After birth, the mother produces milk with high levels of nutrients, but also antibodies that the puppies must consume. From 2 to 3 weeks of age, puppies obtain all nutrients from their mother’s milk, but should always have access to clean water, and begin to consume solid food at 3 to 4 weeks of age.
At this time, puppies should be offered the dam’s food made into a mash with 65-70% warm water to provide additional nutrients that support healthy growth and help compensate for the declining milk production from the dam. An exception to this is with large breed puppies who should be offered a large breed puppy food instead of the dam’s food. The amount of water in the mash can slowly be reduced as the puppies become used to solid food. A week after starting this mash, puppies should be given a couple whole kibbles and by weeks 6 and 7 they can eat kibble alone.
Puppies have small stomachs and high calorie requirements and will need to have multiple small meals throughout the day to meet nutrient demands. Caretakers can also choose to feed a product that is specifically formulated for weaning puppies but are discouraged from creating their own as homemade diets are commonly linked with nutrient deficiencies in growing dogs. Puppies require a lot more protein and fat than adult dogs and specifically require arachidonic acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentanoic acid (EPA). Large breed puppies need diets that include less calcium compared to small and medium breeds as they are more susceptible to abnormal bone development.
Puppy food matching the protein requirements to the amount of energy (fats) in the diet provide the most ideal diet for all size breeds of puppies, ideally about 25% protein (Cline, 2012).
Cline, J. (2012). Kennel Management and nutrition of the bitch and her offspring. In: C. Lopate (Ed.). Management of Pregnant and Neonatal Dogs, Cats, and Exotic Pets. Wiley & Sons, Publishers. Pp. 1-14.
Puppy Nutrition Library
Bare Bones – If you only have a few minutes for the basics
SNACKS – If you want to learn more
Implications of Weaning Age for Dog Welfare - CRONEY RESEARCH GROUP
Feeding Growing Puppies
Dog Nutrition Tips
How to Feed a Puppy - How to Choose the Best Puppy Food
Maximizing Success in the Breeding Kennel and Show Ring: Vital Health Care and Management of Competitive Dogs
WALTHAM™ Puppy Growth Charts
WALTHAM® Pocket Book of Puppy Nutrition and Care
Kibble – If you want to take a deep dive into the science
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