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.
Chocolate Labrador and Owner
Chocolate Labrador and Owner
Chocolate Labrador and Owner

Just like people, every dog will have a different requirement when it comes to food intake. Factors such as life-stage, activity levels, breed, size and age can all affect the ideal portion size, and your dog’s needs will change during the course of their life. If you’re not sure how much food to feed your dog and what diet to pick, here are some handy tips from our PetCare Team.

What should you feed your dog?

Dogs are omnivorous and need a wide range of nutrients to support optimum health. This includes the correct balance of proteins, fats and oils, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. In the UK, pet food is governed by over 50 pieces of legislation, and a complete, commercial pet food must meet minimum quantities of specific nutrients to comply with these. This means that a high quality, complete pet food will contain the right balance of everything that your pet needs from their diet.

How often to feed a dog?

Our PetCare team is often asked: “how often should I feed my dog?” Many adult dogs are fed twice a day – equivalently breakfast and dinner. However, a puppy should be fed more frequently throughout the day, with three to four (or more frequently when they are very young) meals recommended until at least six months of age. Some smaller breed dogs will also benefit from three smaller meals. Owners of larger breed dogs sometimes opt to feed one meal a day, however if your pet has a tendency to bolt their food, they may be better off with two smaller meals, rather than one big one. Bolting a lot of food at once can lead to gastrointestinal problems.

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.

What factors decide how much food to feed a dog?

Breed, size, age, lifestyle and health can all make a significant difference in determining how much to feed your dog. Pet food packs will have feeding guidelines, and these are often a helpful place to start. However, you should feed your pet the right quantity to maintain a healthy body condition score. Body condition is a great way to assess how under or over-weight your pet is, while taking into account breed size variances. It is best to weigh out portions of food accurately, as you can then adjust your dog’s food intake until you reach the optimum portion size to maintain healthy condition. Remember that any treats should be compensated for by reducing your pet’s daily meal, but aim to keep their feeding at under 10% of your pet’s overall food intake. Otherwise their diet is at risk of becoming unbalanced.

  • Smaller dog 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 relative to their size compared with 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 dog 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. These diets often contain reduced fat levels and more concentrated proteins to support ideal body condition.
  • 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 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. Any dietary changes for these reasons should be discussed with a vet, to ensure that the new diet is suitable for your pet’s health requirements.
Bowl of dog food

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

Where to find a dog feeding chart for how much to feed your dog?

Dog feeding charts can be found right on your dog food packaging. Start by following these guidelines and adjust your pet’s portion as necessary to maintain a healthy body condition score. You can check to see if your dog is overweight with this easy guide.

Should you choose wet or dry dog food?

Whether you decide to serve food wet or dry is really a matter of personal preference – both yours and your dog's. Wet food often has a stronger smell and taste, which can appeal to fussier pets. If your dog has been diagnosed with a kidney or bladder condition, a vet may advise feeding a wet diet to help increase water intake. Dry food is often designed to promote dental health, and tends to be lower in fat. This can be helpful for managing weight loss in overweight dogs.

Some owners feed a combination of wet and dry food which can be helpful so that your dog is familiar with both textures in case you need to change their diet at any point. Whichever formula you choose, you’ll find that any good-quality, complete adult dog food will provide your dog with the right nutritional balance.

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Dog food for special health issues

If your dog has any known health issues, like skin or stomach sensitivities, ask your vet about specialist adult foods, or ‘therapeutic diets’. These will be formulated to contain the correct balance of nutrients needed as part of a management plan for a certain health condition. These should only be fed if advised by a vet, as they may contain more or less of certain nutrients than the requirements of a normal, healthy pet.

Unless your pet requires a therapeutic diet, you are unlikely to need to change their diet from a regular adult food until they become a senior, at around 6 or 7 years. Read more here 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 or ask your vet to check their health.

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Where to feed your dog?

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 specially designed dog bowls or puzzle feeders that encourage slower eating. 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 in-fighting.

Should I feed my dog treats?

We all love to treat our pets, but remember to account for those additional calories by adjusting 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 less than 10% of your dog’s daily intake.

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.

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.

Happy labrador

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. You should try to avoid feeding your dog scraps from the table, as some human foods can pose a health risk to your pet, or even be toxic. If you do give in to the odd titbit 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; discover more about harmful substances and foods for dogs with our helpful guide.

Dog feeding chart for changing your pet’s diet

There may be times when you need to change your dog’s diet; for example, if they’re transitioning to a senior diet from an adult pet food. If you change their diet too quickly it can upset their digestion, so allow for a slow transition process (over 7-10 days).

  • 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, while 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. The extra chewing time is a good thing as it promotes dental health and it doesn’t imply that your dog is enjoying their dry food any less than their wet.

If they’re switching from dry to wet, they may drink a little less and find the lack of crunch a bit odd. You can always mix in a few biscuits to add 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 dry 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 or techniques to use to encourage them to eat.

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.

There is a wide range of nutritionally-balanced adult dog foods available to buy, all designed for your four-legged friend’s specific needs. Find out more about dog nutrition for a balanced diet, next.

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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