Guide on When & How to Start Weaning Your Puppy

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Weaning is the process of gradually transitioning a puppy's diet from mother's milk to solid food. It's a crucial stage in your puppy's development. As the puppies grow, this natural process permits them to become independent feeders, reducing the physical demands on the mother. Typically, during the period from birth to weaning, the mother would tend to their requirements by doing what comes easily to her.

So, if the time has arrived to wean the puppies, this puppy weaning guide will come in handy.

Life before weaning puppies

A puppy should spend the first eight weeks of its life with its mother and siblings. They will only require their mother's milk or a suitable puppy milk formula for the first few weeks. Your puppy's sense of smell will initially guide them to their mother's teats.

During this time, the mother uses her own body heat to keep her offspring warm. When the mother is momentarily separated from them, they band together to compensate for the loss of heat provided by her fur. She'll also lick the puppies to keep them clean and induce urination and excretion.

However, human interaction is also crucial during this time, but you should aim to strike a balance that does not give the mother any distress.

When does the mother start weaning puppies?

When to wean puppies is a commonly asked question by many pet owners.

Mother dogs usually start giving milk to their newborn puppies as soon as they are born and continue to do so until their litters are completely weaned, which happens around the age of 7 to 8 weeks.

Weaning puppies is a gradual process that occurs between the ages of 4 and 8. In addition to nursing from their mother, puppies will also begin to explore soft puppy food. They'll start eating kibble later in the process, but it'll probably be moist at first.

By the end of the weaning phase, the puppies will no longer be fed by their mother and should be able to defecate independently. Various breeders may prefer a varied timeline for weaning, based on the size of the litter.

How to feed a puppy after weaning?

  • Feed your puppies the right amount

Puppies less than a week old, need feeding every 1-2 hours; and after this phase, every 3-5 hours. By their 3rd week, they can start to lap a milk substitute. The mother normally cleans around the anus of the puppies to stimulate them to defecate. You can achieve this effect with a moist tissue or cotton wool.

  • Give them proper meals

After the puppies have been totally weaned, feed them three to four solid food meals per day until they are six months old, then two to three meals per day based on the breed and their growth requirements.

  • Give your puppies nutritious food till they become young and healthy dogs

When the puppies are 8 weeks of age, they should be offered puppy food, after which the feeding guides can be followed on the Pedigree® puppy labels. They will need to continue with growth food until they reach adulthood.

How to wean puppies?

Here’s what you need to know about the weaning process:

Step 1: Prepare a gruel

To make a gruel, mix canned or dry dog food with puppy milk substitute or water. Look for grain-free puppy food with a well-known brand name. Use the same brand of food as the mother dog, if possible.

if the puppies don't like the gruel, try combining the following proportions:

  • 2 cups puppy kibble
  • 2 cups of water
  • 12.5 ounces puppy milk replacer

Step 2: Give the gruel to the pups

Offer the gruel to the puppies in a baking pan or shallow dish during the hour-long separations from their mother. Put the puppies in front of the gruel.

By 3-4 weeks of age, the puppies should eat palatable and highly nutritious puppy food. For the initial part, warm water/milk can be added to the Pedigree® Puppy or weaning food to make it sloppy enough for the puppies to lap.

Tip: If there is a reluctant puppy, tempt it by putting food on its lips or near the nose.

Step 3: Bring the puppies back to their mother

Allow the mother dog to lick the remaining food off the dish and the puppies clean when she is reunited with her babies.

Step 4: Gradually increase the quantity of solid food

The puppies' diet should only contain 10% solid food when they're starting the weaning process. The gruel should be reduced in liquid content and increased in solid content until the puppies can take the canned or dry food without diluting it. Then, week after week, progressively increase the amount until their diet is completely solid by the time they are 7 or 8 weeks old.

What to feed a mother dog?

While weaning the puppies, keep an eye on the mother dog's requirements. Your primary goal is to ensure that the puppies are well-nourished, as well as their mother.

The mother dog should start eating puppy food during pregnancy and especially in the last two or three weeks. Consider using the same brand of puppy food that she is already used to. As she begins to feed her offspring, she should continue to eat the puppy food. At mealtimes, dry puppy food should be supplied. This will prevent the mother dog from overeating it, allowing the puppies to grow an appetite in between meals.

As the pups start to eat solid food, the demand for milk production will decrease. Her milk production will decrease as she spends less time nursing.

At week four, slowly reintroduce conventional dog food to the mother dog. Keeping the puppies on a different feeding schedule will help her reduce milk production and wean the puppies faster. Her milk supply will cease by week seven or eight without the stimulation of nursing puppies once they are entirely weaned.

To ensure both the mother and her puppies are healthy, Pedigree® Starter Mother and Babydog food can be provided. It's gentle and easy to digest, allowing for higher water absorption and making it ideal for puppies in the weaning stage who don't have strong teeth. Every kibble is high in protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals, all of which are necessary for healthy growth. Pedigree® Puppy aids in their development and allows them to enjoy all of their puppy adventures.

If at any point you are concerned about the health of the puppies, or their mother, contact your veterinary practice for advice.

What should be taken care of while weaning your puppy?

‘Weaning’ describes the changeover from one food to another, and for young puppies this is from the mother's milk to solid foods. If puppies are abandoned, then it becomes the responsibility of the owner to get them on the right diet. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Use only a female dog's milk substitute diet (available with your vet)

    Cows and goats’ milk are not suitable milk substitutes; you will need milk similar to that of the dog. When choosing bottle feeding kits, find a teat size that is appropriate, as this may cause problems for feeding.

  • Regulate the temperature so it doesn't get too hot or too cold

    Puppies cannot regulate their body temperatures for their first 4 weeks and need to be kept in a temperature-controlled environment. You can use heating lamps, or hot water bottles and heating pads (be mindful that the heat source is not too hot).

    Note: Frequently monitor the puppies, as they may have problems crawling away from the heat source if it gets too hot.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Weaning Puppie

Puppies who are weaned too soon from their mother’s bite more and harder than those who are weaned at the proper period. The puppies may also develop various other behavioural issues such as oversensitivity, anxiety, separation anxiety, and hostility.

When the little pups are three to four weeks old, you can start weaning them. The mother will be less stressed and will be able to return to normal sooner if the puppies are weaned earlier. You can start the weaning process sooner if the puppies were hand-reared for any reason.

Weaning should take place gradually over a few weeks. To begin with, separate the puppies from their mom for a few hours at a time. Then, introduce the puppies to feeding from a pan while they are separated. Provide them daily small meals. This will help the puppies become less reliant on their mother's milk and presence.

Yes! By the age of 5 to 6 weeks, puppies should be weaned and solely consuming puppy food. Reduce the mother’s food and water intake for a while after weaning to help her milk dry out. The puppies will become more enjoyable and a lot more work from this point on.