Nutrition, Pet Tips with Dr. B, Puppy and Kitten Care

4 Tips for Weaning Puppies

November 29, 2022

4 Tips for Weaning Puppies

Last updated: June 7, 2017

Weaning is the process of transitioning from liquid to solid, calorie-dense food. Doing that successfully without slowing puppies' growth is the key. Here are some puppy weaning guidelines to help your pups make a smooth transition.

  1. When to Start Puppy Gruel
  2. At some point in a puppy's nursing life, milk will begin to fall short of the calories and balance they need for growth. The puppy then starts trying mom's food if they have access. When you notice this happening, help them by offering a gruel (puppy mush). This process starts at different times depending on the breed of dog:

    • Giant breeds, three and a half weeks
    • Large breeds, by four weeks
    • Small breeds, depends on size but most at five to six weeks

  3. How to Make Puppy Gruel
  4. When making gruel, I like to start with mixture of warm water, milk replacer (Breeder's Edge Foster Care) and rice baby cereal.

    Make a thin liquid when you start as they will want to drink more than eat. As they know what it is, you can thicken it and add soaked puppy food to the mix. Over a week, I eliminate the rice cereal and go full puppy food, warm water and milk replacer.

  5. Separate Mom
  6. When starting, feed the puppies with mom locked out of the nursing area. Use a flat pan and let the puppies' feet and all get into it. Then when they have had their fill, pull the pan and let mom in to clean them up. She likes the cereal on their faces and they think “mom loves me best” from all the attention.

    Once they are eating well, add dry food in a ring outside of a flat bowl and put the soaked food on the inside. They will move to the dry food once the wet food is gone.

    Gradually we move to thick, softened puppy food with a small amount of milk replacer twice a day and dry puppy food full time. Mom is taken out more and more during the day until one morning she does not return.

    During this time, puppies will back off milk and mom will begin to slow milk production. That allows her glands to dry up once the puppies are removed.

  7. Avoiding Weight Loss
  8. Some breeds (German shepherds, boxers, huskies and others) are notorious for backing off feed about a week after mom leaves. They continue to grow but get thin. It is hard to recover the weight loss when they do that.

    Anytime there is a transition, the gut is upset. Many breeders find a probiotic that bypasses the stomach like Doc Roy's GI Synbiotics is helpful in maintaining GI health and I recommend it. Once the transition is made, a probiotic can be stopped and only used if we are treating for any issues.

    Your goal in weaning is to make the transition from mom to solid food as smooth and stress-free as you can. Planning for a two week transition and following the above steps usually allows that to happen.

    If you have more questions on weaning a litter of puppies, call us at 800.786.4751.

    -Dr. Bramlage
    Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

    Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.