There’s no easy answer to this; weaning will depend on the health of the puppies, the size of the litter and the quality of the milk the dam is producing.
What’s the best weaning schedule?
Typically weaning does not need to be rushed if puppies are growing well, gaining weight daily and the dam is content to feed them. The majority of breeds commence weaning around three weeks of age because the puppies will have started growing their teeth, supporting the ability to eat tougher textured foods.
From the introduction of weaning food, there should be a slow transition over the weeks until the puppies are fully weaned at six or seven weeks. Some breeders still allow a daily milk feed until they leave for their new homes if the mother allows; this slow transition reduces the likelihood of engorged teats and mastitis. It’s not unusual for mothers to resist wanting to feed the pups or restricting access sooner, which may increase your weaning schedule pace.
Weaning may need to happen at a faster rate if the puppies have been hand-reared, it's a large litter or milk production is inadequate. It’s acceptable to start weaning puppies once all eyes are open in the litter, this is typically around 10 to 14 days old. Weaning this young can be a bit messier as they may not yet be able to stand steadily and typically more training is required in the behaviour of moving from sucking to licking.
Take care that the puppy’s nostrils are free of food to ensure unrestricted breathing and to prevent food being inhaled. A packet of sensitive baby wipes are generally required to tidy them up to post feed.
What’s easiest weaning method?
You can start weaning by letting the puppies lick a dab of weaning food off the tip of a finger, suckling a fingertip is similar to them sucking a teat. I recommend initially starting to wean on a one to one basis, ensuring the correct feeding technique and to monitor the amount they are eating.
Once the pup can stand steadily unsupported, you can tempt them to eat from a shallow bowl, tray or soother Lickimat. Once every pup is able to stand and eat, you can introduce feeding numerous pups at the same time whilst being monitored.
You may find the best milk feeders aren’t keen to transition to food, while the poorest ones fully appreciate the alternative food source. For this reason, I typically introduce the weaning meal as the first feed of the day; they should be hungry from no night feed making the food more enticing to them.
You have the option to top them up with a shorter milk feed after if you don’t feel they consumed enough. One weaning meal a day for the next 4 to 6 days should be sufficient. You then have the open to replace another milk feed, depending on your schedule lunch or dinner feed might be preferable.
What should you wean them on?
There are many options for the type of food to wean. I believe in keeping it simple. Using a transitional food such as a weaning mousse, that’s flavoursome and easy to digest and adding soaked kibble to make a porridge once confidently eating. You can add puppy milk replacer to help create the correct consistency along with grinding the kibble or blending it.
You may find the porridge becomes thicker the colder it becomes, it’s worth having a ‘top up’ bottle of warm milk to keep adding it to help keep a favourable consistency. Puppies may avoid to feed if the food it cold, it should be body temperature, not hot if placed on your wrist.
You may noticed that your puppies shiver and shake after feeding, this is normal as digesting food alters the body temperature.
Over time reduce the mousse, change the milk to water. Eventually you won’t be required to mash it as much or pre-soak the kibble for as long making it a harder texture that will need chewing.
Any breeders that plans to wean to fresh or raw food can use a weaning paste that’s finely ground and super smooth food, with the transition to a lesser ground puppy complete raw. Raw feeding puppies can help significantly with quality and size of stools along with improving the ability to toilet train and help reduce odours.
I’m not a fan of making DIY puppy gruels, such as Weetabix, egg yolks and goats milk combinations. These are not nationally balanced, and my preference is always to use puppy milk replacer rather than goat’s milk.
What’s the quantities that need to be fed?
The rule of thumb for hand-rearing a newborn puppy is 1 ml of milk per 1 oz (28g) puppy weight.
1 ml of milk is the same as 1 gram of food.
With the above ratio in mind, a 2 lb puppy is around 900g (divided by 28g) suggest 32g per weaning feed. That’s just over two tablespoons maybe three give or take the amount that will end up on their face, on the floor and over you.
This amount will all depend on your breed and their weight, there’s no right or wrong, but you want the puppy to have a comfortably full belly, not too full that it’s hard and uncomfortable. If in doubt, start will less and increase each weaning feeding.
The food will need to eventually increase to be in line with your food manufacture recommendations for an eight-week-old puppy ready to leave for their new home. It's strong advised that once puppies are competent eaters that they should be fed from individual bowls to reduce competition and possible future food aggression issues. Weanafeeda Products offer an easy to manage and clean system in a wide vary of bowl numbers and sizing to cater for the majority of breeds.
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