Do you have a puppy at home that isn't on solid food yet, but you want to know when to introduce the feed? In this post we tell you when to start giving solid food to puppies and how to choose the best diet to grow healthy.
Do you have a puppy? If they haven’t already been weaned, do you want to know when to introduce solids? This post will explain when to start weaning and offering solids to puppies, and how to choose the best diet so that they grow up healthy.
From nursing to weaning
For the first three weeks of their lives, puppies get their nutrition exclusively from their mothers’ milk. If puppies have been separated from their mothers too early, they can be bottle fed with special formula milk that you can get with a veterinary prescription.
Never give them cow’s milk
It’s very important never to make the mistake of offering cow’s milk to puppies. It has a high level of lactose, unlike the milk produced naturally by carnivores such as dogs. Consuming cow’s milk can result in food intolerances for puppies. Once they are three weeks old, the phase of exclusively nursing is over, and puppies are ready for solid food to be gradually incorporated into their diet.
When and how should you start weaning puppies?
Ideally, puppies should start to eat solid foods when they are three weeks old. The weaning stage ends when they are around 7 or 8 weeks old. At that age, puppies’ milk teeth have come in and they are able to chew. The transition from milk to a solid diet is not instantaneous; it takes over a month. It is a gradual process.
There is also another basic recommendation to bear in mind: The first solid food that is offered to a puppy must be digestible; it should be a mixture of milk and the solid diet they need to grow. You’ll need to make up a kind of paste, which will help the dog to chew and digest their new food.
How do you make paste for dogs?
The paste is made by mixing puppy food with water or special formula milk for puppies (never cow’s milk). The final texture should be smooth so that the dog can eat it without too much effort. Ideally it should be heated slightly to around 20 degrees. That increases the palatability of the paste and makes it more appetising for the dog.
How much paste should you give your dog?
The correct time to start offering solids to your puppy as a paste, and specifically the amount to offer, will depend on the puppy’s weight gain. It’s important to check the nutritional information of the food that you are using to make the paste, and of the milk being used to dilute it, if you’re using milk instead of water. During weaning, growing puppies need twice as much energy per kilogram of weight than adult dogs of the same breed.
But it’s important to remember that energy requirements are always individual. How much food a puppy requires will vary depending on the particular dog, so it should be calculated based on each dog’s individual needs.
How many times a day should I give my puppy the paste?
To prevent digestive problems (vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.) you should offer the paste to your puppy in small amounts, split into 5 or 6 portions per day.
Can puppies suffer from diarrhoea while weaning?
Yes, this is a common problem known as ‘transition diarrhoea’. To prevent this, as far as possible, weaning should not be rushed. It’s important that you are clear on when to introduce solids to your puppy, and follow these instructions:
- Gradually introduce solids using pastes: make the paste very liquid at first, and then, little by little, over a number of weeks, make it more solid.
- Choose a high-quality puppy food to guarantee optimum digestibility.
- Offer the paste in small but regular portions throughout the day to prevent the puppy’s small stomach from bloating and to aid proper digestion of the food. This will also provide your puppy with a constant supply of energy.
The importance of choosing a high-quality puppy food
Puppies, more than at any other stage of a dog’s life or physiological growth, need to receive the best care both in terms of handling and nutrition. It is important to bear in mind that mothers can have trouble nursing due to low milk production, infections or abnormal behaviour. It’s also possible that the complementary food offered to puppies might not be complete, or might be started later than recommended. All these variations can be dangerous.
Once the time has come to start introducing solids to puppies, it is essential to choose a high-quality food which is specifically designed for this vital stage in their life. Correct nutrition will guarantee optimum development, and vice versa. Bear in mind that a puppy grows very fast. A lot quicker, comparatively, than a human baby. Anecdotally, if a baby grew at the same rate as a Dachshund, he’d weigh 70 kilograms by 6 months of age!
To support such rapid growth, it is vital to offer balanced nutrition.