How to Use Puppy GruelWhen you find yourself wondering what to feed weaning puppies, gruel or puppy mush is a great way to ease the transition to solid food. At four weeks of age, milk alone begins to be deficient in what a puppy needs to grow. It's around this time when puppies begin to explore food. They will nibble on mom's if they can get to it or most breeders will offer soft gruel to encourage eating solid food. Gruel also takes the nutrition load off mom.
Gruel, as the name implies, is just softened food of some kind. In small breeds we find that rice baby cereal and milk replacer is a great start. It adds bulk for the intestine to push on which keeps the puppy's appetite up. Appetite decreases if there's nothing to push on. If a puppy is down with hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, first give them Doc Roy's® Forti Cal gel to get their appetite back up. Then feed them gruel of Forti Cal and rice baby cereal once the puppy has recovered and is back up. This will help their appetite stay up.
Once puppies are eating the cereal, start mixing in soaked dry puppy food that has been softened in warm water. Soaking kibble for 20 minutes usually softens it sufficiently. Add enough warm water and milk replacer to give it flavor. As the puppies start to eat well, we remove the rice cereal and use all softened puppy food.
Eventually, we feed gruel twice a day and dry food is offered all the time. It is then when the transition happens. Mom will start to dry up as there is less demand on her milk supply and she will leave the whelping box during the day. At this time, we should switch her to an adult diet since she has been on puppy food to this point. With the puppies eating well, we let them nurse mom out the last day in the morning. Then she leaves and does not return.
Everyone weans differently but keeping puppies on food is the goal. Feeding gruel through this time will prevent puppies from falling behind and getting thin or sick. It's an easy, stress free and as natural transition as possible. Getting puppies growing and keeping them gaining weight keeps them healthy!
Don Bramlage, DVM, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
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