Weaning and rearing puppies on branded dog foods
New born puppies usually need very little help to locate the bitches teats and suckle, taking their entire nutritional requirements from the bitch. The first milk contains the colostrums – antibodies to diseases the bitch has either encountered or been vaccinated against. The bitch will lick the puppies to stimulate them to pass urine and faeces and she will then clear up after them. This usually goes on until weaning is started usually at between two and three weeks of age.
At 2 to 3 weeks I purchase either Lactol or Welpi milk powder and follow the instructions to make up a small quantity for each feed. I use the small plastic egg poaching cups and start by picking each puppy up in turn and dipping my finger into the milk, allowing them to lick it. Gradually you can lower your finger into the milk and the puppy will start to lap, this can take a few days or even longer, but persevere and they will manage it eventually. Once they are lapping I try to give them milk before they feed from the bitch, so they are starting to need less from their dam. When they are all lapping well I use a heavy flan dish and let all the puppies feed together. I also introduce crushed Weetabix to the milk, this makes it a little thicker and more filling. The bitch will usually stop cleaning up after her puppies once they are taking solid food
By about 4 weeks I start to soak complete puppy food in boiling water and let it cool – it looks like soggy cardboard but they love it and lap it up with relish. I then introduce boiled minced chicken or branded tinned meat for puppies which they start to chew on – by this time the puppies first teeth are through and they will be starting to chew anything which looks interesting! At this point I start to feed puppies in separate bowls – I use a ‘Weena feeda’ ( a plastic tray which holds six small bowls) which allows me to ensure each puppy gets the same amount of food and allows me to identify the greedy fast eater from the slower eaters. I still let the bitch in to them at this stage but make sure she can come away from them when she wants as she will have started to lose condition and she will not be producing much milk. Some bitches will regurgitate their own food for the puppies as the milk supply diminishes, so it is best to keep them away from the puppies for at least 30 minutes after feeding her.
By 5 weeks they are usually eating well, and I start to give the complete puppy food with less soaking, gradually feeding it drier until it is completely dry. I mix this with either branded tinned meat for puppies, fresh minced boiled chicken, boiled white fish or scrambled egg.
I continue to feed 4 times per day until 8 weeks of age, when I start to reduce the amounts fed at lunch and supper times whilst increasing the amounts fed at breakfast and tea times. Always bear in mind the size of a puppies stomach when increasing the volume.
I have not mentioned anything regarding the amount of food to feed, this is because different manufacturers and brands will have their own recommendations. You need to feed more of an economy brand than a premium food because the premium brands have more concentrated nutrition whilst the economy brands have more cereals to bulk them out. Always read the ingredients label and choose a brand with a high meat content.
When choosing which brand to feed remember to consider availability of different brands around the country, especially if you are selling any puppies outside your local area.