Oftentimes we hear from companion puppy parents that they are mulling over switching their puppy to adult food around six months of age. In general, their reasons range from price, to not understanding the benefits of puppy food and its richness.
Emphatically, Hemopet says you need to wait until nine months to one year depending on the breed type and its expected growth.
Let’s examine these common misunderstandings.
Price & Benefits of Puppy Food
Puppy food is generally more expensive, because the ingredients cost more. Puppies are ostensibly babies and have different nutritional needs than adult dogs just like human babies as compared to adult humans. Puppies need higher concentrations of calories, protein, fat, amino acids, calcium, phosphorus as well as other nutrients to help their bodies grow.
Puppy Food Richness
Puppy food richness generally refers to the “output” – meaning feces or, in colloquial terms, poop. The poop might be runnier or have a different texture than an older dog. Before you start switching between puppy foods or transitioning to adult food, you need to assess your lifestyle and the changes you need to make to accommodate your new growing family member.
Puppies Pee and Poop More
Fact: puppies pee and poop more often than adult dogs. They are simply adapting and cannot hold either function as well as adult dogs.
Feeding Frequency & Adequate Amounts
Up to about three months (12 weeks) of age, puppies should be fed equal amounts four times per day. For instance, if a puppy’s nutritional requirement is one cup of food, then you divide it into one-quarter cups four times per day.
If your puppy’s poop is loose, you may need to cut back slightly on the amount fed.
On the flip side, your puppy could be eating too quickly (within three to four minutes) and that could be causing gastrointestinal distress. So, you may even need to increase the amount of food for adequate nutritional needs.
Albeit, some puppies will eat faster around other dogs, so you may want to consider having your other pets eat in a separate room. Of course, some puppies will always eat fast, so it could just be their personality.
Around four months of age, you can start to cut down on the number of meals to two or three, but please do not reduce the amount fed.
Treats are a great way to encourage positive or ideal behaviors from your puppy. However, overtreating contributes to the amount and quality of their stool.
We suggest small treats that are low in calories and do not distract a puppy from adapting to his new life. In fact, some of our favorite training treats are thinly sliced or small bites of green beans, carrots, apples, pears, or bananas.
Food Rotating & Transitioning
We are advocates for rotating foods to switch things up in a pup’s diet!
What is the difference between rotating and transitioning?
“Rotating” refers to changing your pup’s diet. Let’s say from turkey to beef.
“Transitioning” is the number of days it takes to rotate to a new food without causing gastrointestinal disruption.
For many adult dogs, it is easy to transition and rotate in new foods every few months with minimal concerns. For a couple of months, they are eating turkey and then one day they are eating beef for awhile.
With pups, we have to remember that their systems are more delicate and they haven’t quite developed an “iron gut” yet. Indeed, it is more than likely to be the first time a particular food is interacting with their gastrointestinal tract. This is why you have to transition your puppy’s foods more slowly from one food to the next.
Below is an example of a food transitional chart. You may need to extend the number of transition days for your puppy.
Special Considerations for Large Breeds
Puppies that are expected to be over fifty pounds are considered “large breeds” and have different nutritional needs. For instance, a deficiency of calcium and phosphorus can lead to weak bones and even fractures, while an excess can cause Developmental Orthopedic Disease (DOD) especially in large breed puppies. So, large breed puppies must grow at a slower steady rate to avoid serious orthopedic problems.
Got Into Something
Let’s face it. Puppies are cute! Puppies are fun! Puppies are energetic! Puppies are curious! Puppies can annoy us!
At the end of the day, puppies get into things whether inside or outside the house. As much as you may puppy-proof your house and monitor your puppy outside, he can still be sneaky. Again, while your puppy is exploring, he is confronted with new smells and foreign objects. Indeed, he might contract a minor microbial infection from all of the daily activities that an older dog has already experienced and become tolerate of. In this case, we suggest going to your veterinarian for a checkup and advice.
So, you have made the changes above, but your puppy’s feces still appears to be “not quite right”. Well, it could be a food intolerance. In this instance, Hemopet suggests transitioning the puppy off the food that might be causing the gastrointestinal distress or dysbiosis.
Once your puppy is about nine months of age or older, if warranted, you can have his food sensitivities and intolerances checked with NutriScan.
For more tips on proper puppy and adult dog nutrition, check out my book, Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health, that I co-authored with Diana Laverdure-Dunetz.
Dodds, W. Jean. Balancing Calcium and Phosphorus for Dogs. Hemopet, 19 Feb. 2021, https://hemopet.org/balancing-calcium-and-phosphorus-for-dogs/.
Dodds, W. Jean. “Food Transitioning versus Food Rotating: What Is the Difference?” Dr. Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource Blog, Tumblr, 25 June 2013, https://drjeandoddspethealthresource.tumblr.com/post/53858347318/pet-food-transitioning#.YHdCBOhKjIV.
Mansourian, Erika. Puppy Feeding Fundamentals. American Kennel Club, 15 July 2019, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-feeding-fundamentals/.
Ward, Ernest. Puppy – Recommendations for New Owners Part II – General Care. VCA, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/puppy—recommendations-for-new-owners-part-ii—general-care.