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Can Adult Dogs Eat Puppy Food? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kathryn Copeland

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by Dogster Team


Can Adult Dogs Eat Puppy Food? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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We all know that there’s puppy food and adult dog food. If you are the proud owner of a new puppy, congratulations! But if you already have an adult dog in the home, you know that there’s potentially going to be some sharing of the food between them. Or perhaps you found puppy food that was more affordable than your previous adult dog food, but is puppy food bad for adult dogs?

Adult dogs shouldn’t eat puppy food as their main diet because it can cause health conditions, such as obesity.

Here, we discuss why it’s bad for adult dogs to eat puppy food and give you suggestions on how to prevent it from occurring.

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Why Can’t Adult Dogs Eat Puppy Food?

Dog food is formulated to support dogs at different life stages. This means the food contains ingredients and varying nutrition levels to support the puppy, adult, or senior dog.

Puppy food contains certain nutrients in specific ratios for a growing dog. The levels of these nutrients are typically higher in puppy food, and they are also higher in calories, all of which help support a growing puppy.

Compared to adult dogs, puppies need extra calcium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc because they have growing bones and tissues. Adult dogs have slower metabolisms and require food that sustains them and offers maintenance to help support their health and activity levels.

feeding dog
Image Credit: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock

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Dangers of Feeding Puppy Food to Adult Dogs

For the most part, it’s not dangerous for an adult dog to eat puppy food if it only happens a few times. However, if an adult eats only puppy food for an extended period of time, various health conditions can occur.


Since puppy food is so much higher in calories than adult dog food, one of the main risks is obesity. The average adult dog does not need high calories in their diet and will put on extra weight if consistently fed a diet high in calories.

An overweight dog is often prone to other health problems, such as diabetes, and potentially an overall shorter lifespan.

Joint Issues

Joint problems, particularly arthritis, are definitely a concern when dogs are overweight. Dogs may speed the development of arthritis because they are overweight, or the extra weight can worsen the arthritis of a dog already diagnosed with the disease.

Pet massage in veterinary clinic
Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk,Shutterstock

Kidney Problems

A diet of puppy food won’t necessarily cause kidney problems in a healthy adult dog, but if the dog already has kidney disease, the high protein in puppy food can exacerbate the condition.

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When Is It Okay to Feed Puppy Food to Adult Dogs?

In certain circumstances, giving puppy food to an adult dog is acceptable and even necessary. However, it must be done under your veterinarian’s supervision. In most cases, this is a temporary solution.

Weight Gain

If a dog is severely underweight—which is a common issue when adopting a rescue dog—or if they have a serious illness, a veterinarian might recommend feeding puppy food to the dog for the extra calories.

Puppy food will rebuild the dog’s muscles and enable them to gain weight. This is a temporary situation, as the dog will go back to eating adult dog food once a healthy weight has been achieved.

dog standing on weighing scale
Image Crredit: Masarik, Shutterstock

Pregnant or Nursing

Pregnant and nursing dogs require a diet higher in calories and nutrients, which will support the mother and her growing puppies. A female without the right amount of proteins, minerals, and vitamins tends to have a higher puppy mortality rate. Once the puppies are weaned, the mother will be transitioned back to adult dog food.

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How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Puppy Food

If you’re in a situation where you have a puppy and an adult dog, you must ensure that each one is eating the appropriate food. Puppy food is a big draw for adult dogs because it’s fattier, which automatically makes it yummier. You can take steps to ensure that your dogs will eat the right food.

Separate Them

One option that you can try is to separate your dogs at mealtimes. You can do this by placing them in different rooms or by using baby/dog gates during dinner. Keep them separate until the bowls are licked clean! Microchip feeding stations or bowls can also effectively separate pups to their correct food.

English cocker spaniel puppy eating from a ceramic bowl
Image Credit: Switlana Sonyashna, Shutterstock

Make a Feeding Schedule

You’ll need to avoid free feeding, which means allowing your dogs to eat the puppy food whenever they want. Ensuring that you only feed your dogs at specific times will prevent them from scarfing down the wrong food.

Remove Bowls After Meals

If your puppy doesn’t eat their entire dinner, you’ll need to remove the bowl once they are done eating, and this goes for all dogs.


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Is It Ever Okay to Give a Puppy Adult Dog Food?

It won’t harm your puppy if they eat adult dog food, but it’s best if they stick to puppy food for as long as they are a puppy. They need the extra calories, fat, protein, and calcium to support their growing bodies. If all that they eat is adult dog food, they might have issues with infections, allergies, or slow wound healing as they mature.

When Should You Switch a Puppy to Adult Dog Food?

Typically, a dog is considered an adult at 1 year of age. But the size of the dog factors in quite heavily in how a dog ages.

Small breeds mature faster than large breeds and can be transitioned to adult food between 9 and 12 months of age. Large breeds are more likely to be fully mature by 18 months old. You should have a conversation with your vet to help you decide when your puppy is ready for adult dog food.

dog owner talking to vet
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

How Do You Transition From Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food?

The transition is generally done gradually to avoid an upset stomach. It helps if you plan to use the same brand and flavor of food, which should make the transition easier. It should occur over the course of 5 to 7 days. Start by adding about 25% of the adult dog food to the usual puppy food, which should be 75% of the usual amount. Over the next several days, continue adding more adult food, and take away some of the puppy food until they are only eating adult dog food.

Too sudden a change might cause your dog to have vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of appetite. It’s particularly important to do a slow transition for puppies with food allergies or sensitive stomachs. Speak to your vet if your puppy isn’t taking to the transition well.

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If your dog snatched a mouthful or two of puppy food, there’s no harm done. But if your dog consistently eats too much puppy food, this can put them at risk for obesity, arthritis, and kidney problems. If you have a puppy and a mature dog, you’ll need to feed them separately and remember to pick up their bowls when they’re done so they can’t sneak the other’s food.

It’s essential that your dog eats the right food for their current age and activity level. Speak with your vet to help you determine what the best food is for your dog.

Featured Image Credit: Lunja, Shutterstock

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