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When Do Puppies Start Eating Solid Foods?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Puppies should start to eat solid food when they are 3-4 weeks old and can continue until they are 7-8 weeks old.
  • Weaning should take place over a period of three to four weeks, starting with mushed solid food before reducing the liquid content gradually.
  • Weaning puppies should be fed at least three to four times a day with a combination of puppy milk substitute and dry puppy food that should be introduced gradually.
  • Watch for signs of puppies bulking or not growing, and puppies that may bully others when feeding, separate these dominant puppies from the weaker ones so everyone can eat.
  • When it's time to choose a dry food option, choose those labeled as meeting the nutrition guidelines from the AAFCO and avoid ingredients like corn and various grains that can cause upset stomachs and allergies.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Taimoor is a well-traveled practicing veterinarian performing duties related to pet care, staff supervision, laboratory work, and diagnoses.
Published on
Saturday 17 June 2017
Last updated on
Wednesday 21 June 2023
When do puppies start eating solid foods? How to wean puppies?
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So you’ve been breeding dogs, and you are now wondering how to wean puppies and when do puppies start eating solid foods? Our article explains you how to transition one or several puppies from their mother’s milk onto any solid food.

The process of weaning puppies off takes several weeks, generally a month, to fully be completed regardless of the type of solid food given (homemade, kibble, canned, raw.) The dog breeder is a cornerstone throughout the weaning process and needs to keep track of how much food is given, eaten, and adjust accordingly.

Starting a Puppy on Solid Food

The process of weaning a puppy from its mother or from nursing milk is a gradual process that usually happens over the course of three or four weeks. First, you introduce the solid food mushed, and then you reduce the liquid content until it is just the solid food left. It can take a month to start a puppy on solid foods, regardless of the food (homemade, raw, kibble, canned.)

When Should I Start?

A puppy should start going towards solid food when they are about 3 to 4 weeks old and can be continued until they are 7 to 8 weeks old. Orphaned dogs and others that may have some behavioral issues may take a longer time to wean so be wary of this.

You can also begin weaning puppies as soon as you see and notice that their mother is running out of milk supply or is getting thin. An additional sign that hints the start of weaning is the first sight of teeth from your pups, which may also begin at about 3 weeks of age.

Watch the video below of a puppy’s very first meal.

From Milk To Solid

Puppies, like children, will take some patience if you want to introduce them to solid food. To do this, you may mix the kibble with milk, but with more of the liquid first. After that, gradually increase the amount of kibble or solid food for your puppy to eat and digest. (see below for specific numbers)

Amount and Frequency

Weaning puppies should be fed at least 3 to 4 times a day. An ideal recipe or formula for weaning puppies is a mash of 12.5 ounces of puppy milk substitute and 2 cups of dry puppy food. Combine these in a blender and add water as needed – this will look like your regular baby food when it’s done.

Simply add more dry food for each week that you feed your puppies. Typically, weaning puppies will eat at about an hour on average depending on the amount of food served and their capacity to chew and consume the food.

Make Sure They Eat Enough


Puppies need enough food for them to grow healthy but they cannot digest much in one seating — so make sure they eat a little bit but often! The weaning period requires the dog owner to watch over their puppies to make sure they have no problems with feeding. Puppies should at least get enough weight over the course period of weaning. An ideal way of finding this out is that puppies should gain weight at least every week. If not, you can consult a vet for advice on nutrition.

In addition to that, some puppies may start to bully others while feeding, so make sure all of the pups get equal amounts by separating the dominant ones from the weaker pups (e.g. different bowls) so they also get their share of food without being held back.

Dry Dog Food May Take Longer

Because dry dog food (kibble) is manufactured with long conservation in mind, the moisture is reduced to the minimum level. This is because water, humidity and moisture are required in order for food to go off. By removing moisture, manufacturers also rid most of the food’s palatability and appeal.

Therefore, the transition may take longer when starting a puppy on dry dog food from the mother’s milk.

Choosing a Dry Dog Food

There are tons of dry dog food choices out there, but it’s hard to decide on which is the best for your puppies. It is important that you pick puppy food that meets the nutrition guidelines from the AAFCO or Association of American Feed Control Officials. This signifies that your puppy food will have the appropriate nutrients for your puppy. In addition, make sure that the label and packaging states for which stage of life should the dog food be fed to the puppies.

As much as possible, avoid certain ingredients for the puppy food, such as corn and various grains, which can cause stomach upsets and allergies. Dog food that is cheap does not mean it is nutritious – always check the label for the content.

Weaning puppies eating raw ground beef.
A puppy should start going towards solid food when they are about 3 to 4 weeks old and can be continued until they are 7 to 8 weeks old.

Right Amount of Food

Make sure that the dog food is given with just the right amount so as not to overfeed or underfeed them for their current life stage. As mentioned above, most dog foods for puppies do come with feeding instructions and indications for you to follow, such as the per-serving amounts.

A good rule of thumb to follow for the duration of the weaning process would be the following for their normal portion size:

  • 1 to 3 months old: offer 4 meals a day
  • 4 to 6 months old: lessen the meals at only 2 to 3 meals a day
  • 6 months and above: go for about 2 meals a day or as needed by your breed

Decreasing the amount of food you feed the weaning puppies is important so that you do not overfeed them and cause digestion upsets. Smaller and younger pups will need all of the nutrients and vitamins they need to grow up healthily.

Feeding Troubles

If your puppies don’t seem to feed well on the food then you might need to add some tidbits. For instance, you can add so chunks of cooked meat to get them interested (don’t over do it). You can also add a cup of hot water to ensure that the kibble and leave it for 15 minutes. In this way, the kibble will be soft enough and your puppies will have less trouble feeding on them.

Vitamins and Minerals


How much nutrients should I actually put on the weaning puppy food? An amount of 25 to 35 grams of protein is recommended so that your pups grow up to be strong. In fact, puppies actually require more protein content than their parents and older dogs.

Aside from their mother’s milk, you can also use commercial nursing milk to give them enough vitamins and minerals. Use this milk as their water for drinking when they are thirsty. Goat milk is a good substitute for cow’s milk. Goat milk typically contains 10.9 grams of 4% of protein, 327 mg or 33% of calcium and various other vitamins such as vitamin A (10%), vitamin D (7%) and vitamin c (5%). It’s a great nursing milk substitute.

Consider only commercial milk that says “puppy formula”, which contains amino acids, protein and minerals that are suited for young pups. Don’t give them cow’s milk, as they may lead to diarrhea, since dogs are usually lactose-intolerant. See our full article about food allergies in dogs.

When Do Puppies start to eat solid food


Puppies grow rapidly and can more than double their body weight in a few days. The most obvious alternative to a bitch rearing her own puppies is for another nursing bitch to act as a foster mother.

Unfortunately, a suitable foster mother at the right stage of lactation and with sufficient milk to rear a litter is rarely available; meaning puppies need to be hand fed with a specially formulated replacement food that meets the optimum requirements of the puppies. This food needs to be a concentrated source of nutrients based on the composition of normal canine milk.

Commercially prepared formulas such as Animalac and Divetelac are preferred to homemade recipes as they more closely resemble the bitch’s milk. It should be noted that cow and goat milk are inadequate for rearing puppies as their protein, fat, calcium and energy density are lower, and the water and lactose content are higher when comparing with dog milk. When desperate cow milk can be modified as follows:

Option 1:
1 cup whole cow milk
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 drop/pinch multivitamin
Mix and heat for puppies less than 2 weeks of age

Option 2:
800 ml whole cow milk
200 ml cream
1 egg yolk
6 g sterilised bone meal
4 g citric acid
2000 IU vitamin A
500 IU vitamin D
Mix and heat

Puppies can only accommodate 10 to 20 ml at any one feeding.

The caloric needs of an average-sized puppy are:

Week 1  12 kcal/100 g/day
Week 2  14 kcal/100 g/day
Week 3  16 kcal/100 g/day
Week 4 to weaning  18 – 24 kcal/100 g/day

Most commercially available milk replacers provide 1 to 1.24 kcal/ml of formula. Hence a puppy should receive 13 ml of formula per 100 g body weight per day during the first week of life, 16 ml per 100 g body weight per day during the second week, 20 ml per 100 g body weight per day during the third week and 22 ml per 100 g body weight per day during the fourth week.

These amounts of formula should be given in equal portions six times daily and should be warmed to approximately 38oC prior to feeding. When preparing the formula always follow the manufacturer’s directions and ensure all feeding equipment is kept clean.

When your puppies seem to have gotten used to solid food, you can finally end the transition by giving them little to no milk at all. Typically, at about 8 weeks of age, a puppy may have already been accustomed to kibble or related food. Congratulations, you have just transitioned your puppies to solid food!

2 comments on “When Do Puppies Start Eating Solid Foods?”

  1. Noelle

    I think my new puppy was weaned at an early age but we got him at 7 weeks and he won’t eat, what do I do? (we already tried wet food, a little milk with kibble, dry, and puppy formula)

    1. Donald Mullan

      I hope you’re little pup is running around like a champ.

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