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When Can a Puppy Start Eating Puppy Food? Vet-Approved Recommendations

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on May 11, 2024 by Dogster Team

Cocker Spaniel puppy eating

When Can a Puppy Start Eating Puppy Food? Vet-Approved Recommendations


Dr. Lorna Whittemore  Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

There’s nothing much cuter than a puppy, but with puppies come responsibilities. Knowing how to feed puppies and when to wean them off their mother’s milk is imperative. Plenty of puppy foods flood the pet food market today, but how do you know when it’s time to start feeding a puppy actual puppy food?  A puppy can begin eating puppy food at roughly 4 weeks old.

Puppies don’t stay puppies for long, and they need to get off to a healthy start with your help. In this article, we’ll discuss how to transition your puppy from mother’s milk to puppy food.

Dogster_Website dividers_v1_Jan 18 2024-01-TESTWhen Can a Puppy Start Eating Puppy Food?

Puppies need proper nutrition to grow strong. Nutrition plays a vital role in developing lean muscle, strong bones, and teeth, and your puppy will need special nutrient balance you won’t usually find in adult dog food.

There comes a time when a puppy won’t get all the calories needed from the mother’s milk, and that’s when puppy food comes in, usually at around 4 weeks old. This age is when you should start the weaning process to get your puppy used to solid food. The weaning process can last up until the puppy is 7–8 weeks old.

Puppy yorkshire terrier eating dry dog food
Image by: Scorpp, Shutterstock

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How to Introduce Food to Puppies

To start out, you can use gruel, or “puppy mush,” which is basically softened dog food to feed for a smooth transition from the mother’s milk. For small breeds, you can use rice baby cereal mixed with a milk replacer. This substance provides bulk and keeps a puppy’s appetite up. You can also use a soft tinned food that is suitable for the mother and puppies upto 8 weeks of age.

After your puppy gets accustomed to the soft food, you can slowly add a high-quality kibble puppy food that has been softened with warm water. You should aim for roughly 20 minutes of soaking the kibble. You’ll want to add enough of the milk replacer to entice the puppy to eat if needed. Ensure the puppy food is appropriate for the puppy’s breed; for example, if you have a large breed puppy, buy a puppy food formulated for large breeds.

How Often Should I Feed Gruel?

You should feed roughly four times daily until the puppy reaches 2–3 months old. At 3–6 months old, drop to three meals a day. Finally, your puppy should be eating solid dog food twice a day at 6–12 months of age. It varies according to the size of the puppy.

Weaning puppies can be a messy business so you may want to feed them out on the lawn or on an easy to clean floor such as the kitchen.

rottweiler puppy done eating
Image By: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Should I Feed Wet Food or Dry Kibble After Weaning?

After the weaning process, puppies will still have puppy teeth until around 12 weeks of age, making wet puppy food an excellent choice until their permanent teeth come in. You can feed dry kibble at this point, but you’ll need to soften the food beforehand.

Make sure you’re feeding your dog the right type of food for their lifestyle, check out our dog food calculator here:

The exact amount of calories an individual animal needs to maintain a healthy weight is variable and influenced by many factors including genetics, age, breed, and activity level. This tool is meant to be used only as a guideline for healthy individuals and does not substitute veterinary advice 

Tips for Keeping Your Puppy Safe

Always provide optimal nutrition for your puppy. Try and avoid feeding table scraps, as table scraps can have spices and other harmful seasonings, such as garlic, black pepper, or onion powder.

Puppy-proof your home and ensure no electrical cords are out in the open for your puppy to get tangled in and ensure windows are closed. Keep medications locked and out of reach, secure trash cans, keep toilet lids closed, and remove any poisonous houseplants from your home.

Dogster_Website dividers_v1_Jan 18 2024-01-TESTFinal Thoughts

Remember that a puppy needs the appropriate nutrients to grow healthy and strong. The weaning process takes several weeks and is an extremely important factor for a healthy life. Eventually, your puppy will only eat twice a day, but that doesn’t occur until 6–12 months of age. After your puppy has reached this age, ensure you feed it high-quality food, preferably one with real meat as the first ingredient for proper protein intake.

We hope this article sheds some light on this topic and helps you understand how to feed your puppy. Always consult your veterinarian if you get stuck or need help during this time period.

Featured Image Credit: Switlana Sonyashna, Shutterstock

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