When Should I Start Weaning My Puppy onto Solid Food?
During the first 6-8 weeks of a puppy’s life, they should be close to the mother and allowed to nurse as they wish. The mother’s milk provides an important source of nutrition which is biologically catered to the puppy’s needs. In addition, the mother’s milk contains numerous antibodies which improve your puppy’s immune system prior to vaccinations.
In some cases, it’s not possible for your puppy to stay with its mother during the first 8 weeks. This may happen when the mother develops eclampsia or mastitis. In this situation, milk replacers and bottles designed for puppies can be used to substitute for the mother. These products can be found at most major pet retailers.
Between 6 and 8 weeks, it is generally a good time to begin weaning your puppy onto solid food. This process should be done gradually to avoid pain, discomfort and undereating.
How Do I Wean My Puppy onto Solid Food?
Weaning your puppy onto solid food is a process which should ideally take two or three weeks. This allows your puppy to become accustomed to chewing and swallowing solid food. Also, it allows their tummy to learn to process solid foods.
To begin weaning your puppy onto solid food, first, select the brand of puppy food you will use. Puppies have different caloric and nutritional need to adult dogs. Make sure you select a high quality dog food which has been specifically formulated for puppies. For more information, visit our discussion on Supermarket Puppy Food vs Premium Puppy Food. Talk to your veterinarian for more detailed information about your puppy’s specific breed and requirements including: protein, calcium, vitamins, and calories.
At around 4 -6 weeks, you should begin introducing your puppy to solid food in the form of gruel. That is, a mix of puppy food and milk replacer. If you’re using canned food, mix the milk replacer directly into the product. If you’re using biscuits (or kibble) soften it by soaking them in a little water, then add the milk replacer. Feed your puppy this gruel mix three to four times each day as young puppies generally need to eat regularly.
As your puppy begins to age and becomes more accustomed to eating the gruel, you can gradually reduce the amount of milk replacer used. Continue this process until around eight weeks of age, when your puppy should be eating solid food.
How Often Should I Feed My Puppy?
Puppies are voracious eaters. Unlike adult dogs, who generally only need to be fed once or twice, puppies should be fed around three to four times a day. Split the amount of dog food you are feeding your puppy over three meals, rather than giving them more. If you feed your puppy 1 1/2 cups of food a day, try splitting this into 1/2 cup meals, three times a day.
Large meals are hard for puppies to digest. What’s more, they cause your puppy’s energy levels to peak and fall throughout the day. For this reason, smaller meals are ideal for your puppy. For these reasons, we recommend sticking to 3-4 meals each day.
How Much Should I Feed My Puppy?
The amount a puppy should eat varies greatly across breeds, ages, and food type. For that reason, we strongly recommend talking to your vet about your particular puppy. Due to their high growth rate, puppies will need more food each day than adults. In some cases, puppies may require 2-3x more food than an adult dog of the same breed.
As a general rule of thumb, dogs who are a healthy weight will have:
- An abdomen which is narrower than the chest and hips.
- A chest which appears lower to the ground than the abdomen
- Ribs which are not clearly visible but can be felt easily with light pressure.
How to Prevent Puppy Obesity?
Canine obesity is a preventable illness which can generally be avoided through close monitoring and small changes. Illnesses such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease can be caused and exacerbated by obesity. By managing the amount of food your puppy is consuming, you can reduce their likelihood of developing obesity and thereby, prevent the risk of experiencing these diseases. When feeding your puppy, it’s important to monitor them constantly. Small changes in their behaviour and body shape can indicate that your dog is over eating.
You should be able to feel your puppy’s hips and ribs and be able to see a recognisable waist. If you feel as though there is an issue with your puppy’s weight, slightly reduce their food, visit your veterinarian, or switch to a more nutritional pet food.
When Should I Move onto Adult Food?
Puppy food is specifically formulated to be high in calories and nutritional supplements. For this reason, it is important to switch your puppy onto adult food once they begin to reach maturity. This will help to avoid obesity and over spending on food.
There is no set age for when puppies should begin eating adult food. The best age to introduce adult food will vary amongst breeds, sizes, and individual dogs. Generally, smaller dogs will reach maturity faster than larger dogs. Small breeds will usually reach maturity around 10-12 months, medium breeds will mature between 12-16 months, and large dogs may take up to 2 years to mature. You should aim to begin to introduce adult food when your puppy begins to form adult traits and characteristics.
When you do choose to introduce adult food, do so gradually. A rapid change in diet can cause gastric upset for your puppy and should generally be avoided.
Foods to Avoid
Try to avoid feeding your dog puppy food too long, make the switch to adult food if you notice your puppy putting on weight or eating less puppy food.
For a list of foods to avoid feeding your puppy, visit our article on Foods to Never Feed Your Puppy. Alternatively, for people foods which can be fun to share with your four-legged friend, visit our article on Puppy Approved People Foods.