Why Feed Puppy Food and When to Switch to Adult Food


This is a guest post written by Lorie Huston, she is an amazing veterinarian who is always willing to share her knowledge with others without reserve.

Anyone who has cared for a puppy realizes how quickly they grow. Sometimes, it seems as though you can see them growing overnight. This rapid growth means that puppies have very special nutritional needs that differ from those of an adult dog.

Why feed puppy food?

Among other nutritional demands, puppies require higher energy levels and higher protein levels than most adult dogs to reach optimum growth. They also have different calcium and phosphorus needs. As a result, feeding a puppy food that is formulated to meet these specialized needs is a good idea for a growing puppy. Puppy foods (also sometimes referred to as growth formulas) are produced to meet these special nutritional demands and provide optimum levels of energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus and the other nutrients that growing puppies need to thrive.

Can puppies be raised on adult dog foods instead?

In truth, yes, they can. However, though a puppy fed an adult diet may do okay on the diet, he may not actually thrive on the diet. Though some of the puppy’s nutritional needs may be met by simply increasing the amount of food consumed, other needs may remain somewhat unbalanced.

Imbalances in nutritional needs can lead to many health problems. For instance, particularly in large breed puppies, imbalances in calcium and phosphorus can lead to abnormalities in bone development. And excessive calorie intake can lead to a puppy that becomes obese, leading to a number of health issues as the puppy ages.Feeding a well-balanced puppy food instead of an adult dog food diet will help avoid these types of imbalances.

How long should a puppy be fed puppy food?

Puppies should continue to be fed a high quality puppy food until they have reached maturity. The age this happens will vary from breed to breed.

Generally, small breed dogs mature faster than large breed dogs. Small breed dogs usually mature around a year of age and should remain on puppy food until at least that point. For large breed dogs, maturity may take up to 1 ½ years. Therefore, large breed dogs should continue to eat puppy food longer than most small breeds, generally up to about 1 ½ years of age. Giant breeds mature more slowly still and may not reach their full growth until around 2 years of age. These breeds need to stay on the food longer still.



Lorie Huston is a veterinarian, a free-lance writer and blogger. You can find her on Suite101.com where she is the feature writer in pet care, on About.com where she is a contributing writer in veterinary medicine, on Examiner.com where she is the National Pet Health Examiner and on the Untrained Housewife, where she is the pet columnist. In addition, Lorie maintains the blog, Pet Health Care Gazette.




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  1. What about feeding your grown dog puppy food? I heard that it is great for them?

  2. Hi Vicky.

    That’s a great question. I’ve read and heard that in some circles too. However, in most cases, I don’t agree. Here’s why: One of the best things we can do for our pets is to keep them lean. Obesity is a huge problem for pets and can lead to numerous health problems. It’s been pretty well proven that dogs that are fed to stay lean live longer, healthier lives than those that are overweight. And with puppy food being higher in protein and calories, it’s not a good choice for most adult dogs because of the tendency to gain too much weight. So no, I do not recommend feeding puppy food to an adult dog.

    One exception to that would be a pregnant or nursing female dog who needs the additional calories and protein.

    Thanks for asking 🙂

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