Making sure your puppy has all the nutrition he needs is one of the most important things you can do to help him grow into a strong, healthy dog. Puppies and adult dogs have different nutritional needs, and as a result, it’s important to feed your puppy a complete and balanced food formulated for his life stage.
Here’s another way to think about it. Your puppy is building the bones, teeth, organs, etc. that he’ll need for a lifetime, so you want them to be the best they can be. As with anything else, it usually requires greater resources to build something than to maintain it. So if you’re feeding your puppy an adult maintenance dog food, he may not be getting all of the essential nutrients he needs in these crucial, early months.
So how can you tell if a food is adequate for a puppy’s needs?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) establishes dog food guidelines, and in order for a dog food to be sold in stores as “complete and balanced,” it must meet AAFCO’s nutritional profile standards. There are two dog food nutrient profiles that you should be aware of when choosing food for your puppy. One is “growth and reproduction” (which is the designation for a food formulated for puppies and pregnant or nursing dogs). The other is “adult maintenance” (which means that it’s formulated for adult dogs). Look at the label to ensure that you are buying a food that is right for your dog’s life stage.
If the label says that the dog food inside is formulated for “all life stages,” that means it meets the standards for both growth and reproduction and adult maintenance. In other words, it’s a food that has all the nutrients your growing puppy needs, and you won’t have to switch to a new food when your puppy becomes an adult dog.
If you feed your puppy a traditional puppy food formulated for growth and reproduction (typically higher in calories), you’ll want to switch your puppy to an adult maintenance dog food when he reaches maturity so as to avoid unintentional weight gain.
Here’s one last thing to consider. Just because your puppy looks all grown up on the outside doesn’t mean he has stopped growing on the inside. Most dogs aren’t mature until 12 months. Giant breeds may not fully mature until 24 months.
Not sure when your puppy can start eating adult dog food? Click here to learn more about when you can make the switch.