Before introducing a Puppy to Solid Food
The weaning process, with regards to puppies, starts at any time between three and five weeks, as this, typically, is more or less the time their teeth start coming in. There are, however, a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when you decide to introduce solids to a puppy’s diet.
Typically, a puppy will need to learn how to lap before it learns how to eat. To this end, introducing, for example, homemade puppy formula or, if he is doing well on his mother’s milk, some water, should teach him how to lap in no time.
Make sure you deworm your puppy before introducing him to solids. Many puppies have a reaction when dewormed, and could have a seriously upset tummy if dewormed while being introduced to solids.
When to Introduce Solid Food to a Puppy
The normal age is either just before or after four weeks. It is never advised to introduce a puppy to solids too early, though, and it is best to allow him to be fed by his mother for as long as possible. This is, however, not set in stone, and depends on a number of factors:
The Breed of Dog
Larger dog breeds tend to wean earlier than smaller dog breeds. Where the larger breeds tend to start their weaning process at roughly four to five weeks, it is not uncommon for smaller breeds to start their weaning process at about five weeks of age.
The Mother and Litter Size
Litter size is an important contributing factor with regards to when weaning should start. Often, where the litter is quite large, it takes quite a toll on the mother’s body, and you might notice she gets thin and starts looking ill.
If you notice this, it is usually a good indicator that a little human help is needed and additional feeding and/or weaning need to take place. If still very small, however, a special dog formula can be substituted for mother’s milk. Usually, this is achieved by means of a syringe in smaller breeds, or a bottle with a special ‘doggy teat’ for larger breeds.
How to Introduce Solid Food to a Puppy
Introducing Kibble (dry dog food) to a Puppy
If you are going to feed your puppy kibble (the generic term used for any dry, commercial dog food), you would need to, at first, feed it as a ‘mush’. This means adding one part hot water to two parts kibble and then allowing it to stand a while. This allows for the water to penetrate the kibble, turning it into a mushy mixture. Allowing the food to cool down, as well. The consistency should be such that it is easy to lap at as opposed to chewing.
As he grows used to this mixture, less water can be added over time. Their chewing reflexes tend to kick in quite quickly and naturally.
Do remember, however, that choosing the right puppy food is extremely important. It should be breed-appropriate, which means you should not feed food suitable for a small breed of puppy to a large breed of puppy. Obviously, their dietary needs and growth rates are different. It should also be age-appropriate. What is fine for an adult dog is not at all fine for a puppy of four weeks whose tummy still needs to be introduced to solid food; nor are their dietary requirements the same.
Also, most commercial brands of dog food are not suitable for puppies. You see, they have fillers which do not meet a puppy’s nutritional requirements and only make the puppy feel as if his tummy is full. Buy the best quality puppy food you can afford to ensure your puppy grows up healthy, right from the start!
Introducing a Raw Food Diet to a Puppy
Of course, a raw food diet is the best option for any dog, as it most resembles the food he would eat in the wild as well as being the food of his ancestors. However, introducing it as a puppy’s first food can be a little tricky.
It is also not a great idea to mix a raw food diet with kibble at this young a stage (four weeks) as the two types of food combined could result in a puppy with an upset tummy! Stick to whichever one you start him off on for at least the first few weeks and make any changes gradually.
When starting a raw food diet, it is recommended that you introduce your puppy to different proteins gradually. For example, start with chicken for a week or two before gradually introducing beef. By using this method, you ensure that your puppy gets to adjust to a new food source before it is introduced to a new one while at the same time allowing you to identify any food that upsets his tummy. Please do not forget that any protein introduced at this age needs to be ground up quite fine as your puppy is not great with chewing yet.
Benefits and Risks associated with raw and dried puppy food
|Raw Food Diet||Commercial Puppy Food (Kibble)|
Stools are smaller
Skin is healthier
Coat is shiner
Energy levels are higher
|Easy to use|
Quality brands offer a balanced diet
|Risks||Possible contamination from raw protein.|
If not administered correctly could be an unbalanced diet.
Bones could cause choking.
|Cheaper brands have fillers that add no nutritional value.|
How Much Should You Feed a Puppy?
How much you feed a puppy depends on the breed but also the individual puppy. Most commercial dog food brands have a guideline on their labels with regards to how much you feed your puppy. These are recommendations only. You do not need to adhere to them 100% of the time. If your puppy does not want to eat all its recommended food, that is fine. If he wants more than what is recommended (within boundaries), this is also fine.
A good rule of thumb is to gradually increase the food such that a little is always left over. Then you know your puppy has had enough.
Free feeding is not recommended. Free feeding is when a large bowl of food is left out for the puppy to eat whenever he wishes. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons:
• He could eat more than he should and become overly chubby. This is not good due to it leading to a number of health issues that he could develop later in life, such as diabetes or heart problems, to mention but two examples.
• Training could be difficult as it is not food motivated (e.g. giving him a treat during obedience training).
• It makes housetraining difficult as you are not able to estimate when he needs to go do his business.
Always remember to have a bowl of fresh, clean water at hand. Once puppies are in the weaning process and start eating solids, they usually start drinking water as well.
How Often Should a Puppy be Fed?
A puppy starting out on solid food at around four weeks of age should typically be getting three to four meals per day while, at the same time, still being able to drink from its mother. This not only gives the mother a bit of a break but also ensures that puppies get all the nutrients their puppy bodies need to grow up strong and healthy.
Food You Should Not Feed to Puppies
There are certain foods that you should never feed your puppy, no matter its age. Besides making a grown dog ill, they can be deadly to a small puppy. These include some of the following: avocado, most nuts, raw onion and garlic, any form of caffeine, chocolate, salt, sugary food, grapes/raisins, and mushrooms.
These foods should be excluded from any diet at all times!
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