Four-week-old puppies are still nursing from their mother or drinking milk replacement formula, but are also starting to eat solid foods in small amounts. From 3 to 4 weeks of age, a puppy begins eating wet or dry dog food as he is weaned from his mother's milk during the next few weeks. At 4 weeks old, you'll need to provide your pup with some puppy-specific food along with some formula to ensure he gets the nutrition he needs.
The Importance of Mother's Milk
Puppies need to nurse from their mother to get the antibodies, nutrients and extra calories they need to stay healthy and fight off disease. Starting around 4 weeks old, the little ones can safely begin eating solid foods as they will have the teeth necessary to do so.
If your young pup's mother isn't around or available, you'll need to bottle feed him with a puppy milk replacement formula until he's completely weaned onto solid foods. Your vet can show you how to do this.
The average 4-week-old puppy needs around 1 ounce of formula for every 8 ounces of body weight per day, spread out over four feedings, recommends the Banfield Pet Hospital.
The First Solid Food
Make your pup a soupy gruel to try to transition him onto eating solid foods.
- Mix up one part puppy milk replacement formula with an equal part of dry or canned puppy food by hand or in a blender until it reaches the consistency of baby food.
- Add a bit of warm water to the mixture as needed if it's a bit too thick.
- Pour the mixture onto a shallow baking sheet and allow the puppy to eat it.
Things get messy when you start to feed your puppy solid food because young pups tend to walk in their meals, so it's best to do this in a bathtub or another easy-to-clean area.
Feed Puppy Food
Puppy food contains a higher amount of calories and essential nutrients than adult dog food, which your pup's body needs to support proper growth. If you plan to feed puppy kibble, use it to make the gruel you feed to him during the weaning process, otherwise use canned puppy food. You'll feed your little one puppy food for the first year or so of his life.
The Weaning Process
The weaning process takes about three weeks. During this time, your pup's digestive system will slowly adjust to eating his gruel rather than drinking formula or nursing from mom.
- Replace one of your puppy's four bottle feedings per day with a puppy gruel mixture. Every four to five days, replace another until you eventually only feed solid food meals.
- If your pup is still with his mom, separate him from her during each feeding so that she can have a break from nursing.
- When mixing up the puppy gruel, decrease the amount of puppy formula and water you add to the dry or wet puppy food every three to four days during the weaning process. Eventually, you'll only be feeding puppy food alone for all feedings when your puppy reaches between 7 and 8 weeks old.
Brief separations from his mother are an important part of the weaning process for your pup because they get him used to nursing less from her and will allow her body to start producing less milk.