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When to Switch Puppy to Adult Food

How long should puppies eat puppy food? Knowing when to switch to adult dog food is important for your dog’s development. Get tips, timelines and more from Nature’s Recipe.


A young dog panting in a meadow

Giving a puppy a forever home with you is such an exciting time! It can also be confusing as you create new routines, start his training and figure out all the little things needed to set him up for a healthy life. That includes figuring out how to feed him. You not only need to find a quality puppy food he likes, but also know when to switch to adult dog food—after all, time flies when you’re having fun with your new family member! We have all the answers you need to make the transition from puppy to adult dog food as smooth as possible.

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

You might be wondering whether it’s necessary to transition your puppy to adult food. You might even be asking, “is it okay to give a puppy regular dog food from the start?” But puppy food and adult dog food aren’t just the same kibbles in different packaging. Giving your dog a food formulated for his life stage is important for his development in puppyhood and for maintenance of a healthy body in adulthood.

Puppy food is denser in calories and nutrients than adult food to help support a puppy’s faster metabolism and rapid growth. Premium puppy foods will also have stable concentrations of key nutrients like calcium, phosphorus and DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid important for brain development and health) to give your puppy just what he needs. Too much or too little of these nutrients could lead to lifelong bone and joint diseases, among other issues.

Adult dog food, on the other hand, is carefully formulated to help maintain your adult dog’s weight and overall bodily health. Adult dogs have slower metabolisms, especially after they’re neutered, so nutrient-dense puppy food could cause them to become overweight or obese—conditions that can lead to early osteoarthritis and other complications if not corrected. Rather than continuing to feed your adult dog puppy food, find them a quality adults formula or a recipe designed for all life stages.

When Is a Dog Considered an Adult?

Understanding when your puppy’s breed typically reaches maturity will help you figure out when to transition him to adult dog food. Even if your puppy is a mixed breed, you can still estimate when he’ll reach adulthood based on the size category he falls under. Talk with your vet about how large you can expect your puppy to get and when would be a good time to make the switch. Remember, even if your dog is purebred, there are always exceptions!

As you can see, dogs in the toy and small breed categories mature a lot faster than their giant cousins. You could potentially start feeding a Chihuahua adult dog food when she’s eight months old, but a Great Dane could continue eating puppy food until he’s about two years old. It all depends on when your dog stops growing and starts maintaining a weight typical to his breed (or what appears to be healthy, if he’s mixed).

During puppyhood, you’ll be at the vet a lot as your pup gets all his vaccinations and procedures like neutering checked off the list. Your vet will keep you updated on your puppy’s weight and when it might be tapering off because he’s hit maturity. By this point, you should be able to start the switch from puppy food to adult dog food.

Dog Food Transition FAQ

Your puppy is reaching full maturity and your vet has given you the okay to start feeding him grown-up food. But you might still have some questions about how much to feed your dog or what types of food he’ll like best. We’re here to help!

How Do I Switch My Puppy to Adult Dog Food?

As you may have already noticed, puppies have sensitive stomachs. Their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts grow and change as they age, and when they’re young they don’t yet have strong adult immune systems to help their bodies deal with intruders. Until they’re dewormed, puppies can also carry parasites passed on to them from their mothers. Not to mention, puppies explore the world with their noses and mouths, so they sometimes get upset tummies from eating something they shouldn’t have. All this is why you should take the transition to adult dog food slowly, even when your dog is near maturity.

Try making the transition over a ten-day period. For about two days, feed your dog 3/4 of his regular puppy food mixed with 1/4 of his new adult food. Continue increasing by quarters over the next few days until your dog is eating a full portion of his new adult food. If you notice your dog having diarrhea or softer stools, stay on your current portion for a day or two longer to let him adjust.

Should I Choose Wet or Dry Dog Food?

Quality wet dog foods and dry dog foods both offer plenty of benefits for puppies and adult dogs. Wet food can be fed to weaning puppies who don’t have their deciduous (baby) teeth yet. Once they get their baby and adult teeth, though, they can easily handle dry kibble dog food. Dry food is the most economical, especially for large dogs, and it has the added benefit of slowing down plaque and tartar formation with its crunchy texture (although it’s no replacement for regular tooth brushing). Wet food, on the other hand, can be more palatable to some dogs because of its more intense aroma and soft, meaty texture.

Familiarizing your dog with both types of food can be helpful for later in life. Some dogs lose their teeth or develop weak jaws, so wet food could become the only meal he can eat comfortably. As long as you give appropriate portions of each, feeding your dog a mix of wet and dry food can help make mealtime even more appetizing!

How Many Times a Day Should I Feed My Dog?

Aside from switching to an adult formula, many dog parents also reduce the number of times they feed their dogs during the day. While puppies might get three or more little meals throughout the day, adult dogs do well with two half-portions. If you notice weight fluctuations or feel like your dog is getting a bit chunky, talk to your vet about your feeding schedule and better portioning practices.

Should I Choose Dog Food Made for My Dog’s Size?

It can be a good idea to choose a formula for your dog’s size, like a large breed or small breed recipe. These recipes can account for the different nutritional needs of dogs that are large, small or in-between. Talk to your vet to get recommendations for recipes made for your dog’s size, or try a general recipe formulated for adults or all life stages.

Should I Choose a Grain Free Dog Food Recipe?

Quality recipes formulated without grain can offer many of the same benefits to puppies and adult dogs as grain-in options. For example, Nature’s Recipe® Grain Free Puppy Chicken, Sweet Potato, & Pumpkin Recipe is a natural dog food with added vitamins, minerals and nutrients, along with DHA to help support eye and brain development. Talk to your vet about whether grain free dog food could be the right fit for your puppy or adult dog.

Make the Switch with Nature’s Recipe® Dog Food

Whether your dog is big or small, young or old, you’ll be able to find tasty, complete and balanced recipes they’ll love from Nature’s Recipe® brand. Each of our recipes is carefully crafted with purposeful ingredients to help your dog live their life to the fullest every day. Find the perfect recipe to help you fuel the wag!

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