Weaning Puppies: When Can Puppies Eat Solid Food?
How do puppies make the essential transition from mother’s milk to solid food? Weaning puppies is a gradual process, through soft meals that help their tiny tummies adapt, as they learn to adjust to an entirely new way of eating.
At about four weeks, as your puppy is undergoing the weaning process, the transition to solid food begins. This is when you will start to introduce a quality puppy food to their diet.
If you’re welcoming a puppy who is eight weeks or older, and therefore already weaned, they have already made much, if not all, of this transition. If you’re an active participant in this process, here are some answers to questions you might have along the way.
When Can Puppies Eat Wet Food?
When solid food is being introduced into a puppy’s diet, it is always in a wet or softened form. At about four weeks of age, as your puppy is being weaned from mother’s milk, start adding small meals of a quality puppy food, either in wet form or a moistened version of dry puppy food. Make sure the food you choose for your puppy’s first solid meals is complete and balanced for puppies, with the nutrition they need for healthy growth.
Because puppies have tiny tummies but still need lots of nutritional energy, it’s important to know how often to feed your puppy. Until your puppy is older, you should give them their daily nutrition portioned into three smaller meals a day. To confirm how much to feed your puppy, follow the guidelines on the puppy food label and talk to your veterinarian for recommendations.
Serve those meals in a shallow, stable bowl, to make it easy for your puppy to reach the food (and hard to tip the bowl over in case they decide to step in for a closer look). Don’t be surprised if this happens! After all, this type of food, and this way of eating are both new for your puppy. Until they figure out proper table manners, they might get a bit messy at mealtime—be prepared to gently clean them off after they eat.
Also, as your puppy is transitioning to solid food, it’s important to remember that you need to replace the hydration they’ve been getting from mother’s milk, as well as the nutrition. So be sure to have fresh water always available, in a dish that’s easy for them to drink from.
When Can Puppies Eat Dry Food?
If dry food is softened with water, you can start to introduce it to your puppy at around four weeks of age, just like wet food. Once your puppy is eating the softened dry food successfully, if you want to eventually feed a dry-food-only diet, now is the time to start that transition.
The Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook recommends that you reduce the amount of water mixed with the kibble very gradually over the next few weeks. By around the seventh week you should be feeding only dry food.
Feeding Puppies Solid Food for the First Time
For your puppy’s first solid food meal, the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook advises that you make a gruel by mixing wet or dry food with water.
How to Soften Puppy Food
While there is of course no need to soften wet food, to ensure proper hydration during the switch from mother’s milk, both wet and dry foods should be mixed with water before serving.
For wet food, mix two parts food to one part water.
For dry food, mix one part food to three parts water.
When your puppy is eating either of these mixtures well and drinking from the water dish, gradually reduce the water content until you are feeding either wet or dry food only.
How Long Do You Have to Soften Puppy Food?
To soften dry puppy food, mix the food with hot water, let it sit for about 15 minutes until it starts to soften, then mush it up. When it has cooled to a temperature closer to your body’s own, it’s ready to share with your puppy.
The Journey to Solid Food Requires a Gentle Start
By introducing solid food to your puppy through soft, moist meals, you can make the transition to solid food, and the adjustment to the next phase of your puppy’s nutrition easier, for your puppy and for you.
For more expert tips on feeding your puppy, explore our other puppy feeding articles.