The most critical stage in a dog’s life is its first few weeks as a puppy. At this stage, pups are very sensitive and rely solely on the mother’s milk. This poses a challenge when weaning the puppy (which ideally should start 5-6 weeks after birth), because even when giving the puppy food, it may still prefer to go for its mother’s milk.
Furthermore, there’s the problem of what exactly to feed it that’ll be of similar nature/nutrition to its mother’s milk, and also how much food to give the pup, and how often.
Weaning puppies from their mother’s milk can be really tasking, this is why most dog lovers prefer to buy adult dogs or older puppies. Generally, the right age for adopting a puppy is 8 weeks (except you just want an older one). This is because, by this time, they must have been completely weaned, or at least almost completely.
But then, you may be one of those dog owners whose female dogs gave birth, and you find yourself with 6-10 tiny puppies in your hands, and now you’re wondering what to do.
For the first 4 weeks or so, puppies should feed on their mother’s milk. But from the 5th or 6th week, you should start introducing some light solid foods to the puppy, to begin the weaning process. Now, you can’t just throw a lump of chicken at them, or get them some dog biscuits. There are specific types of food you should feed puppies at this early age because there are specific nutrients the puppies need to grow.
What Nutrients Must A Puppy Food Contain
At this stage, the young puppy is all about growth (one reason why puppies sleep so much), so above all else, a puppy’s food must have 3 basic nutrients that are critical for its growth – Protein, Calcium, and Calories.
Protein is a must for pups. If you must take away “mama’s milk”, then you must make sure that what you’re offering has equal or even more protein compared to the milk of the mother.
Calcium is another important nutrient puppies need for strong bones and teeth. It is found in milk. Usually, when feeding very young puppies, separate milk is added to the dog food and mixed, before it is fed to the puppy. This is done to ensure that the pup is getting sufficient calcium for bone growth.
Calories: Pups play a lot and so, burn a lot of calories. The pup food must have a good dose of calories, so your pups stay healthy ab don’t lose weight.
What Type Of Dog Food Is Best For A Six Weeks Old Puppy? (Wet or Dry)
If there is one thing you must know, it’s that dry food is a big “NO” for dogs at this age. There are a few reasons why. For starters, at this age, the dog’s body and digestive system are still used to milk or at least food of that nature. Its system may not be ready to effectively process dry food. Furthermore, at six weeks a puppy is still teething. So how do you expect it to chew on dry food?
It doesn’t matter how sweet or how nutritious the puppy food you bought is, so far as it’s dry, you shouldn’t feed it to a very young puppy.
Some dog owners may use milk replacers alone at this stage, and this may suffice in terms of nutrients. But to begin the weaning process, solid food has to be part of the diet. Soft, wet food is the ideal choice here. But since many of the dog foods out there are dry food, what’s usually done is to grind the dry food, and add water or milk replacer to it. This creates a smooth and slimy paste that the pups can eat easily. Sometimes, milk can just be added to soften the dry food, without grinding.
Switching to actual dry food should be done gradually as the puppy gets older. From 7 weeks and above, milk supplements may no longer be necessary (for a healthy pup), and from the 8th week, dry food should be fed to the dog without grinding or milk replacers.
That being said, here are the best puppy foods you can buy to feed your 6weeks old puppy.
Overall Best Food For Six Weeks Old Puppy
PetAg Esbilac 2nd Step Puppy Weaning Food
If you’re looking for dog food specially made for weaning puppies between the ages of 4-8 weeks, then this Esbilac 2nd Step Puppy Food is the right choice for you.
This product is a creamy cereal made to make the puppy’s transition from mother’s milk to solid food easy. It comes in powder form and needs to be mixed with a little water before it can be edible for puppies.
This dog food is specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of young puppies progressing to solid foods. It contains natural milk protein (a very valuable nutrient), dried meat solubles, rice flour, animal fat, dried milk protein, dried skimmed milk, coconut oil, canola oil, etc. It also contains nutrients like calcium, potassium, zinc, folic acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Biotin, and a host of others.
All the nutrients your puppy will need to thrive and grow are provided by this Esbilac dog food. It is highly digestible, so you can expect little or no complications or side effects (like diarrhea). Its raw dry powder form also, makes it very convenient and easy to store.
1. Highly digestible formula
2. Formulated to meet puppy’s nutritional needs during weaning
3. Contains natural milk protein
4. Contains coconut oil, whey, vitamins, riboflavin, and many more.
1. Powder doesn’t require refrigeration or special storage
2. Very digestible and mild on the puppy’s tummy
3. Best meal for 4-8 weeks old puppies
4. Contains all the nutritional needs of puppies being weaned from mother’s milk
5. Tested and trusted high-quality brand.
1. Only ideal for puppies 4-8 weeks old.
2. Best used as a supplementary meal
General Product Details
|Date first available||November 2, 2004|
|Age range||4-8 weeks|
|Food Type||Wet Food|
|Rating||4.7 out of 5 stars (1,235 reviews)|
Best Dry Food For Six Weeks Old Puppy
Pedigree Complete Nutrition Puppy Dry Dog Food
This product is well-packed with key nutrients similar to a puppy’s mother’s milk. It can be very good food for pups that are 6 weeks and above. Made in the USA, this dog food contains ingredients like meat and bone meal, chicken by-product, corn, animal fat, wheat, rice, fish oil, etc. It also boasts of things like calcium, Omega acids, zinc, citric acid, and several other essential vitamins and minerals.
One thing that makes this product stand out from others, is that it contains vegetables. It also has no artificial flavors and no sugar. Very few puppy foods out there can boast of this combo. Excess sugar is bad for puppies, and this product is considered that hence its “no sugar” formula.
With this Pedigree Complete Nutrition Dry Dog Food, your puppy gets all the vitality it needs to keep up with the big dogs. From healthy brain and muscle development to healthy bones, this Pedigree puppy food has got you covered.
1. Chicken and vegetable flavor
2. Contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
3. Made in the USA
4. Suitable for puppies aged 6 weeks and above
5. Available in chicken and steak flavors
1. No sugar
2. No artificial flavors
3. Contains vegetables
4. Provides overall balanced nutrition for puppy
5. No high fructose corn syrup
1. It’s a Dry dog food
2. Antioxidants may have side effects on very young puppies
3. No real protein source, the only by-product
General Product Details
|Date first available||May 3, 2012|
|Age range||6 weeks and above|
|Food Type||Dry dog food|
|Rating||4.6 out of 5|
Best Food For Puppies Above Six Weeks
Purina Pro Plan Puppy Chicken & Rice Dry Dog Food
Purina is a tested and trusted brand that has been around for a long time. They have a variety of dog foods, many of which are very popular, with amazing reviews and ratings. This puppy chicken and rice formula is another great product.
Made with real meat as the #1 ingredient, alongside wheat, rice, animal fat, fish meal, and other rich ingredients, this puppy dog food is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of puppies. The product boasts of chicken as the #1 ingredient, and also contains easy-to-digest natural milk proteins, calcium, Omega-3, and Omega-6 acids, and several other important vitamins and minerals that will make your puppy stay healthy.
If you truly seek the overall health and wellbeing of your puppy, then the Purina Pro Plan Puppy & Rice dry dog food is all you need.
1. High-quality protein source
2. Contains Omega-6, Calcium, and other essential vitamins and minerals
3. Contains antioxidants
4. Chicken and rice flavor
1. Trusted and reputable brand
2. Provides balanced overall nutrition for puppy
3. Suitable for all breeds
4. Good flavor
5. Available in other formulas (such as Sensitive Skin & Stomach Puppy Formula)
6. Best protein source (chicken)
1. It is dry food, and so may not be suitable for very young teething puppies (6 weeks and under)
2. The high level of antioxidants in this product may have side effects in very young puppies
3. No added fruits and vegetables
General Product Details
|Manufacturer||Purina Pro Plan|
|Date first available||October 24, 2007|
|Food type||Dry dog food|
|Rating||4.8 out of 5 (7,100 reviews)|
Comparison Of All 3 Puppy Foods
|Feature/Content||PetAg Esbilac 2nd Step||Pedigree Complete Nutrition||Purina Pro Plan Puppy Food|
|Protein source||Milk protein||Chicken By-product||Chicken|
|Age||4-8 weeks||6 weeks and above||Above 6 weeks|
|Type||Wet food||Dry food||Dry food|
|Flavor||Null||Chicken and vegetable||Chicken and rice|
|Rating||4.7 out of 5 stars||4.6 out of 5 stars||4.8 out of 5 stars|
Dos And Don’ts Of Weaning A Puppy
Don’t give them sugary foods
Despite the amount of energy they burn on a daily, puppies need very little sugar. Whatever you decide to feed your puppy, make sure it has a low level of sugar. For one, high sugar levels can cause excessive weight gain and diabetes. It can also cause problems for the young puppies that are still teething, as tooth cavities may emerge. Excess sugar will make your puppy’s glucose levels too high, and this may negatively impact its mood and behavior.
It’s much better to go for puppy food with high calories instead. You don’t want to have an overweight puppy that sleeps all day.
Don’t Give Them Dry Food At First
In beginning the weaning process, you have to start with soft, wet foods, or even just plain milk replacers. Remember that your little pup is still teething, and is still used to the creamy nature of “mother’s milk”. So whatever you feed it at first, should be creamy and soft, for your puppy to appreciate it.
This is why milk is commonly mixed with ground puppy food and given to pups during the early stages of weaning (say, 6 weeks), and later actual dry food is slowly introduced.
Don’t Force Them To Eat
When your puppy eats a little food and walks away, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has rejected the food. It may be that it just isn’t interested in the food in the meantime.
It’s better for your puppy to eat small rations several times a day than 2 or 3 large rations a day. So don’t expect them to lick the bowl clean every time.
Don’t Be In A Haste To Cut Off Their Mother’s Milk
For pups that still have their mothers around during weaning, they would always go back to suck her breast milk from time to time. This is a natural craving, and you shouldn’t punish the pup for it. As a fact, the mother’s breast milk has so many antibodies and natural goodies that you won’t find in any puppy food out there. So the longer the puppy sucks her milk, the better.
Just focus on getting the puppy used to solid food. Naturally, a time will come when the mother will stop her pups from suckling.
Don’t Buy Puppy Foods That Don’t Have Meat As The Main Ingredient
If you’re getting puppy food, always check to ensure meat protein is one of the main ingredients.
Protein is highly needed for pups, so it has to be a primary ingredient in whatever puppy food you’re buying. Don’t go for foods that have protein by-products, go for those with real proteins like chicken.
Don’t Give Them Supplements, Drugs, Or Vegetables
At 4-8 weeks of age, puppies are still very fragile, and their immune systems aren’t that strong. You don’t know which supplement or vegetable may react badly with the puppy, so it’s best to give none at all, at least until they’re a little older.
Drugs should be given only at the prescription of a vet.
Always Add Milk To The Puppy Food
This is especially necessary for 5 or 6 weeks old puppies. It ensures that your puppy receives the right amount of calcium, and milk protein.
Usually, replacement milk is used.
Always Grind Fry Food For Teething Puppies
If your puppy is still very young (say, 4-6 weeks) and teething, it is best to grind their food. You can also add water to the ground dry food to make it softer, and easier for the puppy to eat.
Focus On Small Frequent Meals
This is the natural way puppies tend to feed – small and frequent meals. So don’t try to force big rations on them. Split their overall daily ration into 4 or 5 smaller rations and feed them at intervals. Heavy rations may make the puppies overweight.
Switching Foods Should Be Done Gradually
It’s good to switch your puppy’s food, however, take care while doing so to avoid complications.
Start with replacement milk for 4-6 weeks old puppies, then soft wet foods for 6-8 weeks old pups, and then slowly introduce dry foods from there.
Switching puppy foods too suddenly may cause digestion problems.
Watch Your Puppy’s Weight
Your puppy’s weight can tell you if it is healthy, sick, underfed, or overfed. You can decide what kind of foods to give, or not give your pup, from its weight.
Cut back on sugar and milk if your puppy is overweight, and increase rations and milk supplements for underweight puppies.
A Vet can enlighten you on your puppy’s ideal weight.
Check Your Puppy’s Stool Regularly For Signs Of Diarrhea
Diarrhea is a common occurrence in puppies. Although it can also mean that the puppy is suffering from an infection, it usually happens when the puppy’s digestive organs are reacting negatively to a particular food or substance.
Using a milk replacer that isn’t friendly with the puppy’s tummy, or feeding the puppy food that contains highly aggressive antioxidants, may result in this side effect.
Make sure to check their stools, especially when switching meals. If they’re suffering from diarrhea, switch to a different meal, or switch back to the former food.
Different Puppy Breeds Require Different Types Of Food
Some puppy breeds may not grow well when fed the same type of food as other dog breeds.
For instance, the type of food required by pitbull puppies is different from the type of food required by baby chihuahuas. It all boils down to the nutritional needs of each puppy breed.
Sometimes it’s best to contact a Vet, to get first-hand information on what exactly your puppy needs at what age, to be certain on what you should feed your puppy and what you shouldn’t.
Feeding Schedule And Quantity Matters
Your pups should neither be overfed, nor underfed. It’s preferable to set up a frequent feeding schedule, say 4-5 times daily. Each ration should be minimal, but not too small. Pups are prone to overeating (as they can’t easily tell when their bellies are full), so it’s up to you to feed them just the right amounts, perfectly matching their ideal weight.
|Ideal Weight Of Dog At Maturity||Ideal Feeding Amounts Per day For Weaning Puppy|
|3 – 12 lbs||0.5 – 1 cup|
|13 – 30 lbs||0.5 – 1.25 cups|
|21 – 50 lbs||0.5 – 1.5 cups|
|51 – 75 lbs||0.8 – 2.2 cups|
|76 – 100 lbs||1 – 3 cups|
These rations stated above are to be divided into 4 or 5 smaller rations and fed to the pup at intervals.