Weaning is the stage of the puppy learning to eat solid food and moving away from suckling milk, this learning process starts when the puppies are around 3 weeks of age and lasts around 4 weeks although for some it can take a little longer.
Weaning is usually triggered by several events which all tend to happen around the same time, the first teeth appear and so the mother is less keen to allow suckling, and their energy and nutrient needs are starting to increase above the point which is sustainable for the mother’s milk alone to meet. The puppies are also becoming much more mobile and are starting to explore their environment and this includes investigating what mum is eating.
Puppies naturally learn from their mum, imitating her behaviours and eating habits. It therefore does make life simpler if she is being fed a food that is also suitable for the puppies at weaning such as Royal Canin’s Starter.
The nutritional needs of the puppy are at its most intense during this short period of time, with a high requirement for calories but also protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. It is also the time when the puppies digestive system is at its most vulnerable as it changes from digesting milk to digesting solid food, it is important to make this transition gradually to avoid diarrhoea and other digestive problems.
Good hygiene is also very important during this time as the puppy’s immune system is still fragile so make sure that the dishes, utensils and area in which the puppies are being fed are clean and that the food is stored and prepared correctly.
A puppies first food experiences are very important as they learn what is edible and what isn’t by following their mothers lead. The first few meals should be very small offer a limited amount to each puppy in turn allowing them to explore the new smell and if they are ready taste. An ideal first food experience is the Royal Canin Starter Mousse, this diet is highly palatable with a tempting aroma, its’ texture is very soft and smooth ideal for a puppy who has only ever suckled milk and so have no experience of lapping or eating.
The next time you offer food you can offer a larger volume and allow the puppies to explore the concept together, don’t be surprised if the puppies spend more time walking through, lying in and wearing the food rather than eating it! At this stage it is more about the experience than how much they get to eat although this will rapidly change over only a few days as they very quickly adapt to lapping their new food. If after a few days the puppies are eating confidently you can introduce our Royal Canin Starter kibble, ideally this is what the bitch should be being fed, although for the puppies we recommend feeding it soaked into a porridge.
Advice for how to make Starter Porridge is below.
Follow the feeding guidelines and make sure that all the puppies are feeding well and that no one is missing out. Weekly weigh-ins are recommended for puppies up until 8 weeks of age to ensure they are gaining weight correctly.
The feeding guidelines for Royal Canin Starter are based on the puppies expected adult bodyweight and give a total daily amount, this amount should then be divided between multiple small meals.
A guideline for puppy weaning
3-4 weeks of age 3 meals per day
4-6 weeks of age 5 meals per day
6-7 weeks of age 4 meals per day
7-8 weeks of age 4 meals per day no longer feeding from the bitch
8-16 weeks of age 3 meals per day
Then 2 meals per day.
As an example a 4-5 week old puppy with an expected adult bodyweight of 30kg, should be fed 155g per day split between 5 small meals each of 31g.
Once the puppies are confidently eating the porridge (5-6 weeks) it is time to slowly start reducing the amount of water added to the kibble and the amount of time it is left to soak, resulting at first in a “lumpy” porridge and then gradually a softened kibble, this encourages the puppies to learn to crunch and chew. By 7 weeks of age most puppies will be confidently eating an appropriately sized dry kibble although it can take small breeds a little longer. Once they have reached 7-8 weeks of age it is time to gradually transition them onto a complete puppy diet appropriate for their size and breed. This should take place slowly over 7-10 days, gradually increasing the amount of new diet and reducing the amount of old diet in each meal to avoid digestive upsets.