Why Size Matters When Transitioning Your Dog From Puppy to Adult Food

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Did you know that small dogs usually have to eat more per pound of body weight than large dogs?

As your dog enters adulthood, he should transition from puppy food to adult food. But the age at which he becomes an adult depends in part on his size. Toy dogs generally reach their adult size at a much earlier age than large dog breeds. So when should you stop feeding your dog puppy food and start feeding him adult food, and what else should you consider when making that switch?

Generally, once your dog has reached about 90 percent of his adult weight, he can begin to consume an adult diet. That may be around 9 to 12 months for small dogs, 12 to 14 months for medium breeds, and giant breeds make take up to 24 months to reach that weight. But remember, your veterinarian is always your best source of advice regarding your dog's nutritional needs and can tell you when it's time to switch from puppy to adult food, as well as recommend a diet that's appropriate for your dog's overall health status, body condition and activity level. Body condition, which your veterinarian can assess using a variety of visual and tactile clues, is a very important component in determining whether or when a dietary change is necessary for your pet.

The size of kibble you feed your dog may also depend in part on his size. If you're feeding him dry food, you'll probably want to choose a kibble your dog can crunch and enjoy. If you feed your tiny dog a giant kibble, he may not be able to chew it properly, because toy dogs tend to have smaller and weaker jaws than larger breeds, as well as smaller teeth. If you feed your giant breed a kibble designed for a toy dog, he may simply swallow the tiny pellets and miss out on the abrasive chewing action that can help clean teeth. Also keep in mind that regardless of size, the hardness and shape of the kibble may make it more or less difficult for your pet to consume.

It's also important to remember that different-size dogs have different caloric needs. Small dogs usually have to eat more per pound of body weight than large dogs. That's because small dogs typically have high metabolisms. But because a small dog's stomach isn't as big as a larger breed's, a small dog may require more calorie-dense food or several small meals a day.

When switching your puppy to a new food, it's important to make the transition gradually to avoid causing digestive upset. Start by mixing the puppy food with a small amount of the adult food, and over the course of the week, gradually increase the amount of adult food while decreasing the amount of puppy food.

In general, your dog's weight is the best indicator of whether you may need to feed him more or less. Your veterinarian can tell you if your dog is overweight and can make sure an underlying medical condition isn't the cause before helping you modify his diet. The same goes for if your dog is underweight. 

Provide your dog with good nutrition throughout adulthood, and you'll have a better chance of him entering his senior years in good health.

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