When Should You Transition From Puppy To Adult Dog Food


Just as babies transition from taking milk and the likes to eating solid food between the ages of 2 two and 3, dogs’ nutritional needs change as they age. Although puppies need balanced puppy food until they reach maturity, transitioning to adult food too early or too late has its own consequence. While the former may cause your dog to suffer nutritional deficiencies and growth abnormalities, the latter may lead to obesity.

Why Do You Need To Switch From Puppy To Adult Food

At the puppy stage, your dog needs all the nutrients it can get to grow into a healthy dog reason why puppy food is packed with quality proteins, healthy carbs, fats, and other essential nutrients like fibers and minerals containing omega fatty acids. The nutrients are important for healthy bones, skin, organs, brain, and eyes among others. 

When they attain maturity, they need less of these nutrients because their bodies have developed and become strong and mature. Feeding them foods packed with high proteins and the rest will lead to unnecessary weight gain and obesity which is very unhealthy and a major challenge. This is why they need smaller amounts of these nutrients to maintain sound health and adult food is designed and formulated solely to provide them with just the right amount of nutrients. 

Let us look at the difference between puppy and adult food:

The major difference between puppy and adult food is in the nutrients they contain. Puppy food is packed with macronutrients which include protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorous which are necessary to support bone and lean muscle growth. These macronutrients also provide sufficient calories to supply energy for your dog’s activities, metabolism, and body functions. Adult food contains just the right amount of these nutrients which is small compared to puppy food but is sufficient to promote their overall health.

When To Switch To Adult Dog Food

The nutritional needs of dogs change as they grow from one stage to another which makes it paramount to give them the right food that will provide them with these needs at every stage of life. Puppies, adults, and senior dogs all have different needs. For you to know when to transition to adult dog food, you should know how long your puppy should eat puppy food. This is dependent on some factors that include breed size and spaying or neutering.

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Breed Size

Because of the fast growth rate of smaller breeds, they reach an adult stage at 10 to 12 months of age when they way about 25 to 30 pounds. These breeds will be ready for adult food at 9 to 10 months as their bones and muscle will be strong enough at this age.

Medium-sized breeds weigh about 25 to 50 pounds when they attain maturity at 12 to 15 months of age. These breeds will be ready for adult food at 12 to 14 months of age.

Large breeds weigh over 50 pounds when they attain maturity and this varies between ages 15 to 24 months. This means that large breed puppies will have to feed on puppy food for over 14 to 24 months to make sure their bones, muscles, and organs have fully developed with the help of the protein-packed puppy food.

Neutering or Spaying

Spaying or neutering means the removal of the reproductive organs. If you do not want your dog to bear puppies, this is a means to achieve that. 

Dogs that are spayed before they reach 80% of maturity may experience a drop in their calorie level post-surgery. You should monitor closely the amount of puppy food you feed them after spaying because they can easily get obese. This is because after spaying, their body consumes fewer calories since some of the organs that should make use of the nutrients have been removed.

Unspayed dogs may need to stay longer on puppy food to support gestation and lactation.

Level of Activity

Feeding puppy food will offer more benefits to athletic dogs. It provides the extra protein needed to support lean muscle growth and function and also supply enough calorie they need for intense activities.

Even with the knowledge of the above information, it is necessary to consult your vet to make sure your dog is ready to transition to adult food.

Finding The Best Adult Food For Your Dog

One thing is to transition to adult food, another is to transition to the right food. This choice can be influenced by the breed and size of your dog, their health condition, and any sensitivities they may have. All these should be taken into consideration before making a choice to ensure you pick the appropriate food for your dog that will provide nutritional benefits and support their overall health. You can consider the AAFCO standards for complete and balanced nutrition as a guideline before picking adult food.

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Fresh food, dry food, or wet food

Another decision to make is whether you want to feed your dog fresh raw food, dry food, or wet food. Why does dry dog food come as kibble and have little or no moisture, and wet dog food comes as stew and is juicy? Dry dog food is economical and you love might love the crunchy feel. Wet food is easier to digest since they contain more water and has a lower calorie content which will help control your dog’s weight. It is also more palatable than dried food.

Amidst all these benefits of wet and dry food, fresh raw food remains the best. It contains veggies, fiber, quality but appropriate protein, and other natural vitamins and minerals that come with the freshness. Dry and wet food may lose some nutrients as a result of preservation and the heat used to form kibbles for dry food. This heat can also get rid of heat-sensitive vitamins which are essential for your dog’s body.

What Are The Nutrients To Look Out For?

Make sure to go through the guaranteed analysis on the bag of the formula to ensure they meet the standard as stipulated by AAFCO.

An overview of the nutritional requirements includes about 18% protein and 5.5% fat, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, and selenium, and vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid, vitamin B12, and choline.

Some foods that include omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, probiotics, and prebiotics will also be healthy for your dog.


You should also consider how active your dog can get before choosing an appropriate meal for them. Really active dogs will need more calories than those who are less active. This is because active dogs will need more energy and strength to remain agile and active so this should be put into consideration. 

 How To Transition To Adult Food

A slow change is always preferred to a rapid diet change since this can lead to a lot of gastrointestinal upset like vomiting. It is therefore recommended that the transition takes about 5 to 10 days of mixing the old and new meals before your dog is allowed to feed on just the new meal.

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We recommend you follow these feeding instructions during the transition period

  • Day 1: Mix 20% adult food and 80% puppy food
  • Day 2: Mix 40% adult food and 60% puppy food.
  • Day 3: Mix 60% adult food and decrease the amount of puppy food to 40%. 
  • Day 4: Feed 80% adult food and 20% puppy food.
  • Day 5: Feed 100% adult food.

Note that your decision is subject to your dog’s preference and the result from your vet.

How Much Should You Feed Your Dog

Puppies have a higher and faster metabolism than adult and senior dogs and this is why they should feed up to three times a day. With adult dogs, it is different. The aim is to cut down on the amount of protein and calorie your dog consume and the more they eat, the more they consume hence, why they need to eat less. There are a few exceptions though. Large breeds of an adult dog can still maintain a three square meal as they need to keep building their bones and skeleton but smaller and medium-sized breeds should cut down on the frequency of feeding and consider eating twice daily. 

Your dog may have a hard time getting acclimated to eating twice. You can help them by engaging them in different activities that could distract them from feeling hungry. Activities like walks and playtimes might help.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I want to make homemade meals for my adult dog, how do I know they are complete and balanced?

While expensive, the nutritional integrity of commercially made, super-premium fresh pet food can give your dog a longer, healthier life and avoid costly veterinary issues down the road. If, however, the price tag is out of reach, interspersing homemade fresh food with kibble is a good option. 

Animal Diet Formulator and Balance IT are two helpful online services for pet parents. Both enable parents to create recipes for complete and balanced homemade meals for canines of any age, activity level, and metabolic condition.

Isn’t my pet bored eating the same food?

Probably not. Your dog has fewer taste buds than you do, so he doesn’t have the range of tastes that a person does. A dog’s greatest sense of taste is sugar, which is why many dogs have a “sweet tooth.” He is attracted to a combination of taste and odor.


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