At their age, babies have yet to gain the same eating capacity as adults. This is why their sustenance mostly comes from milk during the early stages of their lives until they are able to eat solid food.

This is also the case for animals like humankind’s best friend: the dog.

Dogs have varying food requirements during their different stages of growth: as a puppy, an adult dog, and a senior canine. This guide will explain when, why, and how you should transition your furry pal with food formulated for these different stages.

When? The Best Time to Transition to Different Dog Food

Pet parents are responsible for knowing the right time to change pet food for their four-legged babies. If you’re new at this, you need to remember the most important things to consider: the size of your dog, their breed, and age. For small and medium breeds, adulthood comes around their first birthday, with the exception of toy breeds, which are considered adults at nine months of age.

Their weight also varies upon maturity. Small breeds weigh less than 20 pounds, while medium-sized puppies have a weight range of 21 to 50 pounds.

As for larger dogs, you can switch to food made specifically for adult dogs once they reach 18 to 24 months old. Bigger breeds take longer to mature – some may even still be growing upon reaching their second year of life. This is why knowing a large-breed dog’s weight won’t be useful in determining when to transition yours to adult dog food.

If you’re having a hard time predicting the maturity of your pet, revisit the rescue group or shelter you adopted him from. It will also help to consult a veterinarian about this, so you can be certain if it is time to transition your dog from a puppy diet to adult dog food to keep him healthy and well-nourished.

Why? The Main Reason for the Change in Diet

Like people, dogs’ nutritional needs change as they grow older. An excellent example of this is their protein requirements.

Younger dogs need more protein because they need it as they grow, while adults need less. Meanwhile, too much protein can wreak havoc on an elderly canine’s kidneys and liver.

The good news is that plenty of dog food brands now carry different products for every life stage of your canine.

Puppy formulas have the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients to support puppy growth, whereas adult dog food has a different balance of ingredients.

Meanwhile, some senior doggie munchies may include supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine to help ease their joint problems.

Of course, age isn’t the only factor in making a pet food switch. It can also be because of your pooch’s sensitivity to the food he is eating.

Some dogs develop adverse reactions to certain ingredients even if they’ve been eating the same thing for several years without experiencing any issue. If this is the case, your veterinarian might recommend a diet switch. You may be advised to try “novel” proteins, which is their way of saying “meat that your pet has never tried before.”

How? Top Tips in Swapping Dog Food

Don’t think that just because you understand when and why you should switch that you can go ahead and give your puppy a full bowl of adult dog food upon maturity.

Even if it’s high-quality pet food, there’s more to the process than immediately changing all the contents of their food bowl.

Below are some tips you should follow when swapping dog food:

Do it gradually.

The first and most important thing you need to remember when swapping out dog food is to do it gradually. Never serve your four-legged buddy new food 100 per cent in one go.

Instead, mix a small amount in his current food, slowly increasing the ratio in favour of the new food within a given period until all his food bowl contents have been replaced.

Here’s a sample timeline you can follow for the short transition:
  • Day 1 to 3 – three-quarters current food plus one-quarter new food
  • Day 4 to 6 – equal parts of old and new food
  • Day 7 to 9 – one-quarter current food added to three-quarters new food
  • Day 10 – 100 per cent new food
Switching dog food on a staggered basis will reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset in your furry pal.

Pay attention to your pet, not his food bowl.

During the transition, make sure that you focus on your pet and not his food bowl. This is true for both switching pet food and dog feeding in general.

It doesn’t matter whether the food vanishes from his bowl or not. What matters is how well his nutritional needs are being met based on his body type and metabolism.

That said, if your pup isn’t touching his food or tends to pick at it, you must take it as a sign that he’s ready to switch to an adult diet. This is because puppy formulas leave adult dogs feeling full even if they consume less than their usual portions.

Prepare for side effects.

Switching food for different life stages can be a bit tricky, so it is possible that you might not get it right the first time.

Maybe you put in too much of the new food, or perhaps you didn’t spend enough time to allow your pet to get used to a certain ratio. Whatever the case, you need to be ready to handle the adverse effects of dog food transition on your pup.

For most dogs, the most common consequence of switching out food too quickly is diarrhoea. This should pass without the need for medication for most adult dogs, but if your pet is below one year of age, it would be best to bring them to the vet immediately for rehydration and treatment.

In some cases, your pet may also throw up. This can happen a few times, depending on how sensitive they are to what they’ve consumed. If this happens, offer free access to water but avoid giving them any food. This will allow the stomach to rest.

Keep Your Pet Nourished

Keeping your pet nourished is all about knowing his food needs based on his age, breed, size, and other factors. Let this article guide you in swapping out dog food safely.

AUTHOR BIO

Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet's Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.