What Should I Feed A 3 Week Old Puppy? (With Feeding Schedule)


Caring for a 3-week-old puppy is a joyous and rewarding experience, intertwined with a significant responsibility. One of the key aspects of ensuring their healthy growth and development is establishing an appropriate feeding schedule. During this time, puppies are transitioning from a diet solely of mother’s milk to incorporating specially formulated puppy foods.

Understanding how, what, and when to feed your puppy during this crucial period can be a challenge as you do not know when they accept solid foods and when they do not. This article is here to help you explore the intricacies of feeding a 3-week-old puppy and give you a proper guide on what to feed them.

3 Week Old Puppy Nutrition

At around three weeks of age, puppies are still nursing and obtaining the majority of their nutritional value from their mother’s milk. However, this is also a time when some breeders start to introduce the puppies to solid foods, in a process known as weaning.

Weaning should be gradual and typically begins with a specially formulated puppy mush or gruel. This is often made from high-quality puppy food that is designed to meet their specific nutritional needs, soaked in water or puppy milk formula until it’s soft and easy for the puppies to eat.

At three weeks old, a puppy’s feeding schedule is mostly dictated by the mother dog, though they may start to explore the mush or gruel you provide. Offer the mush four times a day, and they’ll start to familiarize themselves with eating solid food.

Even though puppies get most of their water from their mother’s milk at this stage, you should still provide access to fresh, clean water. As they start to eat more solid food, their need for additional water increases.

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What To Feed A 3-week-old Puppy Without A Mom?

Puppies around 3 weeks old have different nutritional needs compared to adult dogs. They require a diet high in protein and fat to support their rapid growth and development. Usually, the mother’s milk is the best for a 3-week-old puppy but in a situation where the mother is absent, try to mimic the mother’s milk by using a commercial puppy milk replacer, specifically designed to provide the necessary nutrients for growing puppies.

These milk replacers contain the correct balance of protein, and the essential vitamins and minerals that a puppy needs and should be given to the puppies every four hours. It should also be poured into a sterilized feeding bottle where the puppy can suck without too much effort or a syringe to help ration the quantity the pups should take.

Also, at about 3 weeks of age, puppies should gradually be introduced to solid food. You can begin with a gruel made from high-quality puppy food soaked in warm water or a puppy milk replacer. At first, the gruel should be more liquid than solid. As the puppy grows older, slowly decrease the amount of liquid, so that by around 6 to 7 weeks, the puppy is eating dry puppy food.

Remember to always check with your vet before changing the puppy’s diet or if you’re unsure about what to feed the puppy. It’s also vital to monitor the puppy’s weight and health closely during this time and to take it to the vet for regular check-ups.

How often should a 3-week-old puppy eat solid food?

It is very difficult for puppies regardless of their age to take in large amounts of food at once. When you start introducing solid food (usually a high-quality, nutrient-dense puppy food) to a 3-week-old puppy, it is often necessary to ration them into small quantities.

Eating these solid foods in very small quantities four to five times a day is enough for puppies of this age to add to the mother’s milk. They might walk in it or play with it more than eat it at first, but they will soon catch on. This process helps them to begin the transition away from solely nursing and regular milk intake.

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Is It Okay To Wean Puppies at 3 weeks?

Some dogs can be weaned at 3 weeks especially if the pup has begun teething. Puppies should be weaned gradually starting around three to four weeks of age, but the puppies should not be entirely weaned at three weeks.

While it is possible to gradually start introducing solid food into their diet at this time, it is recommended that solid food is mixed with puppy formula and water to make it appetizing and easily ingestible.

The goal of weaning is to get the puppies to gradually shift from their mother’s milk to solid food. The transition usually takes about 4-5 weeks, starting from around three weeks old and completing when the puppy is around 7-8 weeks old. However, this can vary depending on the size, breed, and overall health of the puppies.

What Should I Do If My Puppy Doesn’t Want to Eat Solid Food?

It’s normal for puppies to be hesitant about transitioning to solid foods. This is a big change for them, and they may need a little extra help adjusting. If your puppy is reluctant to eat solid food, there are several strategies you can try:

Introduce the solid foods slowly: If your puppy is resistant to eating solid food, try introducing it gradually. Start by mixing a small amount of solid food into their usual milk or gruel. Over time, gradually increase the amount of solid food while decreasing the amount of milk or gruel. This can help your puppy get used to the texture and taste of solid food slowly.

Wet the food: If your puppy is having difficulty chewing or is put off by the texture of dry food, try moistening it with a bit of warm water or canned puppy food coupled with milk formula. This can make the food softer, easier to eat, and more appealing.

Hand feeding: If your puppy is particularly resistant, you might try hand feeding the puppy. This can help them get used to the new food and can help to strengthen your bond with them. But this should be a temporary measure to get the puppy started eating solids, you don’t want to establish a long-term habit where the puppy only eats from your hand.

Regular feeding times: Puppies thrive on routine. Offer food at the same times each day so they learn when to expect meals. Make sure to pick up any uneaten food after about 20 minutes to prevent it from spoiling and also to establish a feeding routine.

Check for health issues: If your puppy refuses to eat solid food altogether, there may be an underlying health issue, such as dental problems or a gastrointestinal upset. It’s important to consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns about your puppy’s health or eating habits.

Can 3-week-old puppies eat wet food?

While puppies are ideally still nursing from their mother at three weeks old, there may be circumstances where introducing them to wet food becomes necessary. This could be due to the mother’s inability to produce enough milk, illness, or the unfortunate circumstance of the puppies being orphaned.

In this situation, wet food is typically chosen because it’s easier for young puppies to eat and digest compared to dry kibble. However, at three weeks old, a puppy’s digestive system is still developing and may not be ready to process regular solid food. To aid in their digestion and transition to solid food, the gruel can be made with wet food and mixed with puppy formula until it reaches an oatmeal consistency.

The puppies should be introduced to this gruel slowly, starting with a few spoonfuls at first. As they grow and their digestive systems develop, the gruel can be thickened and the quantity increased.

What happens to mom’s milk when you wean puppies at 3 weeks?

When puppies are weaned from their mother’s milk, the changes that occur in the mother’s body are quite significant, particularly regarding the milk production process.

Puppy nursing stimulates the mother’s body to continue producing milk. When the puppies stop nursing due to the weaning process, that stimulus is gone. The mother’s body, in response, slowly decreases the production of milk, and the process does not stop immediately. Instead, it is a gradual decline that aligns with the removal of the physical demand to feed the puppies.

Yes, the milk that was produced does remain in the mother’s body when her puppies are being weaned. This milk isn’t just discarded by the body; instead, it undergoes a process known as involution. Involution is a biological process where the mammary gland returns to its pre-pregnancy state. As part of this process, the milk that has remained unused within the gland is slowly reabsorbed back into the mother’s system.

There is also a slight risk of the mother developing a condition called mastitis, which is an infection of the mammary glands caused by the stagnation of milk. This can occur if there’s a sudden halt in nursing and the milk isn’t properly reabsorbed.

As with many aspects of pet care, close monitoring and regular check-ups with a veterinarian are essential during the weaning process to ensure the health and well-being of both the mother and her puppies.

Final thoughts

Feeding a 3-week-old puppy is a demanding but extremely rewarding task. It’s crucial to remember that their nutritional, health, and emotional needs are still very high at this stage. To ensure they develop properly and grow into healthy, happy dogs, they require a balanced diet primarily of specially designed puppy milk formula if the mother is not present, and the gradual introduction of puppy-appropriate solid food.

However, some puppies might still be selective of your choices, if this is the case with yours, contact a Veterinarian as they are professionals in providing the best feeding advice.

The care and attention you invest in these first few weeks of your pup’s life will greatly contribute to its overall behavior, development, and well-being in the long run. It’s a labor of love that is sure to reward you with an adorable, loving, and loyal companion.

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