Puppies should be weighed daily to make sure that they are gaining weight properly, as an underweight pup could indicate issues with mother’s milk or illness in its immune system.
Young puppies should ideally take advantage of drinking their mother’s milk (or an appropriate substitute), which provides the optimal mix of fats, proteins and nutrients necessary for healthy development.
1. Soaked Kibble
Puppies at three weeks should now be ready to transition onto solid food and should also be dewormed under your veterinarian’s guidance. They should still be nursing from their dam, but if not, you can begin feeding soaked kibble (a thick consistency created by mixing dry puppy kibble with enough liquid such as milk or water to create a thick consistency), which puppies may lap up, making more mess than eating at first – all part of the learning experience!
Be sure to closely monitor the puppies’ weight, providing additional formula if any are not meeting expectations. Also be cautious when handling newborn puppies – newborn puppies can easily suffocate if held incorrectly; be sure to hold them in either your arms or cradled in a towel!
Avoid giving puppies table scraps and treats that encourage beg-begging at meal times, as this could lead to obesity and digestive problems in later years. Once your puppy starts eating solid food, select brands endorsed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials that indicate it meets life stage nutritional requirements, or consider feeding trials which demonstrate this fact.
Puppies need water that’s suitable for their body temperature and requirements; using tap water may be too hot or too cold. Also important is providing your pup with high-quality food tailored specifically for its stage in life and nutritional requirements; both your breeder and veterinary can offer guidance here.
At three weeks, many bottle-fed pups should be ready to begin the weaning process. However, it is important to keep in mind that large litters often experience eclampsia (milk fever), in which case puppies should continue receiving care ad lib until old enough for their own milk replacement and bottles.
For those unable to wean their puppies from their mother, starting by mixing high-quality dry puppy food with commercial milk replacer or goat’s milk mixed with warm water to form a thick gruel that the puppies can lap up easily. Feed this gruel four times each day using “flying saucer” dishes, pie plates or ashtrays in low settings for best results. Avoid providing raw meat, bones and cooked poultry or pork foods which contain bacteria harmful to puppies’ health.
3. Milk Replacer
At this stage, puppies are beginning to stand independently and form suction reflexes to find their mother’s nipple. Therefore, it is crucial that puppy milk replacer contains optimal levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), as this contributes to brain development.
During the initial week or so, we recommend taking steps to separate mothers from puppies for one hour twice to three times daily and feeding them a thick mush consisting of canned or dry puppy food mixed with milk replacer. They should lap it all up.
Puppy milk replacers are specially-crafted liquid formulas designed to closely replicate the protein, fat and carb content found in natural mother’s milk with added vitamins and minerals to promote bone development and nourishment. As such, breeders, rescue organizations or pet parents should always have at least three days worth of this liquid formula on hand should a litter produce more or fewer puppies than expected.
Puppies require a milk-based diet to support their healthy development. Although mother’s milk is best, commercial dairy alternatives may also suffice if needed. Young puppy formulas provide balanced nutrition tailored specifically to newborn pups’ nutritional requirements.
Three-week old puppies should start exploring food beyond their mother’s milk, so offering gruel periodically is a good option. But, be sure to still offer it regularly so they get essential nutrition.
Raw meat, bones or any solids should be excluded as these could contain bacteria that can make both puppies and their mother sick. Cooked meat such as pet mince or sausage meat contains sulphite preservatives which should also be avoided for similar reasons. Gruel should be combined with milk in approximately 1:1:3 ratio without becoming watery.