When to switch a puppy to dog food

Turning Points 3 min read

One of the major milestones in a puppy’s life is transitioning to adult food. But how do you know the right time to switch your puppy to dog food? This guide will help you successfully guide your puppy through this change.

What’s the difference between puppy and adult dog food?

Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs. Since puppies use a lot of energy to grow their little bodies, they need more calories and nutrients in every bite.

According to standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, which regulates dog food manufacturing, the minimum amount of crude protein in dry puppy food is 22%, compared to 18% for adult diets. Puppy food also has more amino acids, fat, and minerals than adult dog food. Some brands even add extra omega-3 fatty acids to puppy food to help with brain and eye development, according to PetMD.

PetMD also says that large-breed puppies have additional nutrition needs. Their food might have a bit less calcium, phosphorus, and fat than other puppy foods to help them grow at a healthy rate and avoid orthopedic issues. Your veterinarian can help you decide which food is best for your puppy.

How long should a puppy eat puppy food?

There’s no “one size fits all” age for exactly when it’s time to switch your puppy to adult dog food. The decision is largely based on your puppy’s growth rate rather than age. PetMD suggests a rule of thumb of switching your puppy to adult food when they’ve reached 80% of their full size.

According to Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital, this usually happens when your puppy is between 10 and 12 months. Small dogs like chihuahuas may reach this point around nine or 10 months, while medium-sized dogs won’t until they’re around 12 months old. Larger breeds may not until they’re somewhere between 12 and 16 months old.

If you’re unsure, it’s better to err on the side of caution and keep your pup on puppy food a little longer than needed. But don’t overdo it. All those extra calories can lead to obesity if an adult dog eats puppy food for too long. If that becomes the case, find out how to help your dog lose weight.

Overall, it’s best to have regular appointments with your veterinarian so they can help you determine the best age to make the switch.

How do you transition your puppy to dog food?

Suddenly switching to dog food can upset your puppy’s stomach, even causing vomiting or diarrhea. So take the transition slowly by mixing the new food with your puppy’s regular food. Start with a mix of about 75% old food and 25% new food. Every day, add a little more of the new adult food into the mix.

By the end of about a week, you should have transitioned to 100% adult dog food. Slow down the transition if you notice your dog is having stomach issues, and contact your vet if their symptoms don’t resolve.

How many times a day should a puppy eat?

As your puppy grows, you’ll also slowly be transitioning to fewer mealtimes each day. Decreasing mealtimes can help establish healthy eating habits for a dog as they grow. The American Kennel Club recommends that puppies up to 12 weeks of age eat about four times a day. At around three to six months, you’ll decrease that to three times a day. Switch to twice a day around the age of six to 12 months. This is also around the time when they should transition to adult food.

The bottom line for switching your puppy’s food

Raising a puppy is so much fun and full of major life milestones. With a pet health insurance policy from Pets Best, you can be ready for unexpected vet costs. Plus, policyholders get access to a 24/7 pet helpline if they have any questions about their puppy’s health or dietary needs.

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