BY MOLLY | EVERYTHINGSHIHTZU.COM
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Newborn puppies are absolutely precious, but they're also pretty helpless. During the first few weeks of a puppy's life, their mother will care for them and provide them with all the nutrition they need.
However, as the puppy grows, they will need to be weaned.
Weaning is simply the period when the Shih Tzu puppy shifts from its mother's milk to solid food, and typically begins when a puppy is between three and four weeks old, ideally completing the process by 8 weeks. During the weaning process, your pup should eat about 3 to 4 times a day.
While weaning a puppy, it's essential to monitor them for proper weight gain and be on the lookout for potential issues like diarrhea, vomiting, gagging, or fatigue.
The puppy's mother will start the weaning process by nursing less and less.
Still, weaning can be stressful for both the puppy and its mother if not done smoothly. So it will be up to you to ensure weaning is done correctly and with as possible and manage any issues that may arise.
When it comes to weaning your Shih Tzu puppy, a gradual transition is best. However, it's essential to stay consistent during the entire process.
If you try to rush weaning or start and stop often, you risk your pup not getting the nutrients she needs and can increase the risk of various health issues.
Plus, hurrying the process can also potentially create food intolerance's that can cause your dog problems as she gets older.
At the start of weaning, ensure that the food is very wet and soft, gradually transitioning it to a more solid texture over the course of two to three weeks. Ultimately, the puppy will be entirely on solid food, and this will mark the end of your weaning adventure.
You will need a few key elements to wean your puppy. Here's a quick list of what you should have at the ready:
You might want to consider mixing up a large batch that you can split up over several meals instead of mixing up a bunch of little batches throughout the day.
You can keep the mixture in the fridge between feedings; this simply saves you some time and effort. This is an especially excellent idea if you're weaning more than one puppy.
Put a small amount of the mixture into a shallow bowl for your dog. Until the puppy can find food on its own, you will likely have to place them next to the bowl.
Focus on when your puppy usually goes to its mom to nurse; you'll have to scoop her up and feed her the softened mixture instead.
After feeding, early on in the weaning process, you can let your pup return to her mom if she wants to "top off" her meal.
Over the next couple of weeks, you will decrease the amount of fluid you add to the blender. The final goal is to completely stop adding the milk replacer, so your puppy is only eating solid food. This is usually happening between weeks 6 and 8, depending on how the pup is doing.
As far as how much to give your pup per feeding, think in terms of the big picture and break it up.
So, if your puppy (based on weight, size, and any special needs) is supposed to eat 3/4 cup of food in one day, break this up over 3 to 4 small meals. Don't let your pup overeat at one time; her tiny stomach won't be able to handle it.
There are a few things to be on the lookout for before you even begin the weaning cycle.
For example, the pup's mom might not make enough milk to nurse her puppies properly, whether due to a medical issue or another situation.
Or, for some reason, she might "give up" your pup, refusing to nurse her. If this is the case, you may need to step in and bottle-feed your puppy until weaning can begin.
You will likely observe that as a puppy gets older, usually around 4 weeks old, they become more curious about their surroundings. They will naturally begin to wander further away from its mother to investigate all the exciting new smells and odd things that come across their path.
Let your puppy explore and gain some independence.
This is an excellent opportunity to start weaning since your pup is already starting to stray further away from her usual food source (mom).
It's necessary to monitor your puppy closely while weaning. You'll have to weigh weaning puppies frequently to make sure they are gaining enough weight.
If there is little to no weight gain, don't hesitate to call your vet right away. On the flip side, you also want to make sure she is not gaining too much weight, which means you're overfeeding her.
It's also important to note that weaning too early has no benefit for your pup. It can even cause problems since the puppy might not be ready to handle what can be a stressful process.
Likewise, monitor your puppy to see if they start to act differently, appears to be excessively tired, throws up, or has diarrhea. In that case, you need to contact your vet.
If you are to sure about what to do when weaning your puppy or if you notice they might need extra attention, don't be afraid to discuss it with your vet. Your vet can help you develop a more personalized plan that works best for you and your Shih Tzu puppy.
-VCA Hospitals Breeding for Dog Owners
-Purdue Implications of Weaning Age for Dog Welfare