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posted by Dan Schaefer

How and When Can You Take a Large Breed Dog Off Puppy Food?

A beagle puppy eats from a bowl of dog food.

There is a generalization that dogs less than a year old are considered puppies, and when they cross that 12-month threshold, then they enter into adulthood. However, it’s not that cut and dried. It’s important to know how to wean a puppy off of puppy food and transition into adult food and when to do it. It’s okay if you don’t do it precisely on the day and on the hour of your pup’s 1st birthday, but there is a general guideline to follow.

When to Switch Your Large Breed Puppy to Adult Food

Most people say the general threshold is one year. Dogs mature into adulthood after the first year on earth. While this may be true for most dogs (small to medium breeds), it may not be for toy and large/giant breeds. Small breeds like the Chihuahua reach maturity rather quickly. Since they are small, there isn’t much growing for their little bodies to do.

As for large and giant breeds, the opposite is true. These dogs have a lot of growing until they reach their full size, which is upwards of 80 to 100 pounds. Naturally, the development process will take longer, so large breeds don’t need to switch to an adult diet until they are anywhere from 1.5 years to 2 years old. 

The range is due to the maximum weight of the breed at maturity. For example, a golden retriever generally won’t be as large as a Mastiff breed, so a golden retriever can be on adult food at 1.5 years while a mastiff may need longer.

Why Is It Important to Switch Your Pup’s Food?

Why Is It Important to Switch Your Pup’s Food?

Why is it necessary to switch diets? Is it just a ploy by dog food companies to wrangle more money out of us? The answer is no, and that diet switching is essential for your dog's growth and health.

The main reason behind the transition is the variance in nutritional composition between puppy and adult food. Generally, there are more calories and nutrients in puppy food, which makes sense because they need it to grow. You can also find higher levels of DHA needed for brain development, fat and protein for muscle development, and omega fatty acids for skin and coat maintenance.  

If you do not switch your pup over from large breed puppy food when the time is right, the extra levels of nutrients can actually become harmful. For example, the excess fat and calories can lead to weight gain, which is terrible for a large breed’s joints when they are already more susceptible to joint issues like hip dysplasia

How to Transition from Puppy to Adult Food

We’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you determine when and how to take your puppy off of the puppy diet and switch to adult food.

When Should You Do It?

There is no concrete “when.” The answer is more a consideration of many factors, including your dog’s size, activity level, health, and eating habits. It’s okay if you don’t do it exactly on the day or month your pup turns 1.5 to 2 years old, but the switch is necessary. 

The best way to figure out the appropriate time is to check with your vet. Your trusted vet professional can offer helpful insights into your dog’s health. 

How to Transition from Puppy to Adult Food

How to Make the Switch

There are a few things to note before making the switch:

  • Do it slowly (the transition is a gradual one, about 5-7 days in total)
  • Watch for any gastrointestinal issues and consider adding a Probiotic to their diet to help with the transition
  • Check if your dog is enjoying his new food

Day 1

The switch should begin with about 10-25% new food and 90-75% old food in the bowl.

Day 2

If your puppy does well after the first day and first poop, increase it to 20-30% new food and 70-80% old food.

Day 3

Still no problems? Great! Then gradually move onto 25-40% new food and 60-75% old food

Day 4

Now add 50-60% new food and 40-50% old food. 

Day 5

We’re almost there! Now you can switch to 70% new food and 30% old food.

Day 6

Just a little more to go! Now try 75-90% new food and 10-25% old food

Day 7

Day 7 is when the entire bowl should be the new food.

As mentioned, you don’t have to spread out the transition process to 7 days. If your dog has always done well with food and seems to have a strong tummy, you can condense the process to 5 days. 

How To Take a Large Breed Dog Off Puppy Food

Extra Tips for the Switch

Some experts say that neutering and spaying your pet will immediately decrease the need for the nutrition levels in puppy food, but we don’t suggest taking your puppy off the regular diet immediately as sometimes more nutrition is better when dogs are recovering.

The best way to make sure you’re doing the right thing is to ask your vet.

Remember when we said that large and giant breeds are more susceptible to joint issues? It can be exacerbated with rapid growth, so it’s very important for large breed dogs to grow into their bodies gradually because it can stress the joints.

The best way to make sure your large breed is growing steadily is to use specially formulated large breed dog puppy food. This is still true when your dog reaches maturity. You can find large-breed specific foods at your local pet store with the right balance of nutrients to ensure a steady growth with control over fat and caloric content.

The Bottom Line

Making the switch from puppy to adult dog food is necessary; the question is when. The “when” is different for toy breeds (anywhere from 6 to 10 months), regular small and medium breeds (typically one year), and large to giant breeds (1.5 to 2 years). When the time comes, make sure to make the switch gradually.

To read more about your dog’s health and wellness needs, visit the Native Pet blog.

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