Are you in the process of weaning puppies? Have you adopted a puppy that was orphaned or separated from its mom prematurely? If so, you may be asking, when can puppies drink water?
Good question! Knowing when and how to introduce water to your puppy’s diet is an essential part of the weaning process and the puppy’s long- and short-term health. If you’re also taking care of the mother, remember that this process is important for her well-being, too.
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When Can Puppies Drink Water?
Your puppy will be ready to drink water between the ages of three to four weeks, when her eyes are open, she’s able to walk and she’s strong and stable enough to slowly stop relying on her mother’s milk as her only source of nutrition and liquid.
At this time, you’ll also want to be separating the puppies from their mother for a couple hours a day and introducing them to puppy food.
For the next few weeks, she should be gradually replacing the intake of her mother’s milk with water and puppy food. By the time your puppy is about 8 weeks old, her diet should no longer include her mother’s milk.
The consistency of the mother’s milk changes throughout the time she produces it. For the first couple of weeks, the puppies need to be consuming their mother’s colostrum, which supplies nutrients that strengthen the pups’ young, vulnerable immune systems and protect them from infection and illness. Colostrum is absolutely critical to baby animals.
Severing your puppy’s reliance on her mother should be a gradual process, though sometimes unfortunate circumstances force puppies to be separated from their mother prematurely.
If your puppy is an orphan or her mother isn’t well enough to produce milk, you’ll need to use a puppy milk replacer such as Esbilac so she can get these essential nutrients. However, you should definitely consult with your vet before buying a replacer.
If you introduce water to your puppy’s diet too soon or abruptly, you’ll compromise her immune system and cellular development, and if you wait too long the mother could start over-producing milk.
Waiting longer than necessary to wean, or undergoing the weaning process inconsistently poses a risk to the mother, who can suffer from the painful enlargement of her mammary glands as a result of over-producing milk.
How To Take The Plunge
When a human baby moves away from breastfeeding, we give them bottles that mimic the feeling and motion of breastfeeding. In adulthood, humans still tend to suckle fluid out of containers.
Dogs don’t need that same type of treatment because they have a long tongue and snout that allow them to lap up water from all sorts of surfaces and containers. However, they still need to learn how to do it.
When your puppy is 3-4 weeks old, put down a shallow bowl with about an inch of clean water. The bowl should be shallow so that it doesn’t intimidate or confuse your puppy.
Wet your finger and allow the puppy to lick the water off of it. Then, show your puppy there’s plenty more where that came from by moving your finger closer to the surface of the water.
Once you’ve taught your puppy how to lap, keep a shallow bowl of water within her reach for the remainder of the weaning process.
How Much Should You Give Them?
Your puppy needs to drink a lot of water in order for her body to grow and perform all its necessary functions. Water carries nutrients around her body, flushes out toxins and stabilizes her body temperature. In doing so, it stimulates their metabolism and allows her to grow.
You can use your puppy’s weight to determine how much water you should give to her. Make sure she drinks about an ounce of water for each pound of her weight each day.
When you start giving your puppy food, you should soften/moisten it with water so that it’s closer to the consistency she’s used to and easier for her little body to digest.
If you are caring for a litter, don’t forget that lactation can double Mom’s need for water. Heat and exercise also increase your pet’s need for hydration. Dehydration in dogs can cause serious health problems, and even a 15% loss of water can cause your dog’s body to shut down.
Puppies can drink water at about 3-4 weeks of age when they are strong enough to start moving away from their mother’s colostrum. Over the next month or so, slow down your puppy’s consumption of her mother’s milk by decreasing the time they spend together.
If your puppy has been orphaned or her mother is unable to feed her, ask your veterinarian about commercial milk replacement formulas, such as Esbilac.
If you are consistent and diligent, your puppy will be lapping up water like a grown-up dog in no time!
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