Transitioning Puppies to Solid Food

Posted by Dr. Roth on

Puppy with treat, transitioning puppies to solid food
Transitioning puppies to solid food can be a messy and complicated process for pet parents. Knowing when to start weaning, what dog food to buy, and understanding puppy nutrition requirements can be overwhelming. But the process doesn’t have to be complicated, and being prepared will help make the transition easier for the puppy and the pet parent. 

‌Transitioning Puppies To Solid Food‌

The weaning process for puppies raised by their mother is a little different than weaning orphaned, bottle-raised puppies. Transitioning puppies that have been raised by a mother dog is easier because the mother dog will help with the weaning. When puppies are around four weeks of age, the mother dog will nurse the puppies less often and the puppies will naturally begin to show interest in solid foods.

Orphaned or bottle-raised puppies can be a little more complicated to wean. Without mom there to help with clean-up, feeding time can get very messy for the pet parent. Weaning should begin around three weeks with bottle-raised puppies because milk replacers are not as nutritionally complete as mother’s milk and can cause digestion problems.

Weaning a Puppy

No two puppies are the same and some can be more difficult to wean than others. Transitioning puppies to solid food will require some supplies and planning. To make the transition easier, here are some tips and supplies that will help prepare the pet parent.
  • Designate a space to feed the puppies: The weaning process will be messy. The bathtub, shower, or kiddie pool are great places to feed puppies and offer easy clean-up.
  • Tarps or sheets: Feeding on tarps or sheets can also provide easier clean-up. 
  • Soft washcloths: Have these nearby to clean paws and mouths. 
  • Syringe: Using a syringe to get a small taste in the puppy’s mouth will help get things started.
  • Avoid deep dishes: Deeper dishes are easily tipped over and make it more difficult for the puppy to get to the food. 
  • Multiple Dishes: For litters of puppies, multiple dishes are necessary to make sure each puppy gets an adequate amount of food. 
  • Variety of high-quality wet food: It may take a few tries to find a food the puppies like. Having a variety on hand will prevent multiple trips to the store. 
  • Scale: Puppies should be weighed every day to make sure they're gaining weight. 

What Should Dogs Eat: Dog Nutrition

Raising a healthy dog begins with proper puppy care and nutrition. Puppies need a diet that includes all of the essential nutrients.  High-quality food with a lot of protein is needed to promote growth and good health. However, not all dog and puppy foods offer the essential nutrients required for healthy growth. When shopping for puppy food, choosing high-quality food is very important. Puppies are growing and need food that’s high in protein and other essential nutrients. Trying to figure out which brand to buy can also be overwhelming because of how many options are out there. 

The first thing to look for is a statement on the packaging from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).  This organization sets the minimum standards for nutritional content in animal food. Look for something on the labeling that states “balanced and complete” or “meets nutritional levels established by the AAFCO.”

Weaning begins by mixing milk replacer, or water, with soft food to make a gruel. Soft food should be a type that doesn’t contain chunks because chunky food makes it more difficult to mix with formula. 

A basic weaning schedule is as follows:
  • 3-5 weeks: Make a gruel with wet food and formula.
  • 5-6 weeks: Introduce dry kibble but make sure to add a little water to soften it.
  • 6-8 weeks: The weaning process is complete. ‌

Puppies should be fed four times a day and the food left down for about 30 minutes. Make sure to discard any remaining food and thoroughly clean the bowls. Moist food and formula go rancid quickly when left out and will make the puppies sick. 

Once a puppy becomes more dependent on wet food and less formula is mixed in, dog vitamins and/or probiotics for dogs can be added to the food to offer more nutritional support. 

Online Vet Help‌

Want to learn more about raising puppies? Emergency questions often happen when your regular vet’s office is closed. Don’t worry, Fuzzy is here to offer online vet help! Fuzzy vets are highly qualified professionals who can answer your puppy questions day or night. Fuzzy members can always contact a Fuzzy vet via the 24/7 Live Vet Chat

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