Getting a puppy is a lot of work.
There’s the potty training, the endless playtimes, and the STOP! DON’T CHEW ON THAT!
Feeding your puppy should be simple, right? Vetted vets get a lot of questions about what and how to feed puppies, and one of the most common is, “When should I switch my puppy to adult dog food?” Here’s the skinny.
When Should You Switch from Puppy Food to Adult Food?
The short answer is: It’s complicated. Most vets agree it should be done somewhere between 6 months and 24 months of age, but that’s a big window!
The long answer is more nuanced, and it has everything to do with your dog as an individual. The baseline is that you want to switch your puppy to adult food when she is at or around her adult height. That point can be hard to identify, though, so how do you know exactly when that is?
How Do I Know My Puppy Has Reached Adult Height?
Puppies mature at drastically different rates, just like people. Your dog’s physical maturation has everything to do with her metabolism, her energy levels, and how much she exercises. Her appetite could also impact how quickly she grows, too.
Remember that small dogs reach adult height much faster than large dogs. It makes sense, right? Small dogs have less to grow. A small dog like a French Bulldog might reach her full height at 10-12 months of age, at which point she can be switched to adult food. A Toy Chihuahua? She might top out at only 6 months old!
The opposite is true for big dogs, who need more calories for longer as they continue to grow. A large dog like a Labrador might take 18 months to get “full grown.” A medium-sized Basset Hound might take fewer, and a giant Bernese Mountain Dog could take up to two years.
The thing is, there is no one answer to when you should switch your puppy to adult food. The clearest sign to look for that your dog is ready is to notice when she stops eating all the food in her bowl. This might never happen, but even if your growing dog seems to eat less ravenously than she once did, her body’s caloric requirements might be slowing down as she reaches her full size.
How to Switch Your Puppy to Adult Dog Food
Your puppy might be eating two meals a day, but she might be eating three. If so, it’s time to cut her back to a morning and evening feeding as she matures.
Also remember that you should never switch your dog’s food all at once. Make the switch over the course of a week or two, slowly combining more and more adult food with less and less puppy food at a time. Expect a mild amount of gastro discomfort as your dog gets used to her new grub.
And finally, always follow the directions on your dog’s food! Measure, measure, measure…every time. We’ve seen far too many well-meaning dog owners make the switch to adult food only to inadvertently feed their dogs twice as many calories as they actually need.