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When Can Puppies Start Eating Puppy Food? What You Need To Know!

Chelsie Fraser

By Chelsie Fraser


golden retriever puppy with collar

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

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An important step in raising a litter of puppies is transitioning them from their mother’s milk to solid food. The natural process of weaning enables pups to eat independently and reduces the energy demand on the mother dog. Generally, puppies should start the weaning process¹ between 3 and 4 weeks of age. But the process is a little more complicated than just giving your puppies solid food.

Read on for everything that you need to know about weaning puppies.

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When Should Puppies Be Weaned?

Puppies start to get teeth between 3 and 4 weeks of age. This is when you should start transitioning them to puppy food. Teething puppies can make nursing uncomfortable for the mother, so she may start to pull away from her pups before they get enough to eat. When puppies get hungry, they are naturally inclined to look for other food sources.

Litter of Small Breed Newborn Puppies Nursing on Their Mom_anna hoychuk_shutterstock
Image credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Step-by-Step Guide for Weaning Puppies off Milk

When you are transitioning puppies to solid food, you will have to separate them from their mother for short periods of time, two to three times a day.

1. Make Gruel

When introducing puppy food, you need to make a gruel of wet or dry puppy food mashed up with a puppy milk replacer or water. Ideally, use the same brand of puppy food that the mother dog has been eating through her pregnancy and nursing period. It will smell familiar to the pups, making them more likely to eat it.

2. Offer the Gruel Mixture to the Pups

puppy German Shepherd eating_Sidorov_ruslan_shutterstock
Image Credit: Sidorov ruslan, Shutterstock

Do this while they are separated from their mother. Make sure the gruel is in a shallow pan or dish where small pups can easily access it. You may have to wipe a tiny amount on their mouth with their finger to give them a taste.

Be aware that this step in the process can be messy. Puppies don’t instinctively know how to eat solid food, so they may roll in it and play in it first. The point is to get them to have a taste and realize that it tastes good and satisfies their hunger.

3. Reunite Puppies With their Mother

mother and puppy staffy
Image Credit: GPress, Pixabay

When you place the pups back with their mother, allow her to lick up any remaining food and lick her puppies clean.

4. Gradually Increase Separation Times and Amounts of Solid Food

puppy eating
Image Credit: Switlana Sonyashna, Shutterstock

When you start the weaning process, a puppy’s diet will only consist of about 10% solid food. Gradually transition the gruel to a more solid form until pups can eat the food without dilution. Increase the amount of food each week until the puppies reach 7 to 8 weeks of age. At this point, their diet should be 100% puppy food.

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What If a Puppy Isn’t Eating Solid Food?

Not every puppy will accomplish successful weaning on the same schedule. Some pups take to it immediately, while others take longer. Continue offering meals to the pup along with their siblings if possible. Watching their littermates partake in eating will often encourage them to eat too.

How Often to Feed Puppies

Puppies have small tummies. While they are seemingly hungry all the time, they can’t eat much, so it’s best to offer them food in three to four small meals each day. The amount to feed can vary based on their size and breed, so make sure to follow the feeding guidelines on your puppy food of choice.

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Puppies can start eating solid food at 3-4 weeks of age, at the same time that they start to get their teeth. The weaning process is best completed by separating the pups from the mother a few times a day and gradually increasing the amount of solid food that they eat. By 7–8 weeks of age, puppies should be getting 100% of their nutrition from either canned or dry puppy food.

Featured Image Credit:  Berkay Gumustekin, Unsplash

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