Labrador Puppies Articles
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How to Feed and Wean Puppies
If all goes well, a litter of puppies should feed happily from their mother until around three to five weeks of age. Sometime during this period, while they are still taking plenty of milk from the bitch, you can start supplementing the bitch's milk, so that the puppies learn to lap from a saucer. This avoids any "check" in the puppies' growth due to a reduction in food, and also promotes a natural reduction in the amount of milk the bitch produces, as the puppies make less demands on her.
Weaning puppies off the bitch
The first step towards weaning is to make up a sloppy mixture of baby cereal and warmed cow's milk and put a little of this into each puppy's mouth with your finger or the handle end of a teaspoon. After introducing the mixture this way, put it in the puppy pen in saucers twice daily. For the first week or so the puppies will crawl through their meals and will need wiping down after feeding. Any milk or feed left on the skin can cause dermatitis or hair loss. The bitch is usually excluded during feeds to avoid her interfering too much. As the puppies learn to lap properly and take plenty from their dish they can be given food three or four times a day; at this stage you can introduce meat.
The traditional first solid food of scraped best stewing steak isn't ideal since it is low in calcium. If you want to use fresh meat, you should supplement the calcium with bone flour. To scrape meat, lay a piece of stewing steak out flat and draw the blade of a sharp knife firmly across it, gathering a kind of "meat paste". If the puppies are over three weeks old, you can give them raw minced beef straight away, with bone flour.
Alternatively use a specially formulated tinned puppy food. Even canned all-meat adult dog foods are better balanced than fresh meat, although you should add a little bone flour to these too. Whatever you choose, it must be finely ground. To make canned meat easier for puppies to eat, pour on a small amount (less than 10 percent volume for volume) of hot water and crush it with a knife.
As the milk supply from the bitch dwindles, give the puppies more feeds yourself. Puppies need feeding more frequently than adult dogs for the same reasons that human babies require frequent feeds - for rapid growth and development. The calorific requirements of a puppy, on a weight for weight basis, are up to four times those of an adult dog.
Don't be in too much of a hurry to wean a litter of puppies if feeding is going well and their mother still has sufficient milk to nourish them. But if puppies aren't weaned by five weeks, start this in earnest, beginning with meat. In general, puppies should be taking very little - if anything - From the bitch by six weeks of age.
DAILY FEED TIME TABLE (7 - 12 WEEKS)
|Milk and cereal.||Morning.|
|Meat and rusk.||Mid-day.|
|Meat and rusk.||Afternoon.|
|Milk and cereal.||Evening.|
Developing adult eating habits
At around twelve weeks of age, a puppy usually loses interest in one of the feeds of its own accord, so drop one of the milk meals. Three feeds a day are usually continued until six months, then two feeds a day until nine months. Whether you continue to feed your dog twice daily or cut down to once depends partly on circumstances and partly on the dog. In general, the smaller toy dogs fare better on two meals a day.
The right approach to feeding
Don't give any of the puppies the opportunity to become a fussy feeder. When you put down a meal for a puppy, introduce it to the food and leave it quietly. Don't just put the food down and expect the puppy to find it. Allow 20-30 minutes for the meal to be eaten then pick it up again. Leftovers can sometimes be covered, refrigerated, and re-offered at the next meal, perhaps with a little gravy or stock. Again, pick the meal up after 20-30 minutes or it will become dry and tasteless.
This process is the same as described for normal puppies, but begins at about two and a half weeks. First encourage the puppies to lap, and as soon as this is mastered, introduce meat. Hand-reared puppies usually learn to lap several days earlier, than puppies on the bitch, which makes life easier for you. Take great care that the puppies don't suffer a setback at this stage due to being slow get enough food from the saucer. Continue feeds with the bottle until you're sure that all the puppies are feeding well and gaining weight satisfactorily.