Puppies grow fast. That’s why puppy food is calorie-dense and rich in fats – to keep up with rapid growth.
What about senior dogs? Can senior dogs eat puppy food? The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean they should. Feeding your adult dog puppy food isn’t wise, as it will make the dog “grow” in the wrong ways.
For instance, puppy food can cause excessive weight gain in adult dogs. They can also develop serious health issues such as diabetes, heart problems, or joint issues and shorten their lifespan.
I will discuss this subject in great detail in this article, so let’s dive right in and learn why feeding your senior dog puppy food isn’t a good idea.
So, Can I Feed Senior Dog Puppy Food?
Senior canines shouldn’t consume puppy food because they can get overweight and develop health issues.
Studies suggest that overweight dogs have a life expectancy of about 2.5 years less than healthy weight dogs. In other words, if you feed your senior dog puppy food, he or she will get overweight and probably live less.
If you live in a multi-dog household, figuring out mealtime can be tricky. That’s why some dog owners decide to feed young and adult dogs the same puppy food.
However, they don’t know or choose to ignore that puppies and adult dogs have different nutritional needs.
With that being said, let’s learn more about the dietary needs of both young and adult dogs, so you can feed each dog the right food the right amount and keep both dogs healthy.
Nutritional Needs of Puppies
Puppies grow rapidly and need proper food to support their rapid growth. That’s why puppy food is rich in many nutrients and supplements.
However, since they’re relatively small, puppies can’t eat large portions, so food for puppies is calorie-dense and provides enough energy and nutrition without needing to consume more than their developing stomachs can handle.
That said, puppy food is higher in calories than food for older dogs. Hence, feeding senior dogs puppy food isn’t generally a good idea.
In other words, most puppy foods provide something very different from what senior dogs need in their latter stages of life.
On the other hand, puppies get what they need from their puppy food – protein and calories necessary to develop healthy bones, muscles, joints, and organs.
Nutritional Needs of Senior Dogs
Older dogs become less active with age. Their metabolism also slows down, so they need fewer calories. They need a whole new diet lower in calories than the one they had as a young or mid-life adult dogs.
Canines complete growing at a different age, depending on the breed. However, it’s usually between 8 and 16 months.
After this period, consuming the calorie-dense diet will cause another type of growth in older dogs.
Feeding your senior dog puppy food will eventually gain weight and develop various conditions such as osteoporosis and obesity.
Additionally, older canines have lower activity levels, so if you don’t adjust their diet to meet their needs, you’re risking obesity and inflammation of the joints because of the extra fat and strain.
So, what’s the perfect diet for adult dogs? Well, canines can start to develop various issues with age like obesity, kidney problems, etc. So, they need food that’s lower in protein and calories.
Protein can be found in large amounts in puppy food because puppies could use the extra protein. However, older canines don’t need too much of it. Otherwise, they can develop kidney issues.
In summary, puppy and senior dog food aren’t the same; they’re made of different ingredients and serve other functions. Therefore, you shouldn’t feed your older dog puppy food.
When to Switch From Puppy to Adult Dog Food?
As dogs grow older, their nutritional needs change as they’re less active than before and sleep more. Simply put, their appetite drops along with their activity levels.
Unfortunately, their bodies and digestive systems change with age, so their immune systems may require extra support.
I suggest you gradually move your senior dog to senior dog food. However, it’s best to ask your pet care specialist what type of food to give your adult canine and when is the best time for a diet change.
Most dog owners switch from puppy to adult dog food once their dog is 6-12 months old. The senior dog food will deliver the right balance of nutrients to meet your dog’s new nutritional needs.
So, When Exactly Does My Puppy Become ‘Senior’?
If you ask when is the right time to move from puppy food to senior dog food, I don’t have a straight answer for you because different factors play a part in this important decision.
The size, weight, and breed of your canine can help you determine the age at which your dog is ready for adult dog food.
Generally, large breeds have shorter lifespans, so most might attain senior status at 5-6, while smaller species would be considered adults at 6-8 years of age.
I highly suggest consulting your pet care specialist before making any diet changes to ensure you make the right decision.
Food Sharing Between Puppies and Adult Dogs
If you live in a multi-dog household, you likely encounter the issue of food sharing.
Pets want to taste each other’s food. And that shouldn’t cause problems if it’s a rare occasion. However, it would be best if you didn’t let your dogs get into the habit.
You can prevent this by feeding your dogs separately in the home. Also, don’t leave their food sitting around.
Establishing a scheduled feeding is the best way to track who’s eating what.
For instance, you can feed each dog at a specific time and preferably away from the other dogs. That way, you can make sure there’s no food sharing happening.
If separation isn’t possible, you can feed your dogs all-life stage food to ensure everyone gets what they need.
Can Puppy Food Cause Diarrhea in Older Dogs?
Feeding your senior dog puppy food can cause digestion issues.
Any change in your dog’s diet can result in diarrhea. So, pay close attention to what your canine eats. Also, if you’re trying to move your adult canine from puppy to adult food, I highly suggest you do it gradually instead of all at once.
You can mix a small amount of the new food with puppy food and see how your dog likes it. Remember that diet changes will likely upset their belly, but by taking things slow, you can avoid diarrhea.
Think of puppy meals for adult dogs as junk food for humans.
Consuming too much junk food can cause digestive issues. The same goes for old dogs and puppy foods. They’re high in calories and delicious.
However, if your adult dogs eat puppy food consistently, they will have digestive problems. If they have puppy meals every once in a while, it’s okay, but this type of food shouldn’t be the primary food source for senior dogs.
Otherwise, they can experience stomach discomfort and diarrhea when returning to their regular dog food.
Can I Give My Senior Dog Puppy Food to Gain Weight?
As I already said, puppy food is specifically made to support the growth of puppies. Once your canine reaches adulthood, their dietary needs change.
Simply put, puppy food won’t do your adult dog any good. On the contrary, dogs that eat puppy food regularly can become obese and develop many health problems.
However, that doesn’t mean your adult dog can never eat puppy food or other high-calorie food. They can still occasionally have a bite.
Also, if your vet suggests feeding your senior dog puppy food temporarily for weight gain or different reasons, such as the following, you can do it without worry.
Pregnancy or Nursing
If you have a pregnant or nursing dog, you can feed her puppy foods because she’s giving almost all of her nutrients and calories to her pups. And since puppy food is a calorie-rich food, she can benefit from it until her puppies grow up.
Feeding Puppy Food for Severe Weight Loss
If your adult dog is underweight because of illness or you have adopted a stray dog that has starved on the streets, you can offer calorie-dense food like puppy meals in smaller portions and help your dog gain weight and build muscle faster.
Low Energy Levels
A regular dog diet can’t meet the energy needs of some breeds. If your dog belongs to those breeds, consult your vet and provide puppy food for extra energy.
In a nutshell, you should feed your senior dog adult food instead of puppy food because old dogs and puppies have different nutritional needs. So, act in your dog’s best interest and provide age-appropriate food.
Remember that most dogs will happily eat anything that tastes delicious, regardless of the age it’s made for, but you, as a responsible dog owner, shouldn’t allow it. Otherwise, your perfectly healthy dog might become obese and unhealthy.