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For the first seven to ten days of life, the newborn puppy’s eyes remain closed. Yet during that time, puppies double their birth weight and become increasingly more active. As a rule of thumb, each puppy in a litter should gain approximately its birth weight each week during the lactation or nursing period (the first week may be slightly less than that and the final weeks may be more than that)
The typical introduction of a puppy to solid food (around 3 to 4 weeks of age) usually amounts to the puppy romping around and through the female’s food bowl, and licking moistened dry food from its paws. Puppy traffic will tend to compact the food, so stirring the compacted diet or offering fresh amounts periodically should be considered. By six weeks of age, most puppies are ready to be weaned. If they have started to eat solid foods from the female’s dish, it is not unusual for puppies to begin to wean themselves at about four to five weeks of age.
The nutrient requirements to support normal growth and development of puppies are greater than those for an adult dog. For this reason, nutritionally complete and balanced diets designed for growth and reproduction or all life stages are recommended. No additional supplementation in the form of vitamins, minerals, meat, or other additives is needed.
A puppy’s stomach capacity is not large enough to hold sufficient food in one feeding to provide its daily requirement of needed nutrients. Young puppies should be fed at least three times a day until their food requirements, per kilogram of body weight, begin to level off as they mature. Feeding schedules can be reduced to twice a day when pups are four to five months old. Fresh water in a clean bowl should be available at all times.
Establishing routine eating habits by feeding a puppy in the same place and at the same time each day is recommended and can help in housebreaking. Offering human foods from the table is not recommended because it encourages begging and may create a finicky eater. Puppies consuming a complete and balanced diet do not need supplemental vitamins, minerals, or meat. In fact, over supplementation has been shown to be detrimental to proper development of young, growing puppies.
The amount of food offered to a puppy will vary depending upon its size, activity, metabolism, and environment. Puppies should not be allowed to become overweight. An overweight puppy not only presents a poor appearance, but the excess weight can cause bone abnormalities. If a puppy appears to be gaining too much weight, its food intake should be reduced. If a puppy appears to be too thin and there are no health problems, its food intake should be increased. Anytime owners have questions or concerns about their animal’s body condition, they should consult a veterinarian.