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Can a Puppy Eat Adult Dog Food? What You Need To Know!

labrador retriever puppy eating food from bowl outdoors

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Bringing a new puppy home is an exciting experience. There is so much cuddling and playing involved! There are also plenty of responsibilities involved, like making sure your new pup gets proper nutrition for a long, happy, and healthy life. But what exactly should you be feeding your puppy? Is it okay to give adult dog food to your new furry family member? The short answer to these questions is that your puppy should stick to puppy food. Here is the lowdown.

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Why Puppies Should Eat Puppy Food

Simply put, the commercial foods out there that cater to puppies are designed specifically to meet the nutritional needs of dogs during their fastest and most intense growing phase. The nutritional needs of puppies are different than those of adult dogs because their bodies must be supported during their growing period. Adult dog foods don’t have the same nutritional profiles as puppy foods do. Therefore, it’s best to stick with puppy food until your pooch is considered an adult.

The Difference Between Puppy and Adult Dog Food

brown puppy eating in a white bowl
Image Credit: MART PRODUCTION, Pexels

The biggest difference between puppy and adult dog food is protein content. Puppies tend to use more energy throughout the day and night than adult dogs do, and it’s not just because they are so rambunctious. Young pooches expel more energy than older dogs to maintain their body heat as their bodies stay busy trying to support strong bones, ligaments, and organs during the bulk of their growth.

All the energy being used up requires plenty of protein, so puppy food tends to have a higher percentage of it than adult food. Another difference between puppy and adult dog food is the size of the kibble. Puppy food tends to be smaller in size so it’s easier for small mouths and little teeth to chew. Adult dog food also typically contains higher levels of calcium and phosphorus, which are known to cause problems like hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis in growing puppies that are getting too much of these minerals.


What About Dog Food That Is Designed for All Life Stages?

Dog food that is labeled as being suitable for all life stages means it’s higher in nutrients than adult food but not so much so that the food would cause problems in adult dogs, like weight gain. The nutrients are also enough to support proper growth in puppies. It is important to note that while it is generally safe for puppies to eat food that is suitable for all life stages, the food could be too calorie-dense and rich for senior dogs that don’t move around much anymore.

When to Transition a Puppy to Adult Food

rottweiler puppy done eating
Image Credit By: otsphoto, Shutterstock

A puppy should not start eating adult dog food until they have stopped growing, which can be anywhere between 12 months and 2 years of age, depending on the size and breed of the dog. The best way to determine when you should transition your pup to adult dog food is to consult with your veterinarian and follow their recommendations. When you do start transitioning your puppy to adult dog food, do it slowly so as not to upset their digestive system in the process.

Start by replacing about a quarter of the puppy food with adult food during each meal. Once it is clear that your pooch can tolerate that change, offer half puppy food and half adult food at each meal. If that goes well, it should be safe to go ahead and completely switch over to adult dog food. This process should take place anytime you switch from one type of dog food to another, even if it’s just another brand.


A Final Recap

Your puppy should be eating puppy food until they stop growing, which can be anywhere from 1 to 2 years old. Your veterinarian should be able to tell you when it’s time to start the transition. Food that is meant for all stages of life should be suitable, but keep in mind that it isn’t formulated solely with puppies in mind.

Featured Image Credit: SasaStock, Shutterstock

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