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If a puppy is with their mother for the first few weeks of life, there's not much you need to do. But before you know it, those cute little furballs will be ready to venture out on their own, eat their own food, and find their own bed to snuggle up into. At about 3 to 4 weeks, a puppy will be ready for weaning, meaning they will drink less of their mother's milk and gradually begin to eat more.
Weaning a Puppy
At four weeks all the puppies should be able to walk, run, and play and show curiosity about the world outside of their nest with their littermates. Three to four weeks is also the time when puppies start to develop their teeth. The mother will naturally start to spend more time away from the pups when this happens.
Food For a Puppy
There are several excellent commercial milk replacers available. Providing puppy milk replacer is a great way to get a puppy to start drinking on their own, away from their mother. The best puppy milk replacer will contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a nutrient that is important for the development of the puppies' brains and eyes. Royal Canin's Babydog Puppy Milk has added DHA and provides extra minerals and vitamins for up to two months of growth. Another powdered milk replacer for puppies is the PetAg Milk Replacer Plus, which works to supplement nutrition for both puppies and the pregnant or nursing mother.
Continue feeding until the puppies are old enough to eat puppy food on their own. The next stage is a creamy transitional cereal like the Esbilac 2nd Step Puppy Weaning Food. When feeding a puppy cereal like this, place it in a flat saucer and gently dip their nose in it two or three times a day until they lap it up on their own. It doesn't take long before they want more, especially if mom is less and less interested in nursing them. It can also be introduced by dipping your fingers in the puppy cereal and letting the puppy lick them.
Feed a Quality Puppy Food
Finally, feed growing puppies a solid food specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of developing puppies. Adult food is formulated differently, and your puppy will miss out on important nutrients. When starting on a solid puppy food, pour over some water or milk replacer to make it soggy enough for them to eat it with their soft, small teeth. Gradually decrease the moisture until they are eating dry food on its own by 4 to 6 weeks of age.
Not all puppy kibble is equal. Some contain grains such as corn, which can irritate puppies' digestive tracts. Some contain meat byproducts such as beaks, feathers, ground bone and blood. Puppies' first food should be a puppy kibble that has 25 to 35 grams of protein in one serving. The first ingredient should be meat, not a meat byproduct. Protein, calcium and calories are important to meet the energy requirements and growing needs of rambunctious puppies. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, healthy puppies one month to 14 weeks old need a minimum of 9.7 grams and 12.5 grams of high quality protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight per day.
You can purchase supermarket brands or pet boutique pet foods, but you can also set up recurring deliveries of high-quality puppy foods from online retailers on Amazon. For instance, set up recurring deliveries of Blue Buffalo Puppy Food. Real de-boned chicken is the first ingredient.
Watch Your Puppy's Eating Behavior
Food intolerances in dogs and puppies are not uncommon. Keep an eye on your puppy's eating behavior to be sure that they don't have a sensitivity or an allergy to common food ingredients. Food allergies in dogs aren't that common, but when they happen, they can cause itchy skin or ear and skin infections, or vomiting or diarrhea. The most common cause of itchy skin and ear or skin infections is allergies to fleas or environmental allergies such as dust mites, pollen, and grasses. But all of these allergies can have similar symptoms.
Sometimes, also, puppies become aggressive about their solid food and may growl when it's taken away. Those puppies need some one-on-one training sessions where the food is taken away when they growl and held back for a few minutes before returning it.