How Old Are Dogs Supposed to Be to Start Eating Food?

Solid food consumption is a gradual process for any pup.

Solid food consumption is a gradual process for any pup.

Young doggies don't start their lives immediately chowing down on canned chicken or dry food. Solid foods simply aren't necessary for puppies until they reach a certain age that their mother doggie generally determines. Until a puppy starts weaning procedures, you can leave any normal foods off of his menu comfortably and confidently.

Beginning of Weaning in Puppies

Puppies are usually prepared to begin weaning when they're in the ballpark of 3 weeks old, according to the American Kennel Club. Up until this point, the furry ones have no nutritional need for normal food, as mommy's milk, if she is totally healthy, provides them with all of the crucial nourishment their bodies so require. If the mother is unavailable, commercial puppy milk also is healthy and effective. At this tender age, mothers usually start slowly dissuading their puppies away from frequent nursing.

Weaning as a Process

Weaning doesn't just happen with the snap of a finger. The process usually takes about a month or so, with puppies often being totally weaned when they're around 7 weeks old, indicates The Merck Veterinary Manual. During weaning, mother dogs continue to nurse their litters as the youngsters begin getting their paws wet into the world of solid food. Once weaning is over, however, nursing is usually a thing of the past. The puppies are then ready to consume "real" food, and only that -- no mama's milk.

Consistency of Food

If you're supervising a litter of wee puppies during the weaning process, exercise caution when providing them with their first solid meals. To make the transition into eating less shocking for the pups, avoid feeding them just plain dry food, as chewing is still very new to them at this point. Blend the kibble thoroughly with either commercial puppy milk or warm water. Make sure it has a smooth, soft and soup-like texture so the adjustment to solid foods doesn't feel so foreign to the newbies. Always opt for commercial dry food that is made specifically for young puppies -- not for fully mature canines.

Orphaned Puppies

If you're in charge of looking after a litter of puppies lucky enough to have their mommy with them, her maternal instincts usually take over. She'll decide when exactly she wants to start weaning. You usually just have to supervise. If your puppies are orphaned, however, the decision of exactly when to start the process of giving them solid food is up to you. The recommended time frame for beginning to give puppies solid food is exactly the same for both orphaned and non-orphaned pups -- roughly three weeks. If you have any questions or concerns about your specific litter, consult your veterinarian and be sure to take the pups' overall health into consideration.

 

Photo Credits

  • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images