Dog Accessories

What’s the Difference Between Puppy and Adult Dog Food?

A puppy and an adult dog have different dietary needs. It is essential that those dietary needs are fulfilled in the food which is given to them. These dietary needs stem from the fact that a puppy and an adult dog have some crucial biological differences. 

  • Puppies require a lot of energy to maintain their growth rate and to build up a healthy body. They are also very energetic and end up burning a lot of calories faster than an adult dog and hence they require more calories in their food. Whereas,
  • Adult dogs use a lot less energy as compared to puppies and hence require a specific amount of nutrients and calories to maintain energy levels and a healthy body. 

The difference between puppy and adult dog food is more than just calorie count though it’s definitely an important one.

Difference between puppy and adult dog food

There is a major difference between both types of food which revolves around their nutrition and calorie intake. Since we’ve already established both types of dogs have different needs. Now let’s see which food best suits their needs and how it achieves it to better understand the difference between puppy and adult dog food.

  • Puppy food is targeted towards growth whereas adult food is targeted towards maintenance. 
  • The caloric density in a puppies food is greater than the caloric density in adult dogs food. Since puppies are continuously growing tissues, they burn a lot more calories and hence they need a lot of it which only puppy food can provide and since adult dogs are grown up they don’t burn their calories at a lower rate than puppies.
  • Puppy food being filled with calories is also packed with proteins known as amino acids as compared to adult dogs food. Amino acid helps in building strong bones and healthy bones. A minimum of 22.5 % crude protein is needed for puppy food and a minimum of 18% of crude protein for adult dog food as per the recommendations of AAFCO ( Association of American Feed Control Officials )
  • DHA( Docosahexaenoic acid ) is a fatty acid which is again lacking from an adult dog’s food. It’s required to make a puppy smarter and his nervous system stronger. For fat, AAFCO recommends that puppy food should contain 8.5% crude fat while adult dog food should consist of 5.5% crude fat.
  • Puppy food also has a smaller kibble size which makes it easier for puppies to consume compared to the slightly bigger kibble size of adult dog food.

Can Puppies eat adult dog food?

Yes but also no. Since adult dog food lacks a lot of the essential proteins needed for the growth and strengthening of the body like DHA and amino acids, the puppy can be vulnerable to serious health issues in the long run if he’s missing out on these essential ingredients in his diet. Even an adult dog can feed on a puppies food at times but if fed often it can lead to obesity.

When to switch from puppy to adult dog food?

Adulthood in most breeds is reached by 1-2 year but it mostly depends on the size and growth of the dog. Since it varies drastically in each breed, it’s best to consult a vet for the best time to make the switch. The transition to adult food should be slow and must be started by adding a bit of adult food into the puppy food and the proportion should be increased everyday according to the response you get from your dog. Generally it takes a week or two to make the complete transition to just feeding adult dog food.


The difference between a puppy’s food and an adult dog’s food is very real. If those differences are not taken seriously it can have some severe consequences. Puppies are at risk for nutritional deficiencies if they regularly eat a diet designed for adults. Whereas, Adult dogs are at a risk of obesity if they regularly eat a diet designed for puppies. Contacting a vet is the best thing to do whenever you’re confused about the needs of your dog.

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