Can My Puppy Eat Adult Dog Food?

Is adult dog food really different from puppy food?

puppy with big bowl of dog food

If you just adopted a new puppy, you might want to just get him regular adult dog food to make it easy since there are so many options out there.

It turns out puppy food and adult dog food are actually really different, and there’s an important reason why you shouldn’t feed your puppy adult dog food.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian consultant at Senior Tail Waggers, to find out why puppies can’t eat adult dog food and how to choose a puppy food.

JUMP TO: Why can’t puppies eat adult dog food? | Difference between puppy and adult dog food | Can puppies eat all-life-stages dog food? | When to switch a puppy to dog food | How to choose a puppy food

Why can’t puppies eat adult dog food?

Since puppies are still growing, they burn a ton of calories and need a lot of protein, fat, calories and minerals in their food to keep them healthy, and adult dog food just isn’t sufficient for all of a puppy’s needs.

“Adult food does not have the proper nutrients needed for a growing puppy,” Dr. Ochoa told The Dodo. “Puppies need higher protein content, fats and minerals than adult dogs do. These puppies are quickly growing and have high energy levels that need more nutrients than older dogs.”

Protein and calcium help with muscle and bone development, DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) promotes brain development, and fat and calories are used up by all the playing and growing.

A puppy who’s fed adult food and doesn’t get all the nutrients he needs could have developmental problems, so it’s super important to feed your pup a food that’s appropriate for his life stage.

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

Adult dog food has less protein, calories and fat than puppy food since adult dogs don’t need as many nutrients to feed a growing body as puppies do.

“Puppies need protein and fats to keep up with their high energy demands,” Dr. Ochoa said.

For example, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends that puppy foods (food for growth and reproduction) contain a minimum of 22.5 percent protein, while adult dog foods (adult maintenance) only need to have 18 percent. The AAFCO also recommends that puppy foods contain a minimum of 8.5 percent fat and 1.2 percent calcium, while dog foods should have only a minimum of 5.5 percent fat and 0.5 percent calcium.

While puppy food is good for puppies, you shouldn’t keep feeding it to your dog once he’s fully grown, since puppy foods have a lot of calories and fat. If you do, he could become overweight because his body isn’t using up as many nutrients as a young, hyper puppy.

“If adult dogs ate foods that were this high in protein and fats, they would quickly become overweight, which can lead to other health issues, such as heart disease and diabetes,” Dr. Ochoa said.

Can puppies eat foods formulated for all life stages?

It’s safe for your puppy to eat foods for all life stages.

“They can eat foods for all life stages as they are a little better for your puppy than just adult food,” Dr. Ochoa said.

All-life-stages foods are designed to meet the standards of both the AAFCO growth and reproduction stage and the adult maintenance stage, so they have enough nutrients for your puppy.

And if you feed your puppy food for all life stages, you could continue feeding it to him once he’s out of the puppy stage and ready to eat adult dog food.

But you should keep in mind that since these foods aren’t specifically formulated for puppies, they’re not quite as healthy as puppy food.

“As [all-life-stages dog foods] do their best to fit into so many categories, they may be too much of one thing or not enough of another to be the best diet for your dog,” Dr. Ochoa said.

When to switch a puppy to dog food

According to Dr. Ochoa, you should wait until your puppy’s fully grown to start feeding him adult dog food.

The age at which a puppy matures will depend on his size, so when you can start feeding dog food will vary. “This may be at 6 to 8 months for smaller dogs (25 pounds or less), 12 to 16 months for medium-sized dogs (25 to 75 pounds), and 2 years for large- and giant-breed dogs (over 80 pounds),” Dr. Ochoa told The Dodo.

How to choose a puppy food

When looking for a puppy food, a good place to start is by asking your vet for recommendations.

According to Dr. Ochoa, you should “look for a food where the protein levels are 22 to 32 percent.” This lines up with the AAFCO recommendation for puppy foods to contain at least 22 percent protein and will ensure that your puppy gets all the nutrients he needs to keep up his energy and grow up to be a healthy dog.

In addition to protein, you should check the food bag to see what the nutritional analysis is. Most dog foods will include a breakdown of the percentage of protein, fat and other important nutrients to let you know that the amounts are aligned with those recommended by the AAFCO.

And make sure the food is made with real ingredients, such as lamb, beef and corn. The first ingredient in the food should ideally be a natural ingredient.

You’ll also want to be sure to choose food that’s made for the size of your puppy. Foods for small puppies and big puppies are formulated differently because they have different growth needs. Small dogs also need smaller pieces of food because they have smaller mouths.

Some brands that Dr. Ochoa recommends include Purina Pro Plan, Royal Canin, Eukanuba and Hill’s Science Diet.

So it’s really important to feed your puppy the right food so he grows up to be a healthy dog and has enough energy for the puppy zoomies.

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