Can My Puppy Eat Adult Dog Food?

One of the biggest challenges of owning a puppy is making sure they get the proper nutrition. That way, they’ll grow into healthy and happy mature dogs down the road, with fewer health problems and a longer lifespan.

There are many packaged foods made explicitly for puppies to help them do just that (once they’ve been weaned, of course). The challenge, though, is to choose the puppy chow that fits their nutritional demands best.

Many new puppy owners have a problem with this, frankly, primarily if they’ve never owned a puppy before. Some choose based on recommendations from friends and family, while others buy puppy chow based on the packaging.

Some puppy owners who already have a dog choose to give them adult dog food rather than purchasing a separate food made for their pup. That, of course, begs the question; can my puppy eat adult dog food?

The answer is that, yes, your puppy can eat adult dog food, but you shouldn’t feed it to them. The reason why is that adult dog food is formulated to be perfect for adult dogs, not puppies. The occasional nibble on adult dog kibble won’t harm your pup, but feeding them adult dog food all the time (and instead of puppy chow) could cause them long-term health problems. 

In other words, yes, a puppy can eat adult dog food, but it shouldn’t. If you’re wondering what the differences are between the two types of dog foods, or when is the best time to switch from puppy to adult dog food, read on. I’ve got the answers to those questions and several more that could be very helpful for a new puppy owner like yourself!

What’s the Difference between Puppy and Adult Dog Food?

This is a question that I hear all the time. The fact is, there’s a world of difference between puppy food and adult dog food. Most of it has to do with the nutritional benefits the two different foods provide. 

Here’s the thing; adult dogs need to maintain their health, and so adult dog foods are formulated to do just that and keep them healthy and strong once they reach their full size and weight. They have less fat and protein because adult dogs need less of both. Also, because too much of either one can cause an adult dog to become overweight and sluggish.

Puppy foods are formulated to help them grow, including their muscles, nerves, skin, and so forth. They have higher amounts of protein and fat, both of which are critical when a puppy’s body is growing and maturing. Also, puppy food has the added benefit of being perfect for momma dogs who are still lactating. 

Protein, truth be told, is a combination of different amino acids. Some amino acids are better for puppies than for adult dogs, and vice versa. That’s why you‘ll find double the amount of the following amino acids in puppy food, including:

  • Arginine
  • Isoleucine
  • Phenylalanine 
  • Histidine
  • Lucine
  • Phenylalanine-tyrosine

Also, as I mentioned above, puppy food contains a lot more fat than adult dog food. That’s because, while adult dogs should get about 5.5% of their calories from fat, puppies need to get about 9% of their calories from fat.

One final difference between adult dog food and puppy food is the mineral content. Calcium is one of the vital minerals that puppies need, which is why the AAFCO recommends that puppy food has at least 1% calcium while adult dog food only has about 0.6%. Puppy foods also have more phosphorus than adult dog foods.

What Happens if I Feed my Puppy Regular Dog Food?

At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned that if a puppy eats the occasional bit of adult dog chow, it’s no real cause for concern. However, if you switch from puppy food to adult dog food too early, it can lead to several health problems, some of which can affect your dog for its entire life.

For example, many adult dog foods contain fillers and sugars that are incredibly unhealthy for a puppy. Also, as we talked about earlier, puppies grow rapidly and need a lot more fat, protein, and minerals than adult dogs. If you feed them adult dog food, they won’t get those vitally essential nutrients and won’t grow and mature optimally.

Puppies also have weaker jaw muscles and smaller mouths, making it difficult for them to eat some brands and types of dog food which are larger and harder. Even worse, the teeth in a puppy’s mouth are softer than an adult’s. Chewing on harder, larger pieces of adult dog food can break their teeth and, in severe cases, dislocate their jaw.

One last thing to keep in mind is that puppies have stomachs that are more sensitive than adult dogs. For that reason, it’s difficult for them to tolerate the nutritional content of adult dog food. It’s harder for them to digest also, which can upset their stomach and cause digestive problems as well as growth and maturity problems. 

When Should my Puppy Switch to Eating Regular Dog Food?

Typically, a puppy’s nutritional needs change between 18 and 24 months of age. They also, in many cases, get spayed or neutered during this time which lowers their need for food that delivers increased energy.

Unlike humans, there are many different types and breeds of dogs, and they mature at different rates. Smaller dog breeds tend to mature much faster than larger dog breeds, and some can be fully mature as early as 9 months old. Large breeds, however, might not be fully mature until 14 months of age. 

The biggest dog breeds, including Great Danes, can take a full two years to reach full maturity. For that reason, it’s always best to talk to your veterinarian before switching your puppy from puppy food to adult dog food. 

Typically though, it’s a gradual transition, and thus can often be done without the need for a veterinarian visit. Experts recommend switching from puppy food to adult dog food between 18 and 24 months. Again, however, the breed and size of your puppy do make a difference.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the question “can my puppy eat adult dog food?”, the answer is that, no, it’s best to feed them puppy food until they’ve become adult dogs. If they happen to eat a small amount of adult dog food occasionally, it’s typically no big deal, but it shouldn’t become the norm. 

The reason why is that puppy food is vastly different, nutritionally speaking than adult dog food.  Puppy food contains more protein, fat, and minerals than adult dog food. If growing pups don’t get their nutritional benefits, it can negatively affect their health immediately and in the future.

I hope today’s blog was informative and helpful. If you have more questions about your new puppy, their nutritional needs, and other questions about aspects of their health, please see some of my other puppy blogs. They’re filled with interesting, real-world information that can be very helpful for a new puppy owner like yourself.