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Optimeal® Blog

How Long Should I Feed My Dog Puppy Food?

By Bridget Reed


There are few things more adorable than a new puppy. With their floppy ears, big eyes, and oversized paws, you probably love watching your puppy run around the house and gobble down a bowl of food.

However, as your dog gets older and starts to grow into their gangly legs, you might wonder when to switch your dog from puppy food to adult dog food.

Adult dogs have different nutritional needs than puppies, and young dogs should stay on puppy food until full grown. They need a lot of calories to keep running, playing, and snoozing, while developing their body and brain until they grow into full-sized adult dogs. That often means they need a higher amount of food to support all that growth!

Remember, every pup is different, so you can’t always rely on generalizations to tell you what pet food your dog needs. Large breed dogs might develop at different rates than small breeds, so there’s no single answer that works for every dog.

The best way to make the right nutrition choices for your dog is to consult a veterinarian. They’ll be able to run tests and determine what changes you need to make to keep your dog as happy and healthy as possible.

However, if you’re still wondering how to tell whether your puppy needs adult food, we have some guidelines to consider. Read on to find out the differences between puppy food and dog food and when to make the switch for your dog.

What’s the Difference Between Puppy Food and Dog Food?

If you’ve ever stood in the dog food aisle, trying to figure out which dry food bag to take home, you’ve probably seen the many kinds of kibble aimed at puppies and adult dogs. 

You might be unsure of the difference between food designed specifically for growing puppies, adult dog food, and senior dog food. We’ll cover the differences below, but remember that these are only broad categories. 

Some dog foods are for specific cases, and others are for all life stages. Ultimately, choosing the right dog food is up to you and your pup’s unique needs.

Puppy Food

Puppy food has a specific blend of nutrients that will help your dog develop as they get older. Most puppies have higher energy levels and require more calories than adult dogs to support their growth and play. 

Puppies need a lot of protein to grow strong, healthy muscles. They also require a specific blend of vitamins and nutrients. Larger dog breeds need a specific ratio of calcium to phosphorous to help their bones grow properly and prevent arthritis later in life.

While you should always choose a suitable food for your dog’s stage of life, it’s vitally important that puppies get puppy food. Making homemade food, choosing an adult diet, or changing up the recipe is not recommended since you might risk your pup’s wellness, growth, and development into an adult dog.

We understand the dilemma if you’re unsure what kind of puppy food to pick. It’s tough to choose anything specific from the enormous options available in most pet stores. 

That’s why we designed our Turkey & Oatmeal Recipe, a puppy food perfect for any growing young dog. Not only does it support your dog’s digestion, but it also contains ingredients that aid in brain development and maintaining healthy skin. It’s the perfect choice for any puppy, and they’ll love the taste of fresh turkey.

Adult Dog Food

Adult dog food contains a lot of the same ingredients as puppy food. However, the ratios are often different because adult dogs don’t need the same calories or protein.

Adult dogs often have more options available since they aren’t so reliant on getting the perfect blend of nutrients to support their development. However, you should still pick a food optimized for their size, breed, and age.

Feeding adult dogs puppy food is generally a bad idea. Puppy food can cause rapid weight gain or nutrient deficiencies in older dogs, because they aren't likely to burn off all the energy provided by the nutrient-rich food. However, small quantities of puppy food aren’t often harmful to adult dogs.

Choosing an adult dog food can be just as difficult as picking a puppy food. However, we’ve formulated plenty of amazing recipes for any picky eater to enjoy. 

Senior Dog Food

Senior dog food is specifically formulated for older dogs who might be experiencing the signs of aging. Senior dog foods are generally lower in calories and fat to match the lower energy levels of senior dogs. You won’t need to switch to a senior dog food unless your vet recommends it or your dog starts having trouble with their usual food due to age.

Senior dog foods can also be softer to help dogs with dental issues. They often contain similar proteins to adult dog foods, with ingredients to support their health added to the recipe.

When Should I Switch From Puppy Food to Dog Food?

You might find it difficult to tell when your puppy stops growing. After all, the rate of change may be difficult to notice day-to-day. 

Over time, you might notice their snout get longer, their ears fill out, and their paws grow more proportional to their body, but there’s no real single milestone to mark an adult dog that’s finished growing. 

Generally speaking, you should switch from puppy food to adult dog food when your dog’s growth plates have been sealed. This will indicate that they have finished their major growth and muscular development and no longer need the high-calorie boost of puppy food. However, you can’t always tell when this occurs, and it varies from breed to breed and dog to dog. 

It can take anywhere from eight months to a year for small and medium dog breeds to finish their development into adult dogs. Meanwhile, larger breeds might continue growing until they reach 18 months.

If you’re uncertain whether your dog has finished growing, you might want to wait until about a year for small to medium dogs and about a year and a half before you transition them to adult food, just to be on the safe side. However, you can discuss any doubts on your end with your vet.

Your vet will be able to analyze your dog’s current growth stage and come up with an estimate as to when they’ll be ready for adult food. Depending on your individual dog, they might even use x-rays to see whether your dog’s musculoskeletal growth is complete.

With their guidance, you can confidently transition from puppy food to adult food for any dog under your care. When switching your dog’s food from one recipe to another, you should use a gradual process over seven to fourteen days.

Each day, mix a little more of the new food with your dog’s puppy food. Monitor your dog for any tummy issues, and be prepared to slow down your process if your dog has a negative reaction to their new food. In some cases, you may need to pick a different type of adult food.

If you’re unsure what kind of adult dog food would be best, we recommend choosing one of our nutrient-rich recipes to complement your dog’s journey into adulthood. 

Our Chicken & Lamb In Savory Sauce Recipe is a wet food suitable for all adult dogs and tasty enough for any canine. Your dog will be happy to switch to a delicious new flavor, and you’ll be happy with the digestible, high-fiber diet that gives them all the protein they need to thrive. 

How Much Food Should I Feed My Dog?

Once again, every dog is different and has different needs. You can adjust portion sizes if you’re worried your dog is eating too much or not enough.

It is also a good idea to take a peek at your pup’s kibble bag. There will often be a feeding chart on the bag with feeding guidelines based on your dog’s age and weight. This feeding guide is a good place to start figuring out your dog's nutritional requirements. 

Keep an eye on their physical fitness, and note if they seem to be underweight or showing signs of obesity. However, don’t worry too much if they aren’t interested in the occasional meal or gobble down their food every night and beg for more between meal times. Some variance is normal and can be expected as long as they're healthy.

When your puppy is only a few months old, experts recommend feeding them four portions throughout the day. This will help keep their energy up and meet their nutritional needs for a balanced diet. As they get older, you can remove one of their portions and feed them three times a day.

After reaching half a year to a year, depending on your dog’s breed and size, you can feed them twice a day and stick with this formula through their adult life. 

Keep in mind that they’ll need less food after being spayed or neutered, so you can reduce the size of each portion after the procedure to find the right amount.

When Puppies Become Dogs

It can be heartwarming to watch your puppy grow into a beautiful dog, but there’s always a bit of sadness. You might miss their antics, wild enthusiasm, or the way they tripped over their own feet.

By switching your puppy to adult dog food at the right time, you’ll support their growth and development and have the treat of seeing how they change and mature over the years. Even so, you’ll never forget their puppy days!

Looking for more delicious, nutritious recipes for your pup at any stage? Explore Optimeal® Premium Dog Food here



When Should You Switch from Puppy to Adult Dog Food? | PetMD

When Does My Puppy Finish Growing? How Long Do Puppies Grow? | American Kennel Club

Puppy Feeding Fundamentals | American Kennel Club

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