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Around the 4-week mark, female dogs start usually begin gradually weaning their offspring. This is the stage when puppies start to develop teeth and naturally begin spending more time away from their mothers. During this weaning process, you can begin introducing puppies to solid food.
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Four-week-old puppy care
As momma starts to wean her puppies, you'll need to fill the nourishment void and introduce her babies to solid food. The good news is that this slow introduction to solids benefits mom and the puppies alike. Within a month, you can usually get the puppies to wean themselves. Week four is just the beginning, however, as a puppy's needs change rapidly at this stage of life.
Buy quality food
To get the puppies off to the best possible start, feed them the high-quality puppy food recommended by your vet. For optimal nutrition, choose food, with an American Association of Feed Control Officials certification on the label. Also, look for puppy foods with high levels of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid, which is critical for brain and eye development. No matter how much they beg, do not feed puppies table scraps: It's important to keep a four-week-old puppy's feeding schedule consistent and start him on a healthy path.
The type of food you buy will be influenced by whether your puppy is a large breed or a small breed. Vet-recommend puppy foods for large breed puppies include Purina Pro Plan Puppy Large Breed Chicken & Rice Formula with Probiotics. It provides high protein levels and that important DHA for puppies that will grow beyond 50 pounds. Hill's Science Diet Puppy Large Breed Chicken Meal & Oat Recipe provides calcium for optimal bone growth and is for puppies over 55 pounds.
When you're first introducing a puppy to food, moistening dry food is recommended, or else serve them wet food until their teeth develop and they have the jaw strength to really chew dry kibble. The Royal Canin Medium Puppy Wet Dog Food is ideal for dogs with an adult weight of 23 to 55 pounds. They can eat this on its own or mixed with dry food. Mini dogs will benefit from Farmina Natural & Delicious Chicken Grain-Free Mini & Medium Breed Puppy Formula. Vets like Farmina, which is formulated to Italian standards, because it has a low glycemic index. Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Food is one you're like to see on a lot of veterinarian's shelves. It's affordable and is formulated for all breeds, whether your puppy will grow up to be a small, medium or large dog.
Once you get a puppy started on a particular food, avoid switching to another brand unless you have no choice. Keeping a puppy on the same high-quality food can stem potential digestive upsets occurring from dietary changes. If you do have to switch, mix the two types of food at first and add larger portions of the new food over a few days until the transition is complete.
Introducing solid foods
Unless the puppies are orphaned, a four-week-old puppy's development still depends on him receiving most of his nutrition from mom. Introduce solid food by offering a small amount four times a day, Watch the puppies carefully as they learn about the world of eating solid food. Remove uneaten food after every feeding and throw it away.
The puppies' food should always be fresh. If a puppy doesn't seem particularly interested in eating, don't worry. If she doesn't eat after a few introductions, try putting a very small amount of food in her mouth. Praise her to the skies if she eats, but never force her. Within a few days, she should get the idea.
Introducing drinking water
Prior to the age of four weeks, puppies have no need to drink water. They receive all the hydration they need from mother's milk. While older dogs can drink water that's straight from the tap, it's wise to start puppies out with bottled water or tap water that you've brought to a boil and allowed to cool. Place the water in a shallow bowl so your puppy can't fall in, although he's likely to climb in initially and get himself wet.
Puppy bowls like the Podinor stainless steel bowls allows a litter of puppies to share a water bowl and it's easy to clean. Puppies can be messy, so a non-spill bowl like the Upsky bowl holds 4 1/2 cups and releases it slowly, like a fountain. It keeps water fresh, and is non-spill and non-skid, which is important with puppies who are still learning how to drink!
Another option is attaching a water bottle, like the RentACoop pet water bottle used for watering rabbits and other small pets, to the side of the whelping box or whatever type of enclosure you are using. You can give him his first taste of water from cupping your hand. Whatever your water choice, keep working on having the puppies drink until they are doing it on their own. They should always have fresh, clean water available, just like the big dogs.
Real weaning takes time
Over the next couple of weeks, you can increase the level of puppy food to correspond with the puppies' growth. By week seven or eight, puppies should be fully weaned from their mother and eating a completely solid food diet. As the puppies head off to their next stage of life, and possibly new homes within a short time, there's a mother dog who is probably relieved to no longer serve as a food source.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.