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Article

When Should I Switch My Puppy to an Adult Food?

Michael Hayek, Ph.D.

Director Companion Technical Solutions

This is a question that all puppy owners will eventually face. You have dedicated time and resources to feeding the right puppy food, assuring your new friend is up to date on vaccines and trained your companion to manage daily life. Now you are near the end of your puppy’s journey so when is the right time to switch to an adult food. This is a challenging question for dogs since there is such a wide range of breeds that influence body type and size which affect recommendations. While there is not a set age for all dogs there are multiple aspects to consider that will guide a decision for each puppy’s situation. 

Mature Body Weight – Puppies are ready to switch to an adult food once they reach a mature body weight. References are available for various breeds that indicate the timing for reaching a mature body weight. This can be challenging for owners that adopt a mixed breed puppy without breed history. In these cases, the puppy’s growth rate will need to serve as a guide for when he or she is done growing.

Breed Size – Mature breed size classifications can be used as a guidance for when to consider switching from a puppy to an adult food. Below is a table with some estimations on age for reaching mature body weight by breed size specifications. This type of information along with consultation with your veterinarian can help guide you on the right timing for your puppy’s transition.   
 
Breed Size Classification Mature Body Weight Approximate Age of Mature Body Weight 
Toy breeds 4 – 7 pounds 9 months
Small breeds 8 – 20 pounds 12 months
Medium Breeds 21 – 50 pounds 12 months
Large Breeds 51 – 85 pounds 18 – 24 months
Giant Breeds > 85 pounds 18 – 24 months
 
Owners of mixed breed puppies should consult with their veterinarian or other canine experts for advice on the right timing for transitioning their puppy to an adult food. Owners can also monitor weight on a set frequency to determine when their puppy’s growth has plateaued.

Body Condition – Puppy owners should monitor their puppy’s body condition throughout their growth phase. This is especially important as your puppy’s growth slows down and may not need as many calories to support their daily activity. It is important to have your puppy in a healthy body condition. Your veterinarian or feed dealer/retailer can help you with understanding if your puppy’s condition is thin, overweight, or just right.

Choosing an Adult Food – You have many options for adult foods to consider. If your puppy is doing well and enjoys the ingredients in his current food, then you may want to provide that consistency when looking for an adult option. Also think about the energy content of the products you are considering. If your dog is leading a typical lifestyle then a product designed for adult maintenance may be in order. If you dog is going to be a competitor or has a particularly active lifestyle, consider products with higher calories that are designed to support performance. On the other end of the spectrum are dogs that may be inactive and tend to be overweight. In this case a lower calorie product designed to manage a healthy weight may be in order.   

Transitioning to Your New Food - It is important to do a slow transition to your puppy’s new food. This transition should be gradual over a 7 – 10-day period. It is recommended to start with 25% new food and 75% previous food for a few days and then gradually increase the percentage of the new food. This slow transition will provide your puppy’s digestive system time to adjust to the new diet.