If you’ve just gotten a new puppy, you might not be happy about the fact that they grow all too quickly. Depending on the kind of dog you have, the less time you have to spend with them at particular life stages. In this article, we share the answer to “When do I stop feeding my dog puppy food?” while providing essential information on their gradual transition towards adult food.
How Often Should a Puppy Eat Every Day?
Before we think about your puppy growing into an adult, it’s best to learn more about your puppy’s feeding schedule first. Newborn puppies will exclusively feed on their mother’s milk during their first days to weeks because it carries important antibodies that protect them from illness. It’s important that your puppy nurses as long as possible to get as much colostrum as possible — if their mom won’t feed them, be sure to contact your vet to get the help you need to ensure that the puppies survive.
Much like human babies, puppies will continue feeding every one or two hours to meet the nutritional requirements that only their mom’s milk can provide. By the time they turn 6 weeks of age, puppies can transition from milk to wet food — you can opt for puppy formulas or an all-stages formula. You can then slowly move on to kibbles and dry puppy food that they can eat four times a day, which will then be reduced to three times per day, and eventually two times a day.
As a general rule of thumb, here are the feeding guidelines for a puppy’s meals.
- At 6 to 12 weeks old, it requires four meals a day
- At 3 to 6 months old, feed your dog three times a day
- At 6 to 12 months old, give your dog two meals per day
- Once it reaches 12 months and over, feed your dog two half portions a day
When You Should Switch to Adult Dog Food
The answer to this question will depend on the breed size of the dog. While large breeds and giant breeds can take as long as two years to reach full maturity, small breeds can become fully grown by seven months old. Knowing the potential full-grown size of your new pet is the best way to plan for your dog’s diet.
Finding the Appropriate Diet
Because adult dogs have different nutritional needs from a puppy’s diet, it can become a bit hard to balance. You don’t want to remove your pooch from their puppy diet too early, but waiting too long to switch them over to an adult diet may lead to a surplus of calories in your best friend. As such, your dog may experience weight gain, and before you think that a pudgy little puppy sounds cute, excess fat can lead to health problems for your puppy.
You’ll also want to ensure that your puppy gets the proper nutrition it needs to develop and grow accordingly.
Small to Medium-Sized Dogs
When it comes to small dog breeds along with those a bit bigger, is to cut back on their portion sizes when they reach around 5 to 7 months of age. When they reach 12 months old, they will need fewer calories so you can scale back again. At this point, smaller dogs would’ve reached their full size, so you can transition them over to new food for adults.
If you plan to use an all-life stage food for your young dog instead of adult-specific food, then it’s safe to switch over at any time.
Large to Giant Breed Dogs
Large breed dogs such as Labrador Retrievers and Great Danes will have a projected weight of 55 pounds and more as adults. Larger breeds will grow slower compared to smaller breeds and won’t reach their physical maturity until they reach 18 to 24 months old. Because of this, large breed puppies will have different needs from their smaller counterparts, so you’ll need to watch their food intake and be sure they don’t consume too much calcium.
The formula used for small to medium-breed dogs will contain more calcium compared to food for large-breed puppies. If you give your big dogs the wrong type of food, an overload of calcium may result in the rapid growth of their bones which can cause problems during adulthood. According to experts, this can also lead to health issues such as weaker joints and skeletal structure, along with the development of orthopedic diseases.
Difference Between Dog Food and Puppy Food
Young puppies have completely different nutritional requirements compared to adult dogs, which is why they need to stick to a puppy diet that’s formulated for them specifically. A young dog’s diet will tend to have a lot of calories to support its growth, containing vitamins and minerals that nourish growing bones and muscles. Most vets won’t recommend table scraps or a raw diet for puppies because these won’t provide them with the right combination of nutrients for their growth and could lead to abnormalities once they reach adult size.
While some dog food is formulated to provide a balanced diet, other foods are developed for a specific dog’s age. The best food for your dog will ultimately depend on your dog’s age and its unique needs.
People will feed puppy food to their pets because it contains a specific blend of ingredients that will help to sustain your puppy’s overall health as they grow. Puppies will also have higher energy levels compared to older dogs, so they have different energy requirements and will eat a bigger amount of food to support their activities. Different breeds will also need varying amounts of phosphorus and calcium to help strengthen their bones.
But with so much food available in the market, it’s hard to choose the right food for your puppy and it’s hard to determine the right time to feed them a specific kind of food. Be sure to look for options that can help prevent an upset stomach, maintain healthy skin, and aid brain development. There are also choices that are made for a specific dog’s breed and are formulated for dogs a few years of age.
Adult Dog Food
Options like dry food and solid food made for adults will contain many of the same ingredients as puppy food but will often have different ratios to prevent the overload of protein or calories. Looking for the right adult food can be just as hard as deciding on your puppy’s food. Luckily, adult dog food will offer more options since they aren’t specifically made for a certain year of age, but it’s still a good idea to pick an adult formula that’s made for a specific breed, age, and size.
General guidelines set forth by experts indicate that giving puppy food to adult dogs is a bad idea. This is because sudden changes in their diet can quickly deteriorate their body condition, causing nutrient deficiencies or a change in their healthy weight. However, small meals shouldn’t have much of an effect on adult dogs.
Can You Feed an All-Stages-Diet to a Puppy?
Dog food that’s used for all stages has been formulated to provide the nutritional needs of both adult dogs and puppies. Using this kind of formula can help provide a nutritionally complete, yet convenient solution to take the guesswork out of deciding on the best time to feed certain foods over your pup’s life. All-life stages (ALS) food appeals to many fur parents that have multiple pets in their house, or those who are unsure of a certain puppy’s breed.
But what is an ALS diet? According to the pet food nutritional guidelines made by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), there are three different kinds of diets for dogs:
- Puppy (covers both reproduction and growth)
- Adult (which focuses on maintenance)
- All stages (for growing and adult dogs)
However, if you have a puppy from a large breed, it’s important that you read labels first before feeding them an all-stages meal. It’s best that you look for the AAFCO’s qualifier for nutritional adequacy statement, which identifies the lifestyle or life stage that your product has been approved for. This will also confirm if a particular formula has met the standards needed for bigger puppy breeds.
Something to look for in particular is the 1:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorous that supports the strong and healthy growth of bones.
Give Your Puppy the Best Start to a Healthy Diet
Below is our top pick for the best puppy dog foods for all life stages currently available in the market.
- Uses real chicken as its first ingredient
- High-protein dry dog food for dogs of all ages
- Develops lean muscle through 20% fat and 30% protein
- With antioxidants, EPA, DHA, arginine, and B vitamins
With the Purina Pro Plan Sport Performance All Life Stages formula, you can support both adult dogs and puppies with active lifestyles. Expertly formulated using 20% fat and 30% protein, it can fuel your dog’s muscles and metabolism to increase strength and endurance. It also supports brain development through antioxidants, EPA, DHA, arginine, and B vitamins and helps to protect against heart disease.
When Do I Stop Feeding My Dog Puppy Food?
When it comes to puppies, it’s best to use a feeding chart to help you keep track of how many times they’ve eaten per day to encourage their growth and development. As they grow older, be sure to give them less food until they reach adulthood so that they only eat in controlled and healthy portions. Once you know how much to feed your puppy, you can figure out the best food for its life stage or you can simply look for an option that supports your pup through each and every step of the way.