By Ashley Gallagher, DVM
Puppies of any size or shape are just about guaranteed to be adorable. Even though they seem similar, puppies grow at different rates depending on their breed. Large breed puppies like Labrador Retrievers and Great Danes, for example, need a much different diet for optimal growth than a tiny Yorkie or Chihuahua.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body and an absolute necessity for daily function and growth. Puppies require more protein than adult dogs because their bodies are busy growing. Puppy food should also be higher in calories than adult food to compensate for the energy puppies expend by growing and playing. About half of the calories they consume are spent on tissue growth and development.
You should consult your veterinarian to determine a healthy food for your growing puppy. Excessive protein in a diet is not only unnecessary, but in large breed puppies, it can result in an unbalanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus. This can make a puppy’s bones grow too quickly, resulting in abnormal joint development. That can lead to arthritis down the road. Large breed puppy food has a specific calcium and phosphorus ratio to ensure the bones develop properly to help prevent joint disease.
When Do I Switch My Puppy to Adult Dog Food?
Depending on the breed, most dogs will not stop growing for the first year or two. You can continue feeding them a puppy formula until their growth plates have sealed, as long as they are not overweight. However, you must work closely with a veterinarian to assess your puppy’s body condition score. This will ensure that your puppy switches from puppy to adult dog food at the ideal time. Your veterinarian can also recommend how much adult dog food you should give your dog, as too many extra calories and nutrients may be harmful.
Does it Make a Difference if My Puppy Has Been Spayed/Neutered?
Generally speaking, a puppy’s energy requirements will decrease immediately after surgery. Again, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian, as the amount of food may need to be adjusted to prevent the animal from becoming overweight or obese.
How to Choose the Best Adult Dog Food
You should choose an adult dog food formula from a dog food company that has undergone AAFCO feeding trials. This means that the specific formulation of the diet has been fed to dogs to make sure there are no deficiencies. As surprising as it may seem, many dog food companies make their food based on a recipe and never feed it to actual dogs before sending it into the stores. You want to choose a pet food company that invests in scientific research and consults with veterinary nutritionists to provide a dog food that is specially balanced for the pet’s lifestage.
You will also want to pay close attention to the AAFCO statement on the adult dog food formula. If the food is labeled as an “All Life Stage” food, the formula may have more fat and phosphorus than your adult dog needs. Discuss with your veterinarian what is best for your dog’s specific needs.