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Feeding Weanling Puppies

General Information

Weaning is the process of gradually changing a puppy's diet from the mother's milk to solid foods. A puppy is considered a weanling from the time it first received food other than mother's milk until the time it no longer nurses. Usually this period is from 3-4 weeks of age until 6-8 weeks of age.

Early weanlings should be weighed frequently and their weight recorded. Progressive weight gain and content puppies are good indicators of adequate nutrition.

Watch for these danger signs: puppies that lose or do not gain weight; inactive puppies that feel cooler than their littermates; and puppies with poor muscle tone as compared to the rest of the litter.

Begin weaning the puppies around 3-4 weeks of age by pan-feeding bitch's milk substitute. Because the puppies are still nursing, they will regulate their own consumption from the pan, so you do not have to be concerned with the total amount they consume. Milk substitutes can be purchased from your veterinarian, pet shops, feed stores and pet departments at most discount or chain stores.

The first few pan feedings usually consist of the puppies wading through the food and lapping very little. Most puppies lap from a pan readily after 3-4 feedings.

When the puppies are lapping the milk substitute readily (by 3 1/2-5 weeks of age), blend the milk substitute and a good-quality puppy food to form a thin gruel. This should be offered to the puppies 3-4 times daily.

When the puppies are eating the thin gruel readily, the amount of milk substitute added should be gradually reduced and the gruel slowly thickened. The goal is to eliminate the milk substitute by 6-7 weeks of age. At this age, the pups should be eating good-quality puppy food, softened with water, 3-4 times daily. Water can be eliminated when the teeth have erupted and the pups are vigorously chewing.

Recommended products:

Bitch's milk substitute:

Puppy foods: