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    Weaning Puppies: What to Do

    How Should I Care for the Mother During the Weaning Process?

    To prevent the mother from overproducing milk, which can lead to painful, engorged mammary glands, it is important to observe a feeding and separation schedule both for her and the puppies. This should be discussed with your veterinarian to ensure that the puppies are receiving adequate nutrition, and that the mother’s food intake is being adjusted properly when she is no longer nursing her litter.

    What if the Puppies Are Orphans?

    If you stumble across a litter of orphaned puppies or you’re volunteering at a shelter, you can start the weaning process as early as three to four weeks of age. In conjunction with bottle-feeding, provide the wee ones with canine milk replacer in a shallow bowl. (If they hesitate to drink, dip your finger in the milk replacer and let them lick it, but never force their noses into the bowl.)

    The puppies should soon be off the bottle and introduced to moistened dog food. If they enjoy their new gruel, you can complete the weaning process with regular dry or canned food as described above.

    What Are Some Tips to Make the Weaning Process Go Smoother?

    • Take your time. It can be frustrating if puppies don’t immediately take to the transition, but be patient-periodic setbacks are normal!
    • Keep the babies dry and warm. Weaning is a messy process, and puppies will often find themselves covered in milk or food. Wipe off any “leftovers” and move the puppies away from drafts.
    • Remember, size does matter. It’s okay to leave dry food out for small- or medium-sized dogs to peck as they wish, but it’s important to control portions for larger dogs, who can suffer from bone or joint problems if they eat too much during this period of growth.
    • Check with your veterinarian to be sure that the puppies are progressing normally.

    WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

    The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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