Tips on Weaning Puppies From Their Mother
Puppies need two times more calories per pound than adult dogs need. For newborn puppies, calories are provided by the mother's milk or by milk replacer. At 3-4 weeks of age, puppies can be supplemented with a small amount of canned or dry commercial food that is saturated with milk replacer. Tiny puppies play with their food and need to be cleaned after they eat.
Most dams suckle their puppies until they're 7-8 weeks of age, gradually decreasing the time the puppies are allowed to nurse. With this natural weaning process, by 7-8 weeks of age, puppies obtain 80-90% of their nutrition from supplements, and 10-20% from the dam. Puppies need 25-30% of their diet to be protein.
A puppy's weight should double or triple during the first weeks of life, then continue to gradually increase to the adult weight. Small breed dogs, whose adult weight is 20 pounds or less, reach their adult weight between 9-12 months of age, but large breed dogs don't reach their adult weight until 2 years of age. The size and weight of an adult dog is not determined by how quickly he or she grows, so feeding too many calories will not make your dog maximum size. In fact, feeding too many calories harms your pet. Your pet will reach a maximum size determined by genetics and nutrition.
When growing puppies receive too many calories, and too much calcium, they develop bone disease and arthritis including hypertrophic osteodystrophy, osteochondrosis, and hip dysplasia. Because too many calories and too much calcium cause the bones to grow improperly, these dogs have painful legs and joints, lameness, and malformed bones. Sometimes these signs appear to be rickets, which is a deficiency of calcium, but they are actually the opposite problem. If puppies with osteodystrophy, osteochondrosis, or the tendency to hip dysplasia are supplemented with calcium, their problems become more severe and their bones may be permanently damaged.
With any puppy, but especially puppies of the large and giant breeds, feeding so that the puppy grows slowly is the way to go. Do not overfeed.
Weaned puppies should be fed four times a day until three months of age. If puppies are growing properly and gaining weight, reduce feeding to three times a day. After six months of age, feed puppies twice a day. If possible, avoid leaving your puppy's food down all the time because this allows the antioxidants, fatty acids, and vitamins in the food to oxidize so that your puppy receives less of the nutrients he or she needs and that you've paid for. Gradually introduce a variety of puppy foods and textures so your puppy will mature into an adult willing to eat a variety of healthy foods.
Canned or homemade pet food diets are closer to the natural diet that dogs evolved eating and may be healthier than dry diets for many dogs. If feeding dry dog food is most suitable for you, supplement your growing pet with small amounts of sardines, yogurt, mashed sweet potato, spinach, and pureed vegetables.