweight, such as whippets, greyhounds and salukis.
6. How often should I feed my dog?
Once your puppy has become a fully grown adult dog, you can feed it less often. Twice a day is the maximum frequency. Some fare well enough on one meal a day.
If you are giving 2 meals a day, you’ll need to adjust the quantity per serving to a smaller portion. If it is just one serving a day, the portion should be more than the twice-a-day option.
7. How much should I feed my dog?
Once your dog is on its new adult diet, you will need to adjust the amount of food that it is receiving. The new food will have a different caloric content and you will need to take that in to account.
To begin with, follow the directions on the food packaging, which usually suggests a serving size based on your dog's weight and age.
As with the type of adult food you are feeding your dog, you can discuss serving size with your dog's veterinarian. They should be able to suggest how many calories your dog should be eating per day.
8. What to do with the balance of your puppy food
Once you have successfully weaned your not-so-little puppy onto a diet of adult dog food, do not return to giving them puppy food, even as treats or to “use up” extra food that may still be leftover.
Instead, consider donating any extra food to a shelter or humane society, where there are always more hungry puppies to feed.
All in all, how fast you switch the feeding of puppy food to adult dog food will depend on your pup’s ability to take the change. You’ll need to monitor its progress closely and work hand-in-hand with the vet to ensure it grows into a healthy adult.