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Articles > Dogs

Weaning and Introducing Food

Topic: Pregnancy and Puppy Care (0-12 weeks)

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Getting a new puppy is an interesting time for everyone, and although looking after him or her requires a little bit of work, it is a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. When most people bring a new puppy home, it is already weaned. For those that have a new littler of puppies or one not already weaned, it is important to know the basics. Most people are unsure of what to do when getting ready to wean the puppies. Weaning refers to gradually replacing the mother's milk or formula, by substituting it with solid food. Although this may seem a little confusing at first, weaning puppies is very natural. Usually, between seven and eight weeks of age, the puppies go with their new owners to a new home. Since they will leave their mother behind, puppies' gastrointestinal tracts need to be accustomed to eating solid, commercially prepared food.

Watching the mother dog and the puppies feeding habits will give you a good indication of when the timing is right to wean the puppies. Anywhere from four to six weeks after birth, the mother dog usually starts to discourage her puppies from nursing. She might even try to evade feeding them, or only allow the puppies to nurse for a short period because their new baby teeth are sharp and hurt. Around this age, puppies become interested in exploring the new sights around them, spend more time examining everything and a shorter length of time nursing. This is also a good indication that it is time to wean them. Most breeders and veterinarians do not recommend weaning puppies less than four weeks of age, except when the mother has a medical problem and her health is at risk. Until five or six weeks of age, puppies need their mothers nutrient rich, easily digestible milk or, in the case of a puppy with no mother, puppy formula. Early weaning can cause health problems, such as allergies, when they get older.

For the puppies' first feeding when starting to wean them, use babies' dry rice cereal and either pet milk, pet formula or evaporated milk. Mix together equal amounts of baby cereal and pet milk, evaporated milk, or pet formula. To this, add warm water until it is the consistency of thin porridge. Some people prefer to make the puppy gruel or food out of the same brand of dog food the mother eats, using that company's dry puppy food instead, but still the same name brand.

Unlike baby cereal where you use half pet-milk and half rice cereal, you measure puppy food a little differently. In a blender, place approximately twelve ounces of puppy milk, two cups of dry puppy food, and fill the remainder with hot water. Blend until it is the consistency of thin porridge or a baby's pabulum. You should feed the puppies three to four times daily with this mixture.

Place the gruel in a very shallow pan or, some people prefer individual saucers for each puppy, so they know the amount of food they each get. Up until now, the new puppies were nursing off their mother, but the time has come for them to learn about opening their mouths, picking food up, and swallowing. Watching them learn to do this is a lot of fun, but very messy. Some puppies will try nursing on the food, walking through it and even falling into it. You may have to place a little on the puppy's lips and direct them to the saucer. It may not look like it at the time but eventually all the puppies will know how to eat properly.

After the puppies have their fun and fill, usually about half an hour, let the mother finish the food and clean up the puppies. Encourage the mother to spend a little time away from them when they are feeding, giving her a rest from the puppies. Feed them three or four meals daily. Each week reduce the blending time, amount of water and puppy milk and increase the dried food. By week seven, the puppies should be drinking water, eating dry puppy food and completely weaned. A good place to start the transfer to food is in the bathtub, as this is easily cleaned after the eating practice!

Allow puppies to eat as much as they want, in multiple daily feedings until approximately four to six months old - or half their expected grown body weight. Because puppies grow at a fast pace during the first six months, their energy needs are far greater than that of a mature dog. Healthy puppies usually eat the required amount of food to meet their physical needs. Feeding puppies the good quality food is crucial to their health. It is important to meet the energy, protein, and nutrient content needed in their diet. You need their diet to prevent obesity in the puppy, while encouraging lean tissue development.

The three primary types of dog food available on the market today are dry, semi-moist and canned. There are pros and cons to each type of puppy or dog food. Owners with small breeds of dogs often prefer to feed their puppy or dog canned food, even though it is more expensive than dry or semi-moist dog food. Although it is aromatic and moist, because of the high water content, it appeals to dogs and puppies. Never leave canned food down more than half an hour as bacteria could occur.

A premium dry dog food is the type of food veterinarians recommend most often. Unlike canned food, dry food helps reduce and prevent tarter buildup so the dog or puppy's gums and teeth remain healthy. Dry food packaging is also environmentally friendly, unlike canned dog food. Some dogs are fussy, and will only eat dry food if their owner adds another ingredient such as gravy, warm water, or food scraps. Dogs, like humans, require a balanced diet so giving them many table scraps is not healthy, nor does it meet the puppy's nutritional requirement.

Although semi-moist dog food is nutritionally balanced, it often contains additives, coloring agents and preservatives. If you are unsure of what type of food to feed your puppy, discuss it with your veterinarian.

Other articles under "Pregnancy and Puppy Care (0-12 weeks)"

Article 1 - "Preparing For Whelping"
Article 2 - "Caring For Newborn Puppies"
Article 3 - "Stages Of Puppy Development"
Article 5 - "Weaning and Introducing Food"
Article 7 - "Human Puppy Interaction By Stages"

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