A young puppy needs adequate nutrition to grow and thrive. This little one should have a diet that is entirely milk for the first three to four weeks. It is best if it’s her mother’s milk, but there are healthy alternatives, if needed.
The first thing a puppy should eat is the mother’s first milk. This stuff is called colostrum and it contains very important antibodies. Her regular milk should come in within the first few days and that's what a puppy should drink for the first few weeks.
In the case of orphaned dogs or puppies with mothers who could not adequately nourish them due to illness, infection, injury or lack of milk, you can use milk replacement formula. Seattle Animal Shelter recommends Vet-alac or Esbilac as a puppy milk replacement. Read the products instructions for specific mixing ratios. Feed milk replacement formula to the pup with a dropper, bottle or syringe. Take your time when feeding her so the milk doesn’t go too fast and get fluid in her lungs. Hold her tilted forward and slightly up when she feeds, never hold her on her back. Feed until her belly feels full and tight.
For the first three weeks, she should eat every three hours. At the three-week mark, feed her four to five times during the day and it’s all right to let her go through an eight-hour stretch at night without a feeding.
At three to four weeks the weaning process begins. Usually a mother will naturally start this process, but you can start it, too, if need be. Start taking the puppy away from his mother for a few hours a day. Place her in a secluded, warm, dry, draft-free area. Offer her some moist puppy chow in a clean pie plate. You can also soften dry dog food until it has a gruel texture. Be prepared for this to be a messy adventure. Let her experiment with trying to eat the food. Clean her up with a washcloth before you bring her back to her mother.
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