How to Feed and Wean Puppies

Written by kristie bishopp
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How to Feed and Wean Puppies
Puppies eat exclusively mother's milk for their first 3 or 4 weeks of life; then solid foods are introduced gradually. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

For the first weeks of life, puppies eat only milk from their mothers or puppy formula. Once they reach 3 to 4 weeks of age and teeth emerge, puppies are ready to be weaned or transitioned from a liquid diet to solid food. Fully weaned, 7-week-old puppies can leave their mothers and move to their new homes.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Milk replacement: puppy formula, goat's milk or evaporated milk
  • Powdered rice cereal (the kind fed to human babies)
  • Water
  • Blender or food processor
  • Dry puppy food
  • Water
  • Saucers

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    Baby Food

  1. 1

    Combine 1 cup milk replacement with 1 cup rice cereal. Stir until smooth. Add enough water to thin it to a gruel consistency.

  2. 2

    Pour about 1/4 cup of the rice mixture into a saucer and select the first pup.

  3. 3

    Dip a finger into the gruel and wipe the mixture on the pup's lips until its tongue begins to lap at it.

  4. 4

    Coax the pup toward the saucer to continue eating there.

  5. 5

    Repeat the process with each pup individually, feeding them three or four times per day for two full days. Begin to reduce the mother's four feedings so her milk begins to dry up.

    Puppy Food

  1. 1

    Using a blender or food processor, grind several cups of puppy food to a fine consistency.

  2. 2

    Prepare rice cereal in the same proportions as before, mixing 1 cup of cereal with 1 cup of milk replacement and thinning with water to a gruel consistency.

  3. 3

    Combine 1/2 cup ground puppy food with the rice cereal mixture and pour it in saucers for the puppies. Feed them in an area away from their mother.

  4. 4

    Feed puppies this way three times per day for three days. For each feeding, use less and less cereal so that by the end of the third day, puppies are eating only ground puppy food mixed with milk replacement and water.

  5. 5

    Over the next three days, grind the puppy food to an increasingly coarse consistency and reduce the amount of milk until only water is used. Reduce mom's meals as well.

  6. 6

    Gradually reduce the amount of water included in food and the amount of grinding until puppies are eating dry, unbroken puppy food and drinking pure water from bowls. The mother should be eating her two regular, pre-pregnancy meals by this time as well.

Tips and warnings

  • Use the same brand and type of dog food for each feeding to limit digestive problems. Better yet, consistently offer only the puppy version of the dog food variety the mother routinely eats.
  • Offer the solid foods at bedtime to give the mother dog a rest and coax puppies to sleep longer.
  • If a puppy behaves oddly or demonstrates poor weight gain, slow down the weaning process. If the puppy continues to deteriorate or does not improve, consult a veterinarian.
  • Do not give cow's milk or condensed milk to puppies. Their immature systems do not easily digest it.
  • Offer puppy food, not adult dog food. Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs and puppy food is formulated specifically to meet those needs.

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