June 3, 2023

How long do puppies need milk?

Puppies typically need milk as their primary source of nutrition until they are around 4 to 6 weeks old. After that, they can gradually transition to solid food, but it's essential to consult a vet for guidance on the appropriate time to introduce solids to ensure the puppies' needs are met. 

Welcoming a litter of adorable puppies into your home is super. As a responsible dog owner or breeder, you must understand the nutritional needs of the pups, including how long they’ll need milk. In this article, we will explore this question, find out how often the puppies should nurse from their mother and how to start weaning puppies off mother’s milk.  

How long do puppies need milk

Table of Contents

First, though let’s find out how vital milk is for puppy nutrition.   

Milk and puppy nutrition

Milk plays a vital role in the early development of puppies. It’s their primary source of nutrition, proves antibodies, promotes healthy growth, and boosts immune the system. Mother's milk, also known as colostrum, is particularly crucial in the first 24-48 hours as it contains vital antibodies that boost the puppies' immunity to life threatening diseases like rabies.  

How long should I let puppies feed off mum?

Puppies need milk for the first 4-6 weeks of life. The mother will typically start to wean her puppies when they’re around 3 weeks old. The whole weaning process takes around 4-5 weeks, so pups are usually fully weaned by about 8-weeks old, though it can sometimes take up to 10 weeks. You can start giving the pups water to drink as soon as the weaning process starts.  

When they are fully weaned, giving pups milk can cause an upset stomach and so should be avoided. You can begin the weaning process when the puppies are around a month old, by introducing them to puppy food.  

How often should puppies nurse on mum?

New-born puppies should nurse off their mother every 2 hours for the first couple of weeks of their lives. They can nurse for anything up to 45 minutes at a time.  

When they are more than two weeks old, you can stretch the feeding times out to every 3-4 hours, as long as they’re still gaining weight and growing well.  

Check out Do puppies lose weight after birth?’ 

When the puppies are around 4 weeks old, you can start introducing them to puppy food.  

Puppies who don’t have mothers can stop drinking milk when they are around 7-weeks old, because by this time dogs are physically ready to begin digesting solid food. Indeed, if you’re hand-rearing a motherless pup, you should try to phase out milk feeding entirely by the 7th week of life. 

It’s important to only give puppies canine milk because they won’t get the nutrients they need from cow’s milk, and it can cause stomach aches and diarrhoea, something I’m sure you want to avoid.  

How long can 3-week-old puppies go without milk?

At 3 weeks old, puppies are still highly dependent on milk and should not go without milk any length of time. Their main source of nourishment is still their mother's milk or a suitable milk replacement formula if the pup doesn’t have a mother.  

They should nurse at least every 6-8 hours at this stage. You can begin weaning at this age, but it should be done with the guidance of your vet, so the transition from only milk to puppy food and water isn’t jarring.  

If s puppy doesn’t keep up with that feeding schedule, it’s a sign something is wrong, and you should seek your vet’s advice as soon as you can. 

Now it’s time to discover how you wean a puppy of its mother’s milk.  

How do you wean a puppy off its mum?

The process of weaning should happen gradually and shouldn’t be rushed. You need patience as you begin to introduce pups to solid food and lessen their dependency on nursing.  

Here are steps you can follow. 

  • Start by introducing a high-quality puppy food designed to give them all the nutrition they need. Soften the food with warm water to make it easier for them to eat and digest. 
  • Give them small meals, often. Make sure the consistency is close to porridge to make the change less jarring.  
  • Put the food in a shallow dish and let the pups investigate it and eat it in their own time. You can give them guidance by putting the food near their noses. 
  • Gradually reduce the amount of liquid you add to the food to get them used to a thicker texture and encourage them to chew their food. 
  • Start getting rid of one nursing session a day as they start to become more comfortable with solid food. Continue this process until the pups are fully weaned.  
  • Make sure each pup is ready for weaning, as some puppies may need a little more time before you begin weaning them off their mother. 
  • Make sure pups can always get water, as during the weaning process they will need to drink water to stay hydrated. 
  • You should seek your vet’s advice through the process, so you can address any concerns you may have to them.  

Conclusion: How long do puppies need milk?

Understanding how long puppies need milk is essential for their proper development and well-being.  Milk is a puppy’s chief source of nutrition, with the mother's milk playing a vital role. Gradually transitioning them to solid food through the weaning process ensures they receive the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Remember to consult with your vet for advice, monitor the puppies' progress closely, and provide the devoted care they need at this stage of their lives. With proper nutrition and care, your adorable puppies will thrive and grow into happy, healthy adults. 

If you liked this post, be sure to read Is birch tree milk good for puppies? before you go.  

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