Caitlin UltimoNutrition / Pet Diet Tips

The Ages and Stages of Dog Food: From Puppy to Adult to Senior

Pet owners want to treat their animals like a part of the family, which means feeding their puppy or dog the right kind of pet food at appropriate times throughout their lives. Starting off with puppy chow is the first important step. It’s loaded with high-quality protein for energy and development, as well as the vital calories your growing canine needs.

Learning when to switch from puppy pet food to adult dog food is often based on your animal’s age, though his breed, and therefore size, is also a factor. For most dogs, this food transition should be made at about 12 months of age,” says Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, staff doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center.

Here’s some advice for keeping up with your pet’s changing dog nutrition needs:

Feed Him Right

A puppy is super active! And because of his rapid growth during the first year, feeding a puppy puppy food is a must. Young dogs require nutrition that’s different from foods that are made for adult dogs, explains Hohenhaus. “Puppy food is denser nutritionally, with more calories and protein per cup, can or mouthful, which allows a small dog’s stomach to accommodate these nutrients,” she notes.

Consider the Breed

While your dog’s age is a good guide when thinking about a change in his pet food, it’s also worth noting his breed. A small dog (usually under 30 pounds) will be fully grown between 10 and 12 months, though some are considered mature sooner. A medium canine with a weight range of 40 to 60 pounds grows more slowly and is ready for adult food between 12 and 16 months of age. Big animals (60 pounds and over) take even longer to reach adulthood, which means they may need puppy chow for a full two years. Once your pup’s fully grown, you can feed him a meal like Purina Pro Plan Savor Adult Shredded Blend Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food, a mix of kibble plus meat for texture and taste.

Make a (Slow) Switch

As you consider switching from puppy food to adult dog food, adopt a gradual approach. A change in your pup’s kibble will take some getting used to, so plan to transition him over the course of a week. If you go any faster than this, your pup could experience gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea. Start by mixing the same high-quality adult food with the puppy version, increasing the bigger dog chow as the week progresses. One adult dry dog food to try is Wellness Grain-Free Complete Health Adult Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food, which is easy to digest and includes nutritious omega-3 fatty acids. For pet owners who feed their animals gluten-free food, there’s The Honest Kitchen Force Grain-Free Beef Dehydrated Dog Food.

Move to Senior Food

Once you’ve made the pet nutrition switch at the puppy stage, adult food will serve your fur baby well until he’s considered to be a senior dog (check with your veterinarian for age guidelines, as breeds can vary). Senior dogs need fewer calories than adult dogs. “The right dog food for older canines contains an appropriate, different level of vitamins and minerals,” says Hohenhaus. “So if adult food is fed to a senior dog, he may end up with a reduced number of calories as well as inadequate vitamins and minerals,” she adds. In addition, older dogs may need a specially formulated diet to help manage pet health issues such as kidney disease, diabetes or intestinal conditions. Try Halo Ground Beef Recipe Senior Grain-Free Canned Dog Food for a wholesome and nutritious meal for your senior pet.

Ask the Vet

If you have questions about dog nutrition, ask your vet who knows your pet’s health history and needs. It’s always a good idea to get some guidance when it comes to feeding a puppy or dog, whether it’s his regular diet or treats.