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Feeding your adult dog

With your tiny puppy now all grown up, it’s time to say “goodbye” to puppy formula and “hello” to adult dog food. This usually happens at about 12 months old for small breeds, and around 24 months for giant breeds.

To keep them happy and healthy, and to maintain their optimal body condition, your dog's regular adult diet needs to include an incredible 37 specific nutrients! These need to be carefully balanced across the five major nutrient groups: proteins, fats and oils, minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates. And of course, their diet needs to include water.

Here are some handy tips from our PetCare Team to help you choose the right food for your dog.

Getting to know your options

Whether you decide to serve food wet or dry is really a matter of personal preference – both yours and your dog's. A combination of wet and dry food is good for their teeth and it can be helpful if your dog is familiar with both textures in case you need to change their diet at any point. Like humans, dogs have their own likes and dislikes so you might need to try a few before you find the one they like best.

Whichever formula you choose, you’ll find that any good-quality, complete adult dog food will provide your dog with their basic nutritional balance.

If your dog has any special health issues, like skin or stomach sensitivities, ask your vet about specialist adult foods.

Once you’ve found the right food for your dog, you shouldn’t need to change their diet again until your dog becomes a senior, at around 6 or 7 years. Read more about feeding your senior dog.

Always monitor your dog’s body condition as weight loss or gain may be a sign that you need to re-assess his or her diet.

Range of adult dog foods

There is a wide range of nutritionally-balanced adult dog foods available to buy, all designed for your four-legged friend’s specific needs. So you have more choice in what to feed your dog.

Breed, size, age, lifestyle and health can all make a significant difference:

  • Smaller breeds have a faster metabolism, which means they burn energy at a much higher rate. Depending on their body condition and activity level, some may need twice as many calories every day as larger breeds. The best food formulas for small dogs contain additional protein, and are rich in fats and carbohydrates, to give them the extra energy boost they need. They also come in smaller kibble sizes to suit smaller mouths and stomachs.
  • Larger breeds may have slower metabolisms, but they definitely have larger appetites! Specially prepared large breed formulas have larger, more satisfying kibbles that encourage big dogs to chew for longer, rather than bolting their food. Reduced fat content and more concentrated proteins help to control weight gain, minimising the impact on their joints and vital organs, as well as glucosamine to support the joints themselves.
  • If your dog is particularly active or is a working dog, you might choose a specially formulated food to suit an 'active' lifestyle. This will provide higher levels of fat, protein and vitamins such as B12 to help release the energy from food. Vitamin E can also help tired muscles recover more effectively after periods of strenuous exercise.
  • It is generally recommended to switch pregnant bitches back to a good quality puppy food to give them the additional calories and higher levels of other key nutrients they need. Read more about feeding a pregnant dog.
  • Less active dogs require less fat, so feeding a 'light' formula may help to avoid weight gain.
  • Some dogs can develop sensitivities to food groups or they may have medical problems that require a special diet. Your vet will be able to recommend a suitable diet for your dog’s needs.

If you’re not sure which diet is right for your dog, have a chat with your vet or veterinary nurse.

Bowl of dog food

How to feed your dog

Our PetCare team is often asked: “how often should I feed my dog?” Depending on the breed, we usually advise once or twice a day. Your smaller dog, with its smaller tummy, may need to be feed more often. Equally larger breeds, who have a tendency to bolt their food, may be better off with two smaller meals, rather than one big one. Bolting a lot of food at once can lead to problems in the gut.

If you’re not sure how often to feed your dog, speak to your veterinary practice.

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Feed your dog in a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of the house. Always serve the dog food in a clean bowl and place them on an easy-to-clean surface such as a tiled floor. If you find your dog’s bowl is sliding across the floor, use an anti-slip bowl or a rubber feeding mat.

Dogs that wolf down their food might benefit from special anti-gulp dog bowls that encourage slower eating while older dogs – or messy eaters – may prefer a raised dog feeder.

If you have other dogs in the household, feed them at the same time, but apart from one another, to avoid bullying and fighting.

When it comes to dog feeding, try to serve wet food (cans/tubs/pouches) at room temperature, as it smells more attractive and is easier to digest. This means taking it out of the fridge an hour or so before feeding. It’s fine to use the microwave for a short time to warm it through, but be sure that the food is never hot.

Wet food goes stale quickly so avoid leaving it out. Once opened, don’t store wet food for longer than 24 hours, even in the fridge.

Dry food, on the other hand, can be left out during the day without spoiling. Store it in a clean, dry environment, ideally in an airtight container or a resealable box, to maintain its aromas and stop it from going stale.

Most dogs like to crunch on their dry food, but if your pet prefers it with a little water, or there’s a medical reason why you need to avoid hard food, soak the food in water for up to 30 minutes before serving. Dry kibbles help remove plaque so, if you do add water to dry food, you might want to also to supplement his or her food with a regular dental treat. Remember that regular brushing is the best way to prevent doggy dental disease.

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Never exercise your dog an hour before or an hour after feeding. Large and giant breed dogs can be susceptible to bloating of the stomach and twisting of the gut (a condition called gastric dilatation and volvulus), which is a medical emergency. Symptoms include a bloated tummy, retching and your dog acting as if they are very uncomfortable. Contact your vet immediately if you are concerned about your dog.

Purple dog food iconHow much should I feed my dog?

Our PetCare team is often asked: “how often should I feed my dog?” Depending on the breed, we usually advise once or twice a day. Your smaller dog, with its smaller tummy, may need to be feed more often. Equally larger breeds, who have a tendency to bolt their food, may be better off with two smaller meals, rather than one big one. Bolting a lot of food at once can lead to problems in the gut.

If you’re not sure how often to feed your dog, speak to your veterinary practice.

Blue dog iconShould I feed my dog treats?

Every dog deserves a well-earned treat from time to time, but if you’re going to treat them with titbits, remember to remove those additional calories from their main meal to avoid overfeeding. How many treats, and how often, depends on the type of treat you choose. As a general rule limit treats, biscuits and chews to no more than 15% of your dog’s daily intake, or 10% if you feed smaller, meat-based rewards.

If your dog is on a vet-recommended diet they may not be allowed the same treats as their friends, but that doesn’t mean they need to miss out altogether. You can use a portion of their daily food as treats and for training.

Some functional treats, such as dental chews, come in different sizes according to the weight of your dog. Although they can supply up to a third of your dog’s calorie needs, they are supplemented with essential vitamins and minerals to help keep the diet in balance.

As with food, check the feeding guidelines on treat packets and, if you’re in any doubt, ask your vet or vet nurse if you’re not sure how many treats to feed your dog.

What not to feed your dog

As well as knowing what to feed your dog, it’s also worth bearing in mind what you shouldn’t. “Puppy dog eyes” are called that for a reason – they know exactly what to do to persuade us to give them treats! You should try to avoid feeding your dog scraps from the table, as it risks upsetting the value of their balanced pet food. If you do give in to the odd tidbit from time to time, remember that it should never exceed more than 10% of your pet’s diet. There are some foods you should make sure to avoid giving to your dog:

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  • Raw meat. This can cause food poisoning so, if you’re going to give them meat, make sure it is unseasoned and cooked to kill bacteria.
  • Bones. Brittle chicken and fish bones can damage teeth and cause obstructions in the gut. The same applies to larger bones. Although larger bones are often given to dogs, they can also cause obstructions to the gut as they splinter, so avoid giving them to your pet.
  • Human chocolate.
  • Onions, grapes or raisins as these can be highly toxic to dogs.

Read a more comprehensive list of substances that could harm your dog

There may be times when you need to change your dog’s diet; maybe they’re getting older and need a senior diet, your bitch may be pregnant or a medical condition might require a special diet. If you change their diet too quickly it can upset their digestion, so allow for a slow transition process (over 7-10 days) so they can adjust naturally to the enzymes and bacteria in the digestive tract.

  • Mix a little of the new food in with their current food, or offer both foods separately.
  • Over the course of 7-10 days, gradually increase the amount of new food added, whilst reducing the amount of the previous food until you’ve completely swapped them over.

If you’re switching from a wet to a dry food, your dog will need to get used to the new texture. At first they may chew it more actively, take longer to eat and almost certainly will want more water.

If they’re switching from dry to wet, they may drink a little less and may find the lack of crunch a bit odd. You can always mix in a few biscuits to add to the texture. It’s worth remembering that a portion of dry food may look smaller than a portion of canned food. That’s because dry foods are generally more calorie-dense, so your dog gets the same amount of energy in a smaller portion of wet food as they would from a larger helping of wet food.

If your dog refuses a new food, even one recommended by your vet, you should speak to your vet as there may be a particular reason why they’re being fussy. Don’t worry. There will almost certainly be an alternative food you can try.

Switching dog food guide

Purina brands for adult dogs

Bowl of dry dog food

Purina produces many of the UK's leading dry and wet adult dog foods, each the result of the very latest scientific advances in quality, taste and nutrition. Whether you prefer wet food or dry, we’ve designed an outstanding choice of recipes for every life stage to keep your dog happy and healthy.

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If you’d like more information on Feeding Your Adult Dog or have any other queries, contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM

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