Skip to main content

When should you switch your puppy to adult dog food?

Puppies have their own needs, and those may be different from the adult dogs in your life. One big difference between raising puppies and caring for adult dogs is nutrition. While puppies won’t starve on regular dog food, they thrive with a diet formulated for their specific nutrition needs.

When you get a puppy, you’ll need to be ready to make changes frequently as your puppy grows. Eventually, puppies transition into adulthood, and as they do, they will need to switch to adult dog food. Understandably, it can be hard to know when to make the official switch. Let’s take a deep dive into your puppy’s nutrition to untangle myth from fact. In the meantime, you can also learn when will your puppy sleep through the night.

puppy food
Natali Zakharova/Shutterstock

Puppy nutrition basics

Puppies experience rapid growth, so they’ll require more nutrients than their adult counterparts. Puppy foods are designed to meet these caloric requirements without adding additional calories that could cause puppies to grow too quickly.

For large breed puppies, this is especially important. Growing too quickly can put stress on delicate joints and set up your large breed puppy for musculoskeletal issues for years. The right food handles nutrition in a safe and healthy proportion.

Puppies will need multiple meals per day to help stabilize energy and blood sugar. They’ll slowly transition to one to two meals per day as they get older.

Puppy food is too nutritionally dense for an adult dog and could cause weight problems if you don’t change over when the time is right. Talking to your vet will help you keep abreast of these changes and make the best decisions for health.

Feeding your dog through the first year

Once your puppy is weaned, dietary changes will happen often. Stay flexible and keep an open line of communication with your veterinarian to ensure proper feeding habits.

  • 6-12 weeks — Puppies this young have just weaned successfully and are ready to receive nutrition solely from dog food. Puppies may need three to four feedings per day to help stabilize energy levels and should slowly transition from moistened food to regular food by 10 or so weeks for large breeds and 14 or so weeks for small breeds.
  • 3-6 months — Puppies are beginning to lose their puppy bellies during this period, and your veterinarian may recommend reducing feedings by one if appropriate. It’s essential to watch your puppy’s weight to ensure growth doesn’t happen too quickly.
  • 6-12 months — Your puppy is transitioning to fewer feedings and becoming closer to its adult weight and body. Once your puppy reaches around 75% of its expected adult weight, your veterinarian may suggest transitioning to adult food for good.

How to transition from one food to another

  • Not all dogs have problems changing foods, but for those picky eaters or those with sensitive tummies, you may have to transition slowly.
  • When it’s time to transition to a new food, take a small amount of the new food and mix with a portion of the old food. Allow your dog to eat as usual.
  • Add a little more of the new food to the portion and continue feeding your dog as usual.
    Continue to switch portions, reducing the old food, and increasing the new food until it’s all the new food.
  • From now on, feed only the new food.
  • Throughout the process, watch for signs of distress or tummy issues and ease the amount of new food to give your puppy time to adjust.
  • If you continue to have issues with your puppy’s eating, address these issues with your veterinarian to find a solution.
puppy food
Berkay Gumustekin/Unsplash

How often should I feed my puppy?

Puppies will need to eat more than once a day, but the number of feedings will depend on your puppy. Take the daily recommended serving and divide it into three or four feedings per day, depending on what your veterinarian suggests.

The idea is to gradually reduce these feedings until your puppy becomes an adult and can maintain energy levels for longer. As an adult, your dog will only need one to two meals per day.

Should I buy expensive food?

While price shouldn’t be your only consideration, many higher-end foods have more dense nutrition contents, allowing you to feed your puppy less without sacrificing nutrition. Check with your vet to find a food that balances your budget with your puppy’s nutritional needs.

Should I feed wet or dry food?

Wet food is a great way to help your puppy transition from milk to standard dog foods, and dry food is easier to store. Whether you decide to serve wet or dry food or a combination of both will depend on your puppy’s preferences.

You may want to start with wet food and transition to dry food by feeding moistened dry food in the same transition method we suggested above. As long as your puppy is eating regularly, you’re fine.

Your puppy’s health in the first year

Your veterinarian is a wealth of information for when to stop feeding puppy food. You can decide when to switch to adult food together, depending on how your puppy grows and what’s best for your lifestyle as a pet owner.

Your puppy’s growth during the first year is an essential part of establishing a lifetime of health and well-being. It’s necessary to establish good habits so that your puppy can thrive.

Editors' Recommendations

How much should newborn puppies eat? Follow this feeding chart
Here's what you need to know about feeding newborn puppies
Bottle feeding a newborn puppy

Having newborn puppies around can be such a gift, but there's also a lot of work involved. You need to keep their enclosure clean, make sure they're fed, and stay on top of their health in a multitude of ways. Luckily, we're here to help you navigate your newborn puppies' feeding routine.

Whenever possible, newborn puppies should consume their mother's nutrient-rich milk, which helps protect them from illness while their immune systems develop. It's the perfect food for them! However, it's not always possible for a mama dog to feed her litter all by herself.

Read more
Is a puppy playpen better than a crate? Here’s what to consider before you buy one for your dog
Stuck between a puppy playpen or a crate for your dog? This guide will help
A beige Akita puppy stands on their back legs inside a pink wire playpen

Keeping your fur baby out of trouble around the house can be trickier than you might think. Tiny dogs can make big messes. Crates and playpens are just two ways pet parents keep their puppies safe and teach them where to sleep, play, and use the restroom; but these two helpful tools actually have quite different purposes. At first glance, however, crates look awfully small and more enclosed compared with pens. This may leave many pet owners wondering: Is a puppy playpen better than a crate?

Spoiler alert: Nope. While a plastic dog playpen leaves room for pups to run around and play, a canine-specific crate certainly has its time and place. However, what’s the difference between a crate and a playpen for your puppy?

Read more
5 easy-to-make DIY dog treats that you can make for your pup this fall
Fall-inspired DIY dog treats you can whip up
A marble countertop with miniature pumpkins and fall-themed dog treats

There are so many festive fall foods, but finding the perfect homemade dog treat recipe for your autumn gathering can be trickier than you think. Luckily, many of this season’s freshest crops and ingredients are healthy, nutritious autumn additions to your dog’s diet. Pumpkin, apple, even cinnamon … these flavors practically scream "fall."
Even if you don’t have any big plans, baking up some cute and healthy homemade dog treats is a great way to bond with your dog when the weather gets cozy. Food-motivated pups will especially appreciate these DIY dog treats, and you’ll love the sweet, cozy vibes you’ll get from cooking for your fur baby. It’s the perfect night in!

How to prepare pumpkin spice for dogs -- because even dogs should get a taste of this autumn delicacy
While you're sipping on a pumpkin spice latte, there's no reason your furry friend should miss out. Luckily, there's a dog-safe recipe for pumpkin spice that you can make from home.
However you want to prepare these autumnal ingredients, you should know a few things about pumpkin spice for dogs. Pumpkin on its own is full of nutrients, such as vitamins and iron; plus, its high fiber content can regulate finicky digestive systems (via American Kennel Club). Just ensure your dog doesn’t get added sugars with her pumpkin, as this isn’t good for her.
When preparing your spice mix, remember to avoid nutmeg. This ingredient isn’t healthy for pups, and it can easily be substituted for a similar flavor. Instead, a mix of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, clove, and a dash of vanilla extract will do. Use these ingredients to spice up nearly any biscuit, yogurt, or pumpkin-flavored dog treat--for you or your pup!

Read more