Nursing and Weaning Puppies
If you are adopting a young puppy near eight weeks of age, it's best to talk to the puppy's previous owner about when the puppy was weaned and what type of food it was weaned on. To help the puppy adjust to its new surroundings and to avoid severe digestive upset, it would help to bring the puppy home with the diet the puppy is currently eating. If you want to change the puppy's diet, wait at least one week before gradually introducing new puppy food.
When Do Puppies Start Nursing?
Puppies will normally begin nursing within two to three hours after birth, and some puppies will start to nurse immediately after they are born. The puppies benefit the most from the mother's antibodies in the colostrum the first 16 hours after birth, and it is very important that they nurse at this time so they may gain protection from illnesses.
How Often Do Puppies Nurse?
Puppies nurse about every two hours during their first week, by the second week they nurse about every three hours, and by the third week they are nursing only about every four hours. After the puppies nurse, the mother will lick the puppies around their genitals and anus to stimulate bowel movements and urination.
Nursing and Weaning Puppies: Best Practices
While the puppies should be removed from the mother periodically between nursing to reduce stress to the mother and injuries to the puppy, the mother should be given time after nursing to cleanse each of the puppies and help them relieve their bowels and to urinate.
When Should Weaning Begin?
Most breeders begin to wean puppies at three and one-half weeks of age. This may seem like a young age, and some people argue that it is too soon for weaning - but as long as the puppy weaning process is carried out slowly puppies will not be harmed if they are weaned at this age. Other pet owners do not wean their puppies until they are between four to six weeks of age, and as long as the puppies are still weaned gradually they can be successfully weaned at this age as well.
There are a number of mixtures that are useful when weaning puppies such as baby foods and milk replacers, but most experts agree that puppies should be weaned on a blend that contains high-quality puppy food. The puppy food may either be placed in a pan of water so it will become mushy, or it can be mixed with puppy milk replacers or baby foods and then blended in a food processor.
How Long Do Puppies Nurse, and How Long Should the Weaning Period Be?
The weaning period should take at least three to four weeks if the puppies are being weaned at a young age of three and one-half weeks. If the puppies are weaned at an older age of around six weeks old, then the weaning process should last about two weeks.
Puppies will instinctively begin to try food that their mother is interested in, and overtime they will begin to learn how to eat. During the weaning process food should never be forced upon puppies; instead, the puppies should be allowed to explore and eat the food at their own pace.
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