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Can Adult Dogs Eat Puppy Food?

Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Thursday 19 November 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
can adult dogs eat puppy food
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As an owner, you may be questioning why you can’t continue to feed your dog puppy food once they have officially become an adult. If your dog has always loved their puppy food, you may want to continue giving this provision to keep them happy. But can adult dogs eat puppy food and what are the possible consequences?

Even if your dog is a picky eater and all they will eat ferociously is their old puppy food, there is a reason why manufacturers provide separate puppy and adult food. We do not encourage an adult dog to eat puppy food regularly because of the differing contents tailored to different dog age’s health and requirements. Instead, adult dogs should transition to adult maintenance recipes.

Is Puppy Food Safe for Adult Dogs?

Although puppy food is safe for adult dogs, this does not mean it is ideal nor appropriate. Puppy food is tailored made for young dogs that have just transferred from their mother’s milk and need more energy for growth. The energy is provided through higher percentages of fat, protein, and overall, calories. When an adult dog consumes these, as they have already grown to their appropriate height, then they are receiving an excess of protein, fats, and calories they do not necessarily need. Although, many owners love high-protein content in dog foods to use as an energy source.

The main concern from an adult dog eating puppy food is weight gain. The large amount of fat in these mixes causes excessive weight gain which can lead to a multitude of health problems. Diabetes, joint pain, and general mobility difficulties can all be caused by weight gain. However, for excessively picky dogs that struggle to put on weight, some vets may recommend to keep your dog on their puppy for a certain period of time or even permanently. This is uncommon and should only be done when recommended by a professional. Usually, this protocol is only applied for underweight dogs and for a period of time to allow a much more gradual transfer onto adult dog food.

Puppy vs Adult Dog Food

The following contents are of a much higher quantity in puppy food as opposed to dog food. This is to help a growing puppy have enough energy and other elements to healthily reach their appropriate height and weight.


A percentage of protein is increased from the average 18% in most dog foods to 30% in puppy food. Protein helps to aid and sustain healthy growing perimeters in your puppy. This is especially important for fast-growing puppies as they require more energy to reach that growth rate. Protein can be used almost completely and as a form of energy for your puppy. Furthermore, it is specifically used for growth and repair. Therefore, this is one of the most important factors for a puppy’s diet but is not necessarily needed for an adult dog. High-protein diets can be great for adult dogs, but this is not the only differing factor in puppy foods.


Puppy food is known to have a higher amount of calories in it than many dog foods. On average, most puppy foods are 300 – 400 calories per cup of food, whereas dog food is usually 200 – 400 calories per cup. Larger breeds of adult dogs or those with more muscle mass will require more calories daily to sustain their larger frames. It will require a German Shepherd more energy to move than a Jack Russell Terrier, for example. Growth requires a lot of energy, and although dogs need that energy for movement, puppies need it to reach their full potential.


There are good forms of fat that both a puppy and your dog need to grow, stay warm, and have energy. Eating fat does not mean that your dog will become fat. Puppies require larger percentages of fat in their food for growth. On average, puppy food has a fat percentage of 22% compared to the lower percentage in adult dog food of 18%. Fat is a denser energy form which is great for the growing puppy, however, adult dogs will often store this as excess weight. This is why many adult dogs put on weight while consuming puppy food.


Puppies require larger percentages and weights of calcium in their food compared to adult dogs. This is to help proper bone formation and growth. Puppies require 2 grams of calcium minimum to their food with a maximum of 18 grams. Whereas adult dogs require a minimum of 0.5 grams of calcium with a maximum of 1.0 grams. This means that many puppy foods supply adult dogs far too much calcium than is ideal. This can lead to multiple bone problems including rickets-like symptoms and general mobility pain and difficulties. This is one of the main reasons to prevent your dog from eating puppy food.

When Should You Consider Puppy Food for Dogs

There are certain situations where a puppy food can be used and can even be beneficial for your dog. Always consult a veterinarian first before a major dietary change, especially with vulnerable individuals.

Pregnancy and Weaning

While a dog is pregnant, they require more energy for two reasons. Firstly, to be able to aid the growth of each puppy and nourish them properly. They are forming bones, muscles, and their whole body from the influence of the mother’s energy and nutrients. It is no wonder she needs more energy! Whilst all this is happening, the mother still needs energy for herself and any day to day activities such as walks and play. This is why the extra protein, fat, calories, and calcium all benefit her during this time.

The same goes for when the mother is producing milk. She requires energy for the continued production over weeks. And the better quality the milk, the healthier the puppy. Which is why puppy food can often benefit the mother and puppies during pregnancy and even after birth.

food for pregnant dogs
Mothers require energy when they are producing milk.


Weakness in adult dogs can stem from an illness at that time, an injury, an immuno-compromised individual, or even an elderly dog. Although, not every weak dog will benefit from puppy food. Elderly dogs have different requirements from adult dogs and puppies. Some of them will actually benefit from low-fat diets because they are moving less and do not need as much energy. Therefore, always consider your individual’s needs.

Those recovering from illness or injury can benefit from the higher percentages in puppy dog food for growth, repair, and energy. Whether they have a cut on their leg or have pneumonia, higher contents of fat, protein, calories, and calcium can help aid them during recovery. However, during this time period, they are their most vulnerable and their nutrition should not be experimented in. Question your vet or a dog nutritionist to see what their advice would be and follow their recommendations.


With the extra fat and protein, these mixes are almost guaranteed to help your dog put on weight. However, there are also specific weight gain dog foods for your dog to try. These do not have elevated calcium levels that puppy food does. There are even some weight gain foods for underweight puppies, which have even more fat and protein for weight gain.

However, you have to consider the negatives that come with elevated levels of calcium. According to VCA Hospitals, some of the symptoms include “weakness, listlessness, increased drinking and urination, and loss of appetite. In some pets, prolonged hypercalcemia may contribute to the formation of bladder or kidney stones”. Therefore, although this food can increase weight gain, ask your vet to see if this addition would be beneficial to your dog.

Risks of Feeding Puppy Food to Dogs

Risks do come with feeding your dog puppy food. Adult dogs require specific percentages of each food type and macros (i.e. carbs, fats, proteins). Exceeding those can lead to negative consequences. be aware of them consult your vet, and then make an informed decision.


The most common negative consequence of an adult dog eating puppy food is obesity. The increase in the fat percentage goes from a massive 18% in regular dog food to 22% in puppy food. As excess fat that isn’t used for energy is stored, adults will store a lot extra. They do not require the higher percentages of fat for growth because they have already reached their required size. Therefore, they use what they need to for energy consumption, and the rest is stored as extra fat.

Mineral Overdosing

The maximum calcium content for adult dogs 1.0 grams with a minimum of 0.5 grams. Whereas puppy food contains a minimum of 2 grams of calcium. This already exceeds the maximum amount of recommended calcium for adult dogs. Puppy foods can reach a calcium percentage of 18 grams which is a huge increase of 17 grams more than the recommended for your adult dog. It is no wonder that this can lead to mineral overdosing when, with each meal, they are accumulating excess calcium at such a quick rate.

mineral overdosing in dog food
Puppy foods can reach a high calcium percentage, more than the recommended for your adult dog.

Can Adult Dogs Eat Puppy Food – FAQ

To make sure that you can make q fully informed decision about whether to feed your dog puppy food or not, take a look at the most frequently asked questions concerning adult dogs eating puppy food.

Can puppy food give my dog diarrhea?

Puppy food can give your dog diarrhea. Diarrhea is caused by a lack of absorption of water in combination with digestion happening too quickly. Illness, stress, and diet can all induce diarrhea in your dog because they can upset normal digestion. Puppy food can also interrupt normal digestion. The excess fat and protein that cannot be digested properly, it will pass through your dog’s digestive system too quickly leading to diarrhea.

Can I feed my underweight dog puppy food?

You can feed your underweight dog puppy food as long as a vet recommends this action. It is important to note that giving your dog puppy food can have negative side effects. Therefore, you need to be careful with the change of diet. However, due to the increased fat and protein content along with a higher number of calories per cup, it can help your dog gain weight quickly. Whether it be from illness or pickiness, sometimes it is most important for a dog to gain weight. However, high-fat foods can also do this so be sure to check out the whole market before making a decision.

How long can a dog eat puppy food?

In this case, puppy food should really only be used for as long as it can hold a purpose. Depending on your dog’s breed, a puppy will reach adult size at different ages. Normally, a puppy should be weaned from puppy food to adult food once they reach their breed’s estimated adulthood. For example, if you are providing your dog with puppy food, only use the product until they have gained weight. Another example to consider is if your dog is weaning or pregnant and being fed puppy food, she should be gradually weaned off the puppy food once she is no longer breastfeeding the puppies.

Make sure to always gradually introduce a new dog food over the course of a week. Do so by mixing a quarter of the new food with three-quarters of the older foo, then half and half, then three-quarters of the new with a quarter of the old. Do this until the food is entirely replaced. This is to minimize the chance of an upset stomach.

What’s the difference between puppy and adult dog food?

The difference between adult dog food is the contents. Kibble size will obviously be smaller in puppy food for ease of chewing and minimized choking hazards. However, what you should be most aware of when providing your adult dog puppy food is the higher percentage of protein, calcium, fat, and the increased number of calories. However, be sure to check the percentages of each brand you are considering as each can vary vastly. Especially in calcium contents which can be a health hazard for adult dogs.

how long dogs can eat puppy food
Use puppy food until it no longer serves its purpose.

So can adult dogs eat puppy food? They can. It comes with benefits and health concerns. Therefore, consult a vet and make your own choice based on your dog and their circumstances.

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