A commonly asked question by those new to the world of dogs is when should a puppy begin to eat solid food?
For at least the first three weeks of life, a puppy needs its mother’s milk (or a milk replacement) to survive. It is around this time that the true weaning process should start. Weaning is the process of getting a puppy to eat food other than its mother’s milk or formula.
Weaning is usually a fairly easy process. In fact, many puppies wean themselves as they grow and their appetites increase.
Commercial kennels frequently begin to introduce solid foods around the age of three-and-a-half weeks. One of the reasons for this is that they are preparing the puppies for new homes and a puppy should be completely weaned before he or she is sent to a new place.
Doctors Foster and Smith suggest feeding a puppy mush to start the weaning process. Choose a brand of dry food. Put two cups of dry puppy food in a blender with 12.5 ounces of liquid puppy milk replacer. Fill the blender to the top with hot water. Run the blender until the food mixture is the consistency of cereal. You now have enough to feed six to eight puppies (this is based on a medium-sized breed).
Start by feeding the puppies three or four times a day. The idea now is to gradually increase the amount of mush that they eat. In addition, each week will have you adjusting the puppy mush recipe. Each adjustment will have you increasing the amount of food, decreasing the amount of milk replacer and water and reducing the time in the blender.
The goal is to have the puppy eating dry food by the age of six to eight weeks. It is important to note here that some breeders and veterinarians advocate solid food between the ages of four and six weeks. Others will argue that a puppy needs to get as much of its mother’s milk as possible to ensure that the dog has a well-developed immune system. Thus, there is some leeway in the weaning process.
As you can see, there is no hard and fast rule for weaning. Each situation is a bit different. If you are going to breed your dog, talk to other breeders and your dog’s veterinarian for advice. They can offer professional advice suited to your breed of dog.
Once the puppy is weaned, it should be fed puppy chow at least three times a day. At the age of four or five months, reduce the feeding to two times a day. You can reduce feeding to once a day as the puppy nears the age of one year.
Always feed a good quality food. Brand X varieties rely on lots of fillers that do absolutely nothing for your dog but cause it to make larger piles of feces that have to be cleaned up. Quality food may cost more, but it can actually be a savings if it keeps your dog healthy.