Dogs have healthy appetites, due in no small part to their evolution from wolves. Their canine ancestors once roamed the forests, scavenging whatever food or prey animals they were able to find. Today, far less scavenging is required for a pup to survive, but the desire to eat is still a driving factor for his day-to-day doggy routines. As his owner, it’s essential to make sure he’s getting the best nutrition possible in his bowl, but are all dog food types equally nourishing?
If you live in a multi-dog household, you may be wondering, “Can an adult dog eat puppy food?” This article will discuss the major differences between the adult dog food and puppy food so you can provide your pup with the best nutrition possible.
Adult Dog Food: Why Is It Important?
With his scavenging ancestors, pet parents may wonder why their dog can’t just eat whatever he wants in order to be healthy – table scraps, for example – rather than a balanced diet. Just as with humans, there is a big gap between surviving and thriving! A dog needs a diet tailored to his nutritional needs for the same reason humans strive to eat healthy: it’s the best way to ward off common illnesses, stay strong and active, and ensure a long, high-quality lifespan.
Adult dog food varieties are formulated specifically for older dogs: their protein balance is designed to provide exactly what is needed without going overboard or contributing to canine obesity. Depending on a dog’s specific needs, his adult dog food may also require certain adjustments to the ingredients, as with “raw”, allergen-free, or grain-free canine diets. Puppy food, which is generally less specific in its ingredients, can set his diet off-kilter and cause flare-ups of health or canine allergy issues.
Can I Feed My Adult Dog Puppy Food?
Every dog owner’s faced the conundrum at some point: the family dog is hungry, the “regular” food is empty or unavailable, and someone well-meaning offers a bag or bowl of puppy food instead. Taken at face value, it’s easy to rationalize just swapping the two brands out. After all, they’re both made for dogs, look similar, smell the same, and probably taste similar to him as well. The short answer is that yes, owners can feed an adult dog puppy food in a pinch, but it’s not something that should become habitual for several reasons:
Remember that dogs become used to “their” brand of food: Human stomachs can get upset and prone to urgent bathroom needs when a new food is suddenly introduced, and dogs are no different. Normally when switching dog food brands, veterinarians recommend a slow transition, mixing the food over several days or weeks into one to the other.
A sudden bowlful of puppy food can send an adult dog’s stomach on strike – and in some instances, leave pet parents with an unhappy pup, or an uncharacteristic “accident” inside. If he’s resisting a new brand of food when you are trying to switch your dog to adult food, try adding a little wet food or gravy on his adult food to make it more enticing.
Puppy food is a little like adult dog junk food: Puppies, like human babies, need a lot of calories to burn while they’re increasing exponentially in size. For larger-breed dogs, their size can double a few times on the way to adulthood, which means a lot of protein is burned in the process.
For an adult dog that has already done all of his growing, this extra protein isn’t burned off, and instead becomes extra weight that can have a negative impact on his health. An adult dog’s dietary needs become very different as he gets older, which is why there is food specifically made for elderly dogs. In fact, too much of certain puppy-friendly ingredients in his diet can tax filtering organs like the liver or kidneys, diminishing a dog’s quality of life. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of his needs, speak to a trusted vet for recommendations, and purchase the specially-formulated geriatric dog foods and supplements appropriate for him at either a favorite brick-and-mortar pet store or online.
Once or twice won’t hurt them, but again, don’t make it a habit: Just as humans do, a dog needs food on a regular basis to stay happy and healthy, so for pet folks in a pinch with only puppy food available, it’s better than nothing. Long term, however, whatever effort or cost owners may save serving up the wrong type of dog food will start to affect his health, so avoid making it a regular occurrence. If stomach discomfort is observed in a pet for more than a day or two once he’s switched back to adult food, contact his vet immediately for a check-up.
If getting to the grocery store or remembering to pick up adult dog food is an issue, consider using an online delivery service to make sure his brand of food doesn’t unexpectedly run out. If a friend or family member is picking up dog food for the household, taking a smartphone picture of the label and texting it can prevent miscommunications.
Feed Your Dog Age-Appropriately
The term “wolfing” down food is no coincidence: most dogs will happily eat anything that tastes good to them, regardless of the canine age it’s aimed for. Ultimately, once a dog has reached maturity and stopped growing, pet owners are responsible for providing their beloved adult pooch the right balance of canine nutrients. By avoiding puppy food and discussing the best nutritional options for his lifestyle with a trusted veterinarian, pet parents can ensure the health, vitality and longevity of their furry friends, which is of course a win-win for everyone!
“Frequently Asked Questions.” ACVN.org (American College of Veterinary Nutrition), (no publish date), http://www.acvn.org/frequently-asked-questions/#quality. Accessed June 23, 2019.
Sharp, Dr. Rob. “Is It Unhealthy for an Adult Dog to Eat Puppy Food?” Country Living.com, May 20, 2010, https://www.countryliving.com/life/kids-pets/a3407/feeding-adult-dog-puppy-food-0610/. Accessed June 23, 2019.
“Can Puppies Eat Adult Dog Food?” Purina.com, (no publish date), https://www.purina.com/articles/puppy/feeding/can-puppies-eat-adult-dog-food. Accessed June 23, 2019.
“Dog Nutrition Tips.” ASPCA.org, (no publish date), https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-nutrition-tips. Accessed June 23, 2019.