If your small, fluffy furball has grown into a sleek, active adolescent, you may be wondering if it's time to consider switching from puppy food to adult nutrition. Because puppy food is formulated to provide nourishment and calories to rapidly growing bodies, it's not suitable for adult maintenance. Making the switch doesn't have be complicated, though. Keep factors such as your dog's size, age and growth patterns in mind and, if in doubt, talk to your vet.
Smaller dogs physically mature more quickly than larger dogs. While larger puppies grow far more dramatically, smaller puppies don't grow nearly as long. Large puppies may grow until they're 24 months of age, whereas smaller breeds may be finished growing at 8 months.
Even within the same breed, individual dogs grow at different rates of speed. When trying to determine if your puppy is finished growing, compare her size to that of her parents. For large and giant breed puppies, it can be useful to have your vet X-ray your puppy's growth plates. If the growth plates haven't closed, your puppy isn't finished growing.
Many people consider a puppy an adult at approximately 12 months of age. Unfortunately, though, most breeds don't fall into a cut-and-dry pattern. Small breeds tend to mature physically around 8 months of age, medium-sized breeds around 12-14 months and large breeds around 18 months to 2 years. Extra-large breeds can continue growing well through their second year.
Making the Switch
When you determine it's time to make the switch, do so very gradually. Reduce the amount of puppy food you're feeding a quarter of a cup at a time while stirring in equal amounts of adult food. Not only does gradually changing foods reduce stomach upset, it helps your puppy adjust to the nutrient shift.
Since 2001, Kea Grace has published in "Dog Fancy," "Clean Run," "Front and Finish" and an international Czechoslovakian agility enthusiast magazine. Grace is the head trainer for Gimme Grace Dog Training and holds her CPDT-KA and CTDI certifications. She is a member of the APDT and is a recognized CLASS instructor. She's seeking German certification from the Goethe Institut.