If your puppy has been running around your home for a few months, you’ve probably noticed him/her getting bigger and changing. You know you need to change your puppy over to adult dog food at some point, but how long should your pup eat puppy food?
Miniature and small dogs should stay on puppy food until they are at least 9-12 months old. Medium-size dogs should eat puppy food until they are 14 months or older, and large breeds until 18+ months. It’s better to keep a dog on puppy food a little longer than needed, rather than put the dog on adult food too soon.
Puppies are in the ‘growing phase’ of their life. They need to eat food that gives them nutrients for the healthy growth and development of their bodies, such as their teeth and bones. All this growing requires energy – and puppy food provides lots of energy.
If your puppy eats non-food items and actively looks for these things to eat, your puppy may have an eating disorder called pica. Click here to find out what the signs are and how to manage pica in puppies.
When most of the growing is done, it’s time to move your puppy over to adult dog food. This food gives older dogs what they need to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight.
Some dog owners buy good-quality dog food and others like to make their own dog food. Click HERE to find out what it costs to make your own balanced dog food.
There’s no absolute rule for when a puppy is ready to move over to adult food, so how do you really know how long to keep your puppy on puppy food or when to make the move to adult food?
Find out when to switch a puppy to adult dog food
If you want to know how long to keep your puppy on puppy food or switch to adult dog food, you can:
Ask the breeder
Breeders raise and care for a certain breed of dog year-round. This means that your dog’s breeder will have a lot of experience and first-hand knowledge on how to look after your dog’s breed. They will also be very familiar with your puppy’s family and genes.
If you get your puppy from a trustworthy breeder, ask the breeder what food to feed your puppy and when to change your puppy over to adult dog food.
The breeder might even be able to suggest a high-quality brand of adult dog food for your new best friend when the time comes.
Ask your veterinarian
If you don’t have a breeder to ask, that’s okay. Speak to your veterinarian the next time you take your puppy in for shots.
Your veterinarian will probably recommend a few brands of premium adult dog food to choose from, and advise you on when to move your pup over to this food.
Asking your veterinarian is probably the best way to know when to move a rescue or mixed-breed dog over to adult food, as it’s not always clear how big the dog will get or what nutrients are needed for the breed (if you can tell the breeds in the dog).
When your dog reaches its adult size
Some puppies grow up faster than other puppies because of the size of their breed. For example, small dogs reach their adult body size much sooner than large dog breeds.
When dogs reach their full size and stop growing, they no longer need the energy and nutrients in puppy food.
When we talk about a dog breed’s ‘size’, we are talking about the healthy weight of an average fully grown adult dog for that breed. There is a range for the average weight as females tend to weigh a little less than males and some dogs are just built smaller than other dogs of the same breed.
As a guideline, here is a list of dog breed sizes and their average weight ranges. Find out how much your dog should weigh when fully grown, then use the last column to see when you can switch your puppy over to adult dog food:
|Weight Range of Average Adult Dog||Breed Size||Breed Examples||When to Switch to Adult Dog Food|
|Less than 12 pounds||Very small / Miniature||Affenpinscher Chihuahua Papillon||9+ months|
|13 – 25 pounds||Small||Boston Terrier Cavalier Spaniel French Bulldogs||12+ months|
|26 – 50 pounds||Medium||Border Collies Brittanys Retrievers||14+ months|
|51 – 75 pounds||Large||Afghan Hounds Airedale Terriers Pointers||18+ months|
|76+ pounds||Giant||Akitas Neapolitan Mastiffs Rottweilers||24+ months|
As an example, let’s say you have a Boston Terrier puppy at home. The breeder has told you that your pup will most likely weigh between 20 and 25 pounds when he’s fully grown, which makes him a small dog breed (between 13 – 25 pounds as an adult). You can use the table above to see that you should plan to move your puppy over to adult dog food when he is 12 months old or a little older.
Read the dog food packaging
If you look at the bag that your puppy kibble comes in, you should see an age recommendation for the food. This is usually printed very clearly on the front of the bag and says something like ‘Puppies up to 12 months.’ This means that you can safely feed this food to your puppy until he/she is 12 months old or a little older.
Different breeds need different ingredients and nutrients. It’s best to make sure that the kibble you buy is made for your dog’s breed, size and age. For example, if you have a Labrador Retriever, buy puppy kibble made for Labrador Retrievers or for large breed puppies.
Consider it after sterilizing your puppy
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, most dogs are sterilized between 6 and 9 months of age. After being sterilized, a dog needs a little less energy from their food than before.
Because puppy food provides a lot of energy, you may need to move your puppy over to adult dog food a little earlier than expected.
Ask your veterinarian about this when you take your puppy for the surgery.
Look at your puppy’s activity levels
The more active a puppy is the more energy he/she needs from food and the longer you can keep your puppy on puppy food.
If your puppy is very active during the day, which you’ll see with hunting dogs and these breeds that love to play fetch, consider feeding puppy food for a longer time to give your dog the energy needed for all this activity.
If your puppy sleeps a lot and is mostly an inactive, indoor dog, then you can switch your puppy over to adult dog food based on the recommendations for your dog’s adult breed size:
|Weight Range of Average Adult Dog||Breed Size||Recommended Age to Switch to Adult Dog Food|
|Less than 12 pounds||Very small / Miniature||9+ months|
|13 – 25 pounds||Small||12+ months|
|26 – 50 pounds||Medium||14+ months|
|51 – 75 pounds||Large||18+ months|
|76+ pounds||Giant||24+ months|
Look for signs from your puppy
Over time, you might notice your puppy’s behavior and body change. Your puppy might:
- Calm down quite a bit
- Not play as much as before or run around as much
- Weigh as much as an adult dog for that breed
- Stop eating or eat less of the regular puppy food
When you notice your puppy’s personality changing and maturing, and your puppy weighs about as much as a healthy average dog for that breed, you’ll know that he/she is growing into a young adult dog.
If your puppy is nearing the age when it’s time to change over to adult dog food, or has passed this age, then it’s probably time to change the food you feed.
If it’s time to switch your puppy to adult dog food, click HERE to find out how to do it to avoid any side effects.
Why a puppy needs to move to adult dog food
It’s important to change a puppy over to adult dog food as your dog’s needs change.
In their first months of life puppies change a lot – they get bigger, and their bones, muscles and teeth develop. Puppy food is made to give them all the nutrients and energy they need to develop and grow up to be as healthy as they can be.
Once puppies are fully grown, their needs change. They now need food that keeps their body working well, prevents disease, and doesn’t give them too much energy that they become overweight.
Feeding a good-quality dog food throughout a dog’s life will give your dog the best chance to enjoy things like good eyesight, a shiny coat, strong teeth, good digestion, and, hopefully, a long and fulfilling life.