Just like with your other children, the proper feeding schedule is a must for a puppy. Introducing solid foods and water too soon or too late can be detrimental to her health, growth and well-being. There are some general rules to follow on when to introduce food and water instead of milk.
The best time to introduce water and puppy food is around 3 to 4 weeks of age. This is the time to start to slowly wean the puppy from her mother’s milk and care so she can become more independent. Be patient and take your time with this.
Set up a warm, draft-free area for the puppy. Separate her from her mother for a few hours a day. During this time, offer some soft puppy food or dry puppy food that has been soaked in water or milk replacement formula until it is a gruel texture. Put this food in a shallow pie pan. Also have some water available. Let the puppy explore and encourage her to eat some of the food. This will be a messy process at first, but she should get the hang of eating soon enough. After the time is up, wipe her clean with a damp cloth and put her back with her mother. For an orphaned pup, just clean her up and put her back in her normal spot. During this weaning process, you will gradually increase the time away from the mother and, at about 7 weeks, start to transition from the soft puppy food to dry puppy kibble. Do this slowly over the course of a week, and at 8 weeks, she should be completely weaned.
For the first three or four weeks, a puppy relies on a mother’s milk to supply her with the right amount of nutrients and antibodies she needs to be healthy and grow properly. If the mother doesn’t produce sufficient milk or you have an orphaned puppy, milk replacement formula will do. If you try to introduce solid foods and water before 3 weeks of age, her body will not get the right nutrients and her digestive system is still too immature to digest solid foods.
Once a puppy starts to eat puppy food instead of milk, she will also need water. Not only does the water help keep her hydrated, it also keeps her cells working properly and helps aid digestion. If she doesn’t get enough water, nutrients cannot be moved in and out of her cells, she can’t absorb nutrients and her body would be unable to cool itself down to regulate her body temperature. The general rule for the appropriate amount of water to offer a pooch is give her at least 1 ounce for every pound of her weight. Have this amount or more available fresh everyday. Offer more during hot summer months or if she is quite active. Wash the water bowl daily, as well.
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