News & Advice

Why are puppy diets important?

Oct 15, 2020 | Dogs, Pet Health

Lucy Scott, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Raglan

Why are puppy diets important? Simply put, because growth requires more energy, specific minerals and protein. To ensure your puppy has their nutritional need meet we recommend a puppy diet until your puppy is mature.

The three main differences between puppy food and adult dog food are:

More Amino Acids

While your puppy’s legs are getting longer, their muscles are getting stronger, and their brain is getting bigger, their body is using up amino acids to make sure development happens as it should.

Most of the amino acids needed for healthy canine development are manufactured right where they are needed—in the dog’s body. However, there are some that dogs are incapable of producing on their own. They rely on food to give them what they need. Arginine, histidine, isoleucine, and lysine are four out of ten essential amino acids puppies cannot produce on their own. These “protein building blocks” are important for all dogs, but especially puppies. The differences average out to be around twice as much as what’s required in adult dog foods. Without them, puppies are at risk for developmental delays and abnormalities. Protein levels required can also differ between large and small breed puppies. To high protein diets in large breed puppies can lead to joint development issues.


Puppy food is what experts call “energy dense.” Between playing, learning, growing, and developing, being a puppy requires energy. In nutritional terms, energy means calories. Calories come from carbohydrates and proteins, but fats have the most calories per pound. Puppy foods have a higher fat content than adult dog foods, and those calories go toward rapid growth. As growth slows, their need for extra energy diminishes.


Out of the long list of minerals puppies need, calcium and phosphorous are at the top. Puppy food is required to have at least 1.2% calcium content, while adult food only needs .5%. Calcium is essential in the body for many functions including bone formation, blood coagulation, muscle contraction, and nerve impulse transmission. These numbers vary between small and large breed puppy requirements. Too much calcium for a rapidly growing large breed puppy can lead to skeletal problems. When picking out your puppy food, make note whether it is meant for large or small breeds. Phosphorus is another important mineral for bone growth, and there is at least 1% in puppy food compared to 0.4% in adult food.

When do we transition to Adult dog food?

We recommend transitioning when dogs reach their adult height and weight, usually about 10-12 months old in small to medium breeds and 12-18 months old in larger breeds. Giant breeds can keep growing until they are 3 years old.

If you are unsure of which diet is right for your dog, or when to change to an adult diet, Give your local Anexa Vet clinic a call.

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