Can Puppies Eat Adult Dog Food? Fact Checked By Our Vet
You are a new puppy owner (or about to be)! Congratulations! It’s exciting to welcome a new pup into your home. No doubt the question of puppy food has reared its head a few times.
What is the best type of puppy food to buy? And is puppy food even necessary? Is it just repackaged adult food that simply serves to confuse you?
Don’t worry - we are going to debunk the whole thing. If you have ever wondered if puppies can eat adult dog food, you are in the right place.
Related: What is AAFCO? The Association of American Feed Control Officials
Related: What Is the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA)?
Related: AAFCO vs PFIAA: Dog Food Standards Comparison Australia
Why Can’t Puppies Eat Adult Dog Food?
So let’s cut to the chase. Can you give your puppy the best adult dog food?
No...but also yes. Let me explain.
Imagine a human toddler. You can absolutely give a toddler adult food. It is normally prepared differently but it can be done. The reasons we create food especially for toddlers, or at least differ their diets from ours, are for the same reasons you are better off buying the best specially formulised puppy food:
1. Nutritional needs
If your puppy eats adult food, it is unlikely to cause any significant harm. That said, there are special nutritional needs that help your puppy to grow healthy and strong that aren’t as prevalent in adult food.
Some include extra calcium for bone health, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, and oils for skin health. These aspects are paid close attention to in food formulated for younger dogs. This is why it is recommended by most vets to keep feeding puppy food to your little one until they have stopped growing into their adult bodies.
2. Size of kibble
When starting your puppy on dry food, adult kibble may just be too large. For delicate baby teeth, the large size may cause injuries. It’s like giving a toddler a whole apple to munch on instead of chopping it into sensible pieces. In the early stages of transitioning puppies onto dry food, you may even find that you’ll need to wet the kibble with warm water to make it easier to chew. Teething with puppies is a thing, just like human babies.
Check out our YouTube video on Can Puppies Eat Adult Dog Food?
Quick Guide To Feeding Your Puppy
So we agree that puppy food is the best type to support your dog’s growth into the beautiful, healthy canine they should be. To help even further, here is a quick guide to what your pup should be eating by when.
Related: What Can Puppies Eat?
After a puppy has been weaned, from around 6 to 8 weeks old, you can start feeding your pup moistened dry puppy food. (1) Young puppies need to be fed quite often and will also relieve themselves often. Around four small feedings per day are necessary at this early stage.
Onto the 3 to 6 month age bracket and you’ll still need to be feeding your dog puppy food. Sometimes puppy food will even indicate the age ranges that the food is best suited to. It helps support your puppy at each stage of development with whatever nutrients they need the most. At this age, you can drop feedings to three times a day. (2)
PRO TIP: Puppies naturally have a bit of extra weight on them. This should start to subside around the 12-month mark. If they are still large and in charge after 6 months, you may need to consider smaller portions.
After 6 months, you can start to lower the feeding amount to two times per day. You can follow the guidelines set out by your vet for adequate portions. Around the 9 month mark, most dogs are ready to start the transition to eating adult food. But this completely depends on your dog’s breed and stages of development. Some larger breeds take much longer to mature and therefore can’t start the adult food train until much later than small and medium dogs can. It’s all case by case.
How To Transition Your Puppy To Adult Food
Transitioning your puppy to adult dog food takes some time and patience. Switching food brands, in general, is always a bit sensitive. It can cause stomach upset if you switch over cold turkey.
Related: How To Change Dog Foods.
The best way to do this is to mix in adult food with your puppy’s food little by little. Your dog will get acclimatised to the new food and adjust to eating it all of the time. When doing this, be wary of calorie intake and portion control. Puppy food and adult food do not have the same calorie density.
Here are some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible:
1. Keep the same brand as their puppy food
Brands want to keep you loyal. The adult versions of the puppy food you buy are likely just as appetising and nutritious. But if that doesn’t work...
2. Switch brands or flavours
It may be clashing with the puppy food or just not to their taste. Some dogs are fussier than others.
3. Make the meal more flavourful
Adding a bit of gravy (onion and garlic free) to the kibble can make it more enticing to eat. However, we don’t recommend you make a regular habit of this. Gravy has high sodium content and raises the calorie count of the meal overall. But a little bribery doesn’t hurt from time to time. If you are struggling to get your puppy to eat the grown-up food, this is a nice treat to get them going.
What Is The Best Type Of Food For Your Puppy?
In Australia, it can be hard to find high-quality puppy food. Our largely unregulated pet food industry makes it easy for nasty preservatives and harmful chemicals to skate through unnoticed to unsuspecting dog owners.
The effects of these preservatives are a slow burn so it’s difficult to spot but starting your pup on the highest quality food you can in their early life will set them up for the healthiest growth and development possible.
This is why we always recommend that you look out for puppy food brands that follow AAFCO guidelines.
It’s an extra seal of quality that your puppy is getting the very best of the best on the market. AAFCO accredited brands are also best continued throughout your dog’s life.
Related: When To Switch Your Puppy To Adult Dog Food?
Is Puppy Food Necessary?
Yes! While your little one is highly unlikely to keel over if they consume kibble meant for adult dogs, your growing puppy needs special attention and care in the growing phases of their lives. Just like human babies, the nutritional balance needed at each stage of puppyhood is very different from maintaining the health of an adult.
Therefore, opting for good quality puppy food is the best course of action to ensure the healthy growth of your puppy.
The rule of thumb is whenever they stop growing. You can consult your veterinarian and online facts regarding your dog’s breed to best understand the typical age of maturity for your puppy. It varies from breed to breed. Many small to medium dogs are considered “adults” after 12 months. Some larger breeds take up to two years to mature - think Newfoundlands, Great Danes, Mastiffs, etc.
Yes, they can but be wary of baby teeth! They might find it uncomfortable to eat solid foods at first. By mixing the food with some warm water, you soften the kibble into a more manageable bite.
Puppy weight is a thing. Your puppy in the early stages of their lives should have a bit of extra pudge on them which is completely natural. The pudge will lessen over time - usually around 6 months it lessens significantly. In any case, you should always be able to feel your puppy’s ribs. Not see them but feel them if you gentle press their sides. They should have a waist and not look like a ball. Their belly should also slope upwards to meet their back legs. (4) If you are concerned about your puppy’s weight, chat with your vet.
Interesting question! The research shows that some dogs are sensitive to grains but not all of them. In fact, most puppies will be completely fine with regular puppy food. This is also because, in general, (high-quality) puppy food is really high in protein content and skimps on the grains. Therefore, normal puppy food should be fine.
If you notice that your puppy’s bowel movements are loose, or they have excessive bloating, grain sensitivity could be an issue. It’s like having a gluten intolerance. In those situations, you may want to switch to grain-free puppy food. Consult your vet before making any final decisions.
- "Weaning Puppies: What to Do”. Fetch by WebMD. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/weaning-puppies-what-do
- Mansourian, E. August 15, 2021. “Puppy Feeding Fundamentals”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-feeding-fundamentals/
- LaMon, V. December 28, 2020. "What is AAFCO and What Does It Do?". PetMD. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/What-Is-AAFCO-and-What-Does-It-Do
- Mattinson, P. January 13, 2023. “Puppy Development Stages with Growth Charts and Week by Week Guide”. The Happy Puppy Site. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://thehappypuppysite.com/puppy-development-stages