Just like us humans, for every different stage of their life your pet will require different levels of nutrition and care. Growing pups, like growing babies, need more nourishment to help their body cope with their rapid growth. 

Each type of dog food is designed with different goals in mind, for the different age stages of your pet. Puppy, adult and senior dog food are targeted at the specific needs of each age range. Just as it is important to know when to make the switch from adult to senior food, it’s detrimental to understand how and why to feed your puppy age-specific food. 

They Grow Fast – if you’ve had a puppy before, or have visited a friend’s pup you’ll know just how true this is. It feels like with each blink that you take, your puppy grows. In actual fact, puppies grow about 5-10% per day from 1 week of age to 8 weeks. Their growth rate will slow down from the 8 week mark, but they continue to grow for another 6 to 18 months. This, of course, varies for different breeds and according to their birth size.

The speed at which they are growing and learning means that their bodies need extra nourishment to help keep up with their constant changes. Because of this, puppies need to eat more in the way of protein (including higher concentrations of specific amino acids), fat, and certain minerals. 

They Burn More Energy – puppies have a lot more get-up-and-go than older dogs. They will be expending a lot of physical and mental energy all day long. Growing and learning are exhausting, energy-burning activities. Food fuels our brains as well as our growth, we’re sure your parents told you this one when you were a child. 

Puppy food tends to be much more calorific than food created for adults. Your puppy will need these extra calories to help them to grow and learn. 

They Are At High Risk of Disease – this particularly applies to large breed puppies, they are at higher than average risk for developmental orthopedic diseases (e.g hip and elbow dysplasia). The overly rapid growth of larger breeds may determine which dogs develop these conditions and which do not. 

Puppy food created for large breeds are slightly lower in fat, contain a little less calcium and phosphorus, and have a carefully balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio which aids these breeds in growing at a healthier rate. Puppies are also at risk for nutritional deficiencies if they eat a diet designed for adults, as it won’t contain all of the good stuff their bodies need.

When to switch puppies to adult dog food? 

Your pup will be ready for the switch when they have reached approx. 80% of their expected adult size. This will happen at different times for different breeds – growth rate depends on many factors, including birth size and breed. 

Small dogs will reach this point at around 9 or 10 months old, including: Chihuahuas, Miniature Pinschers, and Toy Poodles. Medium sized dogs will be eating puppy food until they are about 12 months old, and large and giant breeds will remain on puppy food the longest, until they are 12-16 months old.

If you are ever uncertain, also consult your veterinarian.