What is the difference between puppy food and adult dog food?

When it comes to food, puppy owners are usually spoiled for choice. Not to mention, it may get overwhelming for new owners as questions start to flood their minds. What does my puppy need? Do I really need to feed puppy food or would adult dog food suffice?

The first question to answer before diving into details is, “what exactly is the difference between puppy food and adult dog food?” Although it may come off as just another marketing tactic, it is a fact that puppies do have different diet requirements from adult dogs.

Before completing their rapid growth phase, your puppy has different sets of nutritional needs, primarily the amount of protein needed. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed two different nutrient standards for dog food, according to life stage:

Adult Maintenance (Adult dogs)

Adult dogs need to maintain the right amount of protein intake to control their weight. The AAFCO recommends a minimum of 18% of protein on a dry matter basis; any amount lesser than this will lead to malnutrition and health issues.

Growth and Reproduction (Puppies and lactating dogs)

On the other hand, puppies should receive at least 22.5% of protein on a dry matter basis. If fed with a portion of adult food, the deprivation of the proteins needed would lead to developmental problems. 

Although puppies are certainly able to consume adult dog food, the consistent consumption of adult dog food can result in long-term malnutrition and poor growth, hence it is not recommended. Puppy food is also more dense in calories than adult food which is necessary to satiate the higher energetic requirements of growing puppies. 

Apart from including the right amount of nutrients in your puppy’s diet, it is also important to include the right type of proteins. To be precise, protein here essentially refers to a combination of amino acids. The AAFCO recommends different compositions of essential amino acids for adult and puppy dog foods. According to the guidelines, puppy food requires nearly twice the amount of certain amino acids compared to adult dog foods as it is crucial for the growth process.

Other Nutrients

Besides protein, AAFCO standards for growing dogs are generally richer in most nutrients when compared to the standards for adult dogs. Majority of minerals and vitamins are needed in more concentrated amounts. 

  • 1 % calcium in puppy food vs 0.6 % in adult food
  • 0.8 % phosphorus in puppy food vs 0.5 % phosphorus in adult dog food
  • 100 mg/kg of zinc for puppies versus 80 mg/kg in adult dog food 

As such, it is important to provide food that is tailored to your puppy’s needs. Of course, one or two portions of adult dog food occasionally is fine, so long as you monitor her reaction to the food. If you’re wondering how to find the right type of food for your puppy, you can try out PetCubes’s Puppy Collection. Our PhD nutritionist-formulated meals are made with the best fresh human-grade ingredients that are sure to help your puppy grow into a strong and healthy furkid by focusing on a healthy gut and unlocking their genetic potential!

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