Weaning stress on the gut of a puppy has been described as a band where only half the members know how to play their instruments. At puppy weaning, suddenly we need everyone to play, and most have not yet picked up their instrument.
While nursing, only a small percentage of cells in the intestine have to function to digest milk. Milk is quickly absorbed, quickly used and supports fast growth required of the puppy. At weaning, all cells of the intestine must go to work, and most have never been turned on yet. The intestine, geared up to digest a liquid diet of simple fat and protein, now has to change. That change causes GI upset, which makes the puppies back off food for about five days and lose weight. They cannot “catch up” that weight loss before it’s time to send them to their next home. New puppy owners prefer chubby puppies and associate chubby puppies with puppies well-cared for. We need to turn on the cells of the gut before we see puppy post-weaning stall out!
Moms back off nursing as soon as their puppies get teeth. This causes puppies to try other food. Often medium and larger breeds will start eating mom’s food when we start to feed puppy gruel. Small breed mommas will nurse even though the puppies have teeth. For this reason, small-breed puppies are more challenging to transition to solid food. Weaning techniques vary but the goal is to get cells to start digesting protein and carbohydrates (other than milk) before they have to. However, this it is never a sure thing.
Is It Hard to Wean Puppies?
Puppy weaning issues are best prevented by keeping them on food, but trust your judgment! If you have puppies not making the transition well to solid food, double the dose for a few days and catch them up to their litter mates. It is not magic but it is a lot of help when you’re trying to keep the calories up without clostridium deaths from high-calorie supplements.
The secret to raising any puppy is to get them growing and keep them growing. Weaning a puppy is your high-risk time, and keeping them eating is your goal. If you want more tips on how to wean puppies, call us at 800.786.4751.
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Written by: Donald Bramlage, DVM
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.