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Dogs that are less than two years of age are considered puppies, and it is important that they are being fed puppy formula as opposed to foods meant for adult dogs. According to a 2012 research study by the United States Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, 36.5% of households in the United States have a dog or a puppy.
These dog lovers should know what to feed their pets, but some may be clueless about the impact that feeding the wrong food can have on the dog’s digestive system. They may be wondering what to feed their new furry friend right after they bring him home and one of the first questions that may come to mind is “Can he eat adult dog food even though he’s only six weeks old?” While some folks might think there’s not much of a difference, they couldn’t be any more wrong.
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Puppy Food Nutritional Differences
Puppies grow for about two to three years before they reach adulthood. Their bodies require more protein to grow at an acceptable rate. While adult dog foods contain protein, it’s not enough to maintain the puppy’s proper growth.
Puppy food has an increased amount of protein and fat, as well as fewer carbohydrates. While adult dogs are able to eat puppy food, it can result in weight gain due to the higher amount of protein. In order to make sure the food is properly formulated, you should look for the American Association of Feed Control Officials’ nutritional value label on the bag.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends options that contain at least 56 grams of protein and 21 grams total fat for puppies. The recommended protein for adult dogs is less than half of the puppy formula and their need for fat decreases by 33%.
Another difference to keep in mind is proportions.
Portion sizes almost always depend on the dog’s metabolism and body type. Requirements for nutrition vary from dog to dog. For example, if you feed your puppy two full servings a day and he begins to only eat half of what was put in his bow. It may mean he is ready to start eating less because his body isn’t requiring as much protein and fat as it was the week before.
Most puppies, however, usually eat multiple small portions a day to avoid unintentional over-eating which may cause obesity later in his life. Adult dogs tend to eat fewer, but larger, portions throughout the day.
Puppy food can quickly lead to excessive weight gain for adult dogs, so transitioning is important. Transitioning from puppy food to adult food can be a confusing task. If you have a puppy, you want to make the change to adult food when he is approaching his adult height. The main issue with that is that different breeds enter adulthood at different rates. Something to remember is that smaller breeds mature faster than larger breeds.
Small dogs up to 30 pounds mature around 10 to 12 months of age but some can mature even earlier. Medium-sized dogs such as Labrador Retrievers and Bulldogs up to 80 pounds enter adulthood between 12 to 16 months. Large breeds over 80 pounds don’t usually mature until they reach about two years old. Once these milestones are reached, it is safe to upgrade your dog’s food.
Many companies have worked with canine experts to develop special formulas for both puppies and adult dogs. These include dry food and wet food. The foods in the “dry food” category are the foods that are solid bits usually made for adult dogs, big or small.
In terms of the physical appearance of most dry kibble dog food, you will notice that puppies will have much smaller kibble. This is because it is designed to be eaten easily with fewer jaw movements that encourage them to eat it.
For example, adult dog food for Labradors is going to differ in kibble size compared to puppy-sized kibble for the same breed. Similar to the way it would differ to dachshund dog food and a dog food brand known for different kibble sizes is Royal Canin.
Canned food is considered to be in the “wet food” group. It is watery so it tends to be easier for puppies to swallow since their teeth are not yet fully developed and it’s hard for them to chew hard food. The semi-moist food is not wet food or dry food. It is less watery than canned food, but not as hard as the dry food. The texture is close to that of hamburger meat. Prices between these food groups is also a factor.
Canned food is commonly more expensive than dry food and semi-moist food. This is due to the fact that canned foods do not have to contain the same preservatives. Also, some dogs have a sensitive digestive system that may not be suitable for the preservatives found in dry dog food. Therefore, canned diets are an excellent way to avoid upset stomachs in sensitive dogs. Dry dog foods can be transformed into semi-moist food by adding canned food or water, depending on your preferred budget.
Types of Dog Food
Dog foods are divided into three categories. Adult dogs typically use “adult maintenance” while puppies generally use “growth and reproduction” which can be found on the bag. One exception to the puppy food recommendation is the “all life stages” category.
Foods in this category must contain the nutritional requirements of both growth and reproduction as well as adult maintenance. However, to prevent the possibility of developmental issues in large breeds with the all life stages food, the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles requires the label to contain “all life stages including growth of large dogs”.
PetPlace states that the larger the size of the dog, the shorter the life span. In a study of the lifespan of a canine, only 13% of large dogs lived to be over 10 years old. In addition, 38% of breed dogs lived to be over 10 years of age as well.
Dogs are considered senior in the last 25% of their lives. While AAFCO does not state specific nutritional guidelines for senior pets, an all life stages food is generally acceptable for healthy, older dogs.
Older pets may also be less active, so they don’t usually need as many calories as a quickly growing puppy or an adult dog maintaining his healthy weight and energy. An alternative for senior dogs may depend on if he has a health condition. A veterinarian may recommend a specific diet. This is to help control the progression of a disease, whether its puppy food or adult food.
According to www.tasteofthewildpetfood.com, “To be labeled ‘complete and balanced,’ pet foods must meet nutritional guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.” These guidelines constituted that the organization must understand that the requirements for nutrients of dogs change over a lifetime.
Ian is an avid outdoorsman and dog lover. He lives in Central Florida with his wife Heather, and their 2 dogs – Panda (Purebread Rough Collie X English Golden Retriever) & Kuma (Blue Merl Purebread Rough Collie)