Feeding Puppies

Puppy weaning can be a stressful time for you, the puppies and the mother dog. However,by following a few simple steps, you can help mom return to her normal schedule while getting her pups accustomed to eating on their own.

When to Wean

Puppy weaning usually begins when the puppies are about three to four weeks old. By this age, they are already becoming more independent and are less reliant on their mother.

The mother will also be ready for the puppies to be weaned around this time, as the pups” teeth will likely start to hurt her teats.

Give Young Puppies a Head Start

By taking a hand in weaning your pups, you”ll be able to take an active role in your puppies nutrition and care. Also, you”ll help them become more social animals. By involving yourself with the puppies at this early age, they will get accustomed to human contact and interaction, allowing them to make the transition from being a member of the litter to being a member of a family.

Puppy Weaning Strategy

Many people go into weaning without a well-thought-out strategy, which can lead to disaster. In order to make the transition as easy for everyone involved,set up a system that you will follow throughout the weaning process. This will provide a gentle transition for both mother dog and her puppies. It will also help you maintain a sense of control.

Puppy Weaning 3-Stage Plan

One of the best ways to wean puppies is to follow a three-stage plan. If you follow the steps outlined below, your puppies should be weaned within a week:

  • Stage 1: During this stage, you will start introducing the puppies to new food. In order to accomplish this,you will need a few boxes of dry rice cereal, the same kind that you would give to a human baby. You can find this cereal in the baby food section of any local grocery store.You will also need some form of milk replacement. Goat milk is best, and many grocery stores carry it alongside regular cow milk. If goat milk is unavailable, buy evaporated milk. (Be sure to get evaporated and not condensed milk!) Avoid regular cow milk, as it is hard on their stomachs. Once you have all of the ingredients, follow these steps:
    1. Mix one cup of the rice cereal with one cup of the goat/evaporated milk. If the mixture is fairly thick, add water to thin it.
    2. Next, pour about 1/4 cup of the mix into a saucer.
    3. Take one pup and spread a little bit of the mixture on its lips. Once he understands that the mix is food, put him next to the saucer.
    4. Repeat the above steps for each pup in the litter.

Repeat this process three to four times a day for two full days.

  • Stage 2: After two days on the baby food mixture, the pups will be ready to graduate to puppy food. Make sure you get a high-quality puppy chow, as the puppies are still growing and developing. If you don”t know which food to buy, talk to your vet.Once you have the puppy chow, follow these steps:
    1. Mix 1 cup rice cereal, 1 cup goat/evaporated milk and 1/2 cup finely ground puppy food together. (To grind the puppy food, use a food processor or blender.)
    2. Add water to thin the food mixture.
    3. Put this mix in saucers and feed it to the puppies in an area away from their mother.

Feed this to each pup three times a day for three days, gradually replacing the cereal portion with ground puppy food. By the end of the third day, the puppies should be eating only the food mixed with the milk and water.

  • Stage 3: Now your puppies will be ready to transition from the food mixture to hard food. At this point, begin tapering off of the milk in the mixture, using only water to dilute their food.Over the course of three days, progress through using finely ground puppy food to using coarsely ground food and then to using half-ground/half-solid food. When the weaning process is complete, your puppies should be eating 1/2 cup of food three times a day.

Feeding a Nursing Dog

As noted above,you will not only be weaning the pups but will also be transitioning the mother dog off of nursing. Prior to weaning, mother dogs typically eat four meals a day. During the weaning process, the mother dog should gradually return to her normal, pre-pregnancy eating schedule of two meals a day. Decreasing her amount of food will help her return to a healthy caloric intake and will also dry up her milk.

A Word of Warning about Weaning

When weaning puppies, it is important to use common sense. Monitor each dog carefully and be sure to note if any of the pups are acting in an unusual manner. If a pup appears to be getting weak or is losing weight, he might not be tolerating the weaning process well.

If you think your new baby is having problems weaning, slow the weaning process. You might even need to move the pup back a stage in the weaning schedule. If he doesn”t improve or if his condition worsens, take him to the vet immediately.

Puppy Nutrition and Early Stages of Development

As with any young animal, proper nutrition is vital to the physical growth of your pup. A diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals and that features the proper balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates will help ensure that each puppy grows up into a healthy dog.

If a puppy is not given the proper puppy nutrition in the early stages of its development, it can affect the dog”s physical appearance, motor skills and even longevity.

Tips for Puppy Nutrition

Most commercial dog foods formulated for puppies will have all of the nutrients your puppy needs. When it comes to puppy nutrition, ideally, the protein content of your puppy”s food should be between 25 percent and 30 percent.

If you aren”t sure if your puppy is getting enough nutrients from his food, consult with your vet. He or she will be able to explain puppy nutrition and tell you if further supplementation would be a good idea for your pup. However, a hard and fast rule of puppy nutrition is that you should never give your pup human supplements, as they could be harmful to him.