If it’s time to switch your pup over to adult dog food, you might be wondering what’s the safest and healthiest way to do this. Well, dog food manufacturers and vets alike recommend mixing the new dog food with the old puppy food as follows:
Switch a puppy to adult dog food slowly by mixing more and more dog food into the puppy food over 1 week. For the first 2 days, feed 75% puppy food and 25% dog food. On days 3 and 4, feed 50% puppy and 50% dog food. On days 5 and 6 it’s 25% puppy and 75% dog food. And day 7 is 100% dog food. Dogs with a sensitive stomach may need 2 weeks to switch.
Making the move from puppy to adult dog food is an important time in your puppy’s life. Your puppy’s nutritional needs have changed, but your pup’s tummy needs time to adjust to the new food or your puppy could suffer side effects.
Let’s take a look at how to safely switch your puppy over from puppy kibble to adult dog food, and what side effects to look for during this transition.
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1- week plan: How to switch a puppy to adult food
It’s important to make the change from puppy kibble to adult dog food slowly. There’s no rush to make the switch, so take your time to ease your puppy into the change and minimize the side effects.
Experts recommend taking at least 1 week to switch from puppy food to adult food.
Here’s a 1-week plan to switch a puppy to adult dog food:
- Days 1 – 2 = 75% puppy food + 25% adult food
- Days 3 – 4 = 50% puppy food + 50% adult food
- Days 5 – 6 = 25% puppy food + 75% adult food
- Day 7 = 100% adult food
Watch your dog closely on the days you mix adult dog food into their puppy food, to see if your dog shows any negative signs or symptoms such as an upset stomach. Every dog reacts differently to the switch, and many young dogs have no problems whatsoever when moving over to adult dog food.
If your puppy has a sensitive stomach or allergies, and you’d like to avoid side effects from changing your dog’s food too fast, make the switch to adult dog food over 2 weeks to give your dog lots of time to adapt to the new food.
You can follow this plan for a 2-week switch from puppy food to adult dog food:
- Days 1 – 4 = 75% puppy food + 25% adult food
- Days 5 – 8 = 50% puppy food + 50% adult food
- Days 9 – 13 = 25% puppy food + 75% adult food
- Day 14 = 100% adult food
It’s best to feed a young adult dog two smaller portions a day rather than one large meal a day, especially if you have a deep-chested dog whose stomach can turn after eating a big meal (called gastric dilation).
Each brand of dog food and the size of your dog’s breed will affect how much to feed your dog each day. Check the instructions on the dog food packaging to see how big the portion size should be for breakfast and dinner.
It’s important to feed your dog a good-quality dog food that will give your dog all the goodness needed to be as healthy as possible. Here’s the dog food a veterinarian recommended I feed my own dogs (<- Amazon link)
Will your puppy get sick if you change to adult food?
Some puppies get sick when they switch foods while others have no side effects at all. If you change your puppy’s food, be sure to do this slowly over a week or two to give your puppy time to adapt to the new food. This will lower the chance that your puppy will get sick.
But why do puppies get sick when they change food?
Food can make a puppy sick for a few reasons, such as:
- The food is too rich for the puppy
- Selective breeding has made the dog’s stomach sensitive and prone to upsets
- The puppy is allergic to the new food
- The puppy isn’t given enough time to adapt to digesting the new levels of proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the food
If, after mixing in the new dog food over a course of a week or two your dog is still showing side effects, then it’s time to speak to your veterinarian or try a different brand of dog food.
Side effects of changing dog food
When you change a puppy’s food, especially if you do it too quickly, there might be some side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, or flatulence (gas). Because your puppy can’t tell you what’s wrong, watch your puppy for symptoms such as excessive lip licking, gulping, or weakness and lethargy.
Here’s a list of symptoms that may show you your puppy isn’t feeling well and that you’re switching their food too quickly:
- Flatulence (excess gas)
- Bloated stomach
- Loss of or change in appetite
- Eating more grass than usual
- Acidic breath
- Excessively licking lips and/or smacking the lips
- Licking the air (sign of nausea)
- Weakness and fatigue (these are very unhealthy signs – seek professional help)
- Blood in the stool (seek professional help)
- Sleeping rather than eating, drinking or playing (here’s exactly how much sleep a puppy needs at all ages and signs that something is wrong)
What to do if you’ve switched your puppy’s food too fast
If you switched your puppy’s food too fast, then your puppy is very likely to be showing side effects like diarrhea.
Here’s how to take care of your puppy with diarrhea:
STEP 1: FASTING
Don’t feed your puppy any food for a few hours, say 12-24 hours. This gives the tummy time to settle. Water is very important for hydration but your puppy shouldn’t drink a lot of it at once: If your puppy is drinking a lot of water, give your puppy some ice cubes instead of a large bowl of water, to slow down the water intake.
STEP 2: FEED A BLAND DIET
After the fast, start feeding your puppy boiled white rice (here’s the recipe) and boiled chicken. Keep the water for later, if you want to soak your dog’s kibble. Don’t add any salt, pepper, oil, spices, or anything else to the food. Remove the chicken skin and pour off all the water.
You’ll need to mix two parts rice to one part chicken. The amount of rice and chicken to feed your puppy will depend on how much your puppy weighs.
Here’s a table to guide you on how much rice and chicken to feed your puppy with diarrhea, but remember to ask your veterinarian for advice too:
|Dog’s weight in lbs||Dog’s weight in kg||Rice per day||Chicken per day|
|1 – 10 lbs||0 – 4.5 kg||Half a cup||One-quarter cup|
|11 – 20 lbs||4.6 – 9 kg||One cup||Half a cup|
|21 – 30 lbs||9.1 – 13.5 kg||One and a half cups||Three quarters of a cup|
|31 – 40 lbs||13.6 – 18 kg||Two cups||One cup|
|41 – 50 lbs||18.1 – 22.5 kg||Two and a half cups||One and a quarter cups|
|51 – 60 lbs||22.6 – 27 kg||Three cups||One and a half cups|
|61 – 70 lbs||27.1 – 32 kg||Three and a half cups||One and three-quarter cups|
|71+ lbs||33+ kg||Four cups||Two cups|
Don’t give your puppy the full portion of rice and chicken in one meal, or you’ll upset their tummy even more. Mix the rice and chicken that your puppy needs for the day, then divide it up and feed your puppy several small meals throughout the day.
If you don’t want to make chicken and rice, you can order a few tins of bland dog food from Amazon, or get a prescription from your veterinarian. It’s a good idea to keep bland food cans in the pantry for one day when you might need them.
Feed this chicken and rice mixture to your puppy until there is a normal stool for a day or two, or until there’s no bowel movement for a day. This means that your puppy’s diarrhea is going away.
STEP 3: INTRODUCE PUPPY FOOD
Now you can start adding your puppy’s regular food (NOT the new dog food) to the chicken and rice mixture over a few days. Your puppy’s stool will tell you how quickly to switch over.
If your puppy’s stool stays ‘normal’, then add a little more puppy kibble each day as you reduce the amount of chicken and rice you feed. Keep adding more puppy kibble and reducing the chicken and rice until your puppy is eating its regular food and is having normal bowel movements. If your puppy’s tummy gets upset, then increase the rice and chicken and feed less kibble that day.
You won’t be able to move your puppy over to the adult dog food at this time because your puppy’s digestive tract will be inflamed and needs time to heal.
The above advice is adapted, with thanks, from Ardmore Animal Hospital and Labrador Training HQ.
Changing a puppy to a raw food diet
Some dog owners choose to move their puppy over to a raw food diet when their puppy needs to switch to adult dog food. This diet usually consists of meat, bones, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that dogs can eat.
If you choose to switch your puppy to a raw food diet, be sure to choose a reputable supplier and follow the instructions to make the switch carefully. Most raw food switches don’t require mixing puppy kibble with the raw food, but rather feeding one meal kibble and one meal raw food during the change.
Because raw food diets are made up of, well, raw and undercooked food, the ingredients aren’t treated or cooked to kill any harmful germs in the food, which can make your puppy sick.
This is one of the reasons why the American Veterinary Medical Association and other Centers do not recommend a raw food diet for dogs.
If you’re wondering if it’s cheaper to buy kibble or make your own dog food, check out this unbiased cost comparison.
When to switch a puppy to regular dog food
Choose a peaceful time to switch your puppy to dog food. If your puppy has been through any major change or stressful event, such as moving house, illness, travel, or any other big changes, it’s best to give your pup a few weeks to settle down.
There are many ways to tell if it’s time to move your puppy over to adult dog food. I discuss all of these in detail here: How long should a puppy stay on puppy food?
But breed size and your puppy’s age is one of the best ways to know when to switch over to regular dog food. Puppy food is formulated to give your puppy lots of nutrients and energy to grow and develop. Once a puppy is fully grown, its nutritional needs change.
Smaller dogs tend to mature or reach their adult size faster than bigger breeds, so smaller dogs can switch to dog food sooner than bigger dogs.
Here’s a table to guide you on the breed sizes and recommended ages to switch 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|