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Owners are often tempted to switch their puppies very early to adult food: they do that for economical reasons, because they underestimate the duration of growth, or also because they falsely think that “ too rich puppyfood ” could be harmful to the growth. It is the important to remind here how different the puppy’s nutritional requirements are compared to adult one’s. These special requirements justify a specific food until the end of the growth.

Energetic requirement

During the first half of its growth, a puppy needs twice as much energy than an adult, compared to its bodyweight. This multiplier coefficient dicreases progressively, but when the puppy reaches 80 % of its adult bodyweight, it still consumes 20 % more energy than an adult. Feeding him with a concentrated puppyfood avoids to overload its digestive tract.

Puppies have very different ways to go until the end of the growth.

  • A small-breed puppy reaches 40 - 50 % of its adult bodyweight within about 3 months, a large-breed puppy not before 5 months.
  • A toy Caniche reaches its adult bodyweight within about 8 months: at that point, it has multiplied its birthweight 20 fold. A Newfoundland puppy still grows up until 18-24 months, until it has multiplied its birthweight about 100 fold.

Proteic requirement

A puppy fixes a great amount of proteins for the synthesis of the skeleton and all other tissues. Its amino-acid requirement is then far more important than for an adult. In addition, a puppy does not use proteins as well as the adult. To make up for this less efficient digestive capacity, a growth product must contain at least 25 - 30 % more proteins than a maintenance adult product. In a puppy, a protein deficiency may induce: delayed growth, immunitary weakness, anemia,etc…

Mineral requirements

At the growth peak, a puppy requires 320 - 480 mg of calcium per kg of bodyweight, and large-breed puppies are more demanding than smaller ones. But a 20 kg puppy eats 1,5 time and not twice as much as a 10 kg-puppy at the same age. If they consume the same product, the first will suffer from a calcium deficiency, inducing a disturbed mineralization of the skeleton. The calcium concentration has to be higher for large-breed puppyfood, so the owner will not have to add anything himself.

Starch digestion

The production of enzymes that digest starch, amylases, reaches an optimum level only when the puppy has completely achieved its growth. Before, a puppy does not digest starch so well. A maintenance adult diet can contain up to 50 % starch, but a puppy food should not contain more than 30% starch. Feeding an adult diet to a puppy can induce loose stools, diarrhea, and it is in favour of the apparition of a coprophagic behavior.

Adaptation to the breed’s size

All puppyfood have some common characteristics: high energetic density, concentration in all essential nutrients, and leveling of the starch level in the food. But the size of the breed implies specific adaptations.

- Large-breed puppies are very likely to suffer from skeleton growth diseases. These troubles are encouraged by an overconsumption of energy, accelerating the growth. Limitation of the fat content of the food is the way to get a better control on the growth’speed, and then minimizing the risks.
- On the contrary, small and medium-breeds puppies must receive a lot of energy, but in a small volume. They require a more concentrated diet.


A puppy product is not used during the same time according to the breed: 8 -10 months for small ones, 10-12 months for medium ones, and 14-18 months for the larger ones. As the puppy’s growth does not go in a steady way, but takes place in successive steps, puppies owners should better wait until the end of the growth before switching their puppy to an adult product. Anyway, there is no disadvantage feeding a puppy food longer than initially planned, provided that one checks carefully the bodyweight of the dog.

Donated by the Borg Cardona and Co. Ltd. visit Borg Cardona website

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