Starting puppies on solid food is a very important part of their physical development, so make sure you do it right.
Puppies are typically ready to begin the weaning process once they are approximately four weeks old. At this point, their first teeth should be breaking through the gums, and you may notice their mother is becoming thin from feeding the pups so often. This makes it the ideal time to begin weaning.
Weaning puppies is a drawn out process where pups are first taught to lap water in preparation for converting them onto a homemade puppy formula. The puppies are still allowed to nurse their mother, but they will gradually do so less as they eat more of their formula.
After the puppies are taught to lap water, they are usually started on a loose combination of high protein baby cereal and water that is easy for them to lap. The cereal is gradually thickened by increasing the amount of dry mix added to the water in order to accustom the pups to a more solid type of food. It's important not to rush this process because the pups could become constipated if their digestive systems aren't given time to adjust to this new type of food.
Once the pups are eating cereal mix that is roughly the consistency of pudding, it's time to begin mixing in puppy kibble. This will take them through the final conversion to truly solid food.
Starting Puppies on Solid Food
Choose the Best Kibble
Puppy kibble comes in many brands and varieties, so making the right choice is crucial for meeting the litter's nutritional needs. Puppies need more protein than adult dogs because they grow so rapidly.
The best puppy kibble has a named, "real meat or meat meal" protein source. Avoid kibbles that depend on corn and by-products for protein because these sources are less digestible. Also look for kibble that doesn't contain chemical preservatives.
Preparing the Kibble
Once you have chosen the kibble that you believe is best for your puppies, it's time to prepare it for them.
Puppy kibble typically comes in a smaller size than adult kibble, yet it's usually still too large for puppies that are just learning to eat solid food. So, the next step in starting puppies on solid food is to grind down the kibble.
Using a food processor, you can grind the kibble down to a grainy powder and begin adding it to the baby cereal mix by gradually substituting more of it for the dry cereal. You're essentially replacing the cereal in an effort to get the puppies solely on kibble and water.
Once the puppies are eating the kibble mix and don't display any constipation, you can begin offering them whole kibble that has been soaked in warm water for a couple of hours. It's important to make sure that all the pups have cut their first teeth before you proceed with this step.
If the puppies do well eating the soaked kibble, you can eventually begin adding less water and soaking it for shorter periods until the puppies are finally eating dry kibble and drinking fresh water on their own. Weigh the pups each day to make sure they continue to gain weight as they grow.
Now you know the steps to starting puppies on solid food. Just take things slowly and make sure the entire litter is doing well on the diet as you go. Some puppies catch on before others, but all of them will eventually accept their new diet and begin to thrive on solid kibble.