Q: When should I transition my new puppy, Luke, from puppy food to adult dog food?
A: Until Luke reaches full skeletal maturity, he should continue eating a diet that provides complete and balanced nutrition for growth.
Look on the product label for a statement saying the food meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines for “growth” or “all life stages,” which includes the growth phase.
The skeletons of dogs that are small to medium-sized when full grown (defined as less than 70 pounds) mature by about 12 months of age. Dogs that are large or giant when full grown take longer to mature; their bones finish growing at 15 to 18 months of age.
Large- and giant-breed puppies have different calcium requirements than small- and medium-breed pups. So, in the coming year, labels for growth and all-life-stage diets will phase in wording that designates whether the food is intended for all puppies, regardless of expected adult weight, or just those anticipated to weigh less than 70 pounds.
Diets may meet AAFCO guidelines in one of two ways: 1) the food can be formulated according to a recipe that stipulates minimum and maximum levels of major nutrients, or 2) the diet then can be tested in pets, who undergo physical exams and lab work to ensure that the food delivers what it promises, for example, supporting healthy growth.
Remember that dog treats and people food unbalance a balanced diet, so they should constitute less than 10 percent of Luke’s caloric intake.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.