Although newborn puppies only need their mother’s milk for sustenance in the first few weeks of life, there will come a time when you need to supplement their diet with water and food.
If you’re a new puppy parent you might be wondering: When do puppies start drinking water and eating food?
In this article, I explore a general guide of when puppies should start drinking water and eating food, so you have a better idea of when they need more sustenance in their diet!
However, this is not information that should be used to replace the advice of your veterinarian, and should only be used as a rough guide.
Keep reading to find out more.
In the first few weeks of their lives, puppies don’t do much else other than sleep and eat. Not only are they born not being able to see, but they can’t walk either, which restricts their activity when they’re first born!
That being said, they rely entirely on their mother’s milk in these first few weeks, feeding from them around every two hours.
Their mother’s milk provides them with all the necessary nutrients and antibodies that are important for their health, development, and growth when they’ve just been born, and they don’t need anything else initially!
When do puppies start drinking water and eating food?
From four weeks, your puppy will be feeding every four to five hours from their mother’s milk.
At this age, your puppy will need more calories than just the calories they get from their mother’s milk alone, and you will need to start supplementing your puppy’s feeds with a mixture of puppy food that has been thinned down with water.
Although you might think that giving a newborn puppy water and food might help them in their growth, this isn’t true, and it can make them incredibly unwell.
By four weeks old, you can begin supplementing your puppy’s diet with a mixture of food and water that will help to eventually wean them off the mother’s milk.
Bearing this in mind, then, it is crucial in the first four weeks that puppies are not given puppy food and water before this time period has passed.
This is because newborn puppies will struggle to digest water as their digestive systems are still underdeveloped and won’t be used to it.
If you do introduce puppies to drinking water and food before the right age, you could compromise their health severely so it should be avoided at all costs before they reach that stage.
Trust me, it really isn’t worth the worry and anxiety, even if you are keen to get them on solid foods sooner. The main thing is that you are patient and that you wait until your puppy is ready.
Once they hit the four week stage, you can then introduce your puppy to water and other forms of nourishment without worry.
How do you encourage your puppy to drink water for the first time?
Making sure that you introduce your puppy to water when they hit four weeks slowly is the most important thing to remember.
You can start by supplementing their solid food with water, as this will allow your puppy’s stomach to adjust to it slowly and there’s less chance of it upsetting your puppy’s stomach.
The key to introducing your puppy to water for the first time is patience. They’re new to this, and it’s bound to take a little time and commitment from you and from them to ensure that they’re getting enough water.
Although it might take a little perseverance at first, you should make sure that you encourage them and reward them with positive reinforcement or a little treat, especially when it comes to teaching a puppy to drink water from its bowl.
The majority of puppies will find being introduced to water in a bowl almost second nature, especially if you’ve already given them solid food mixed with water from a bowl to supplement their diet.
You might find that your puppy might take several minutes or several hours to get their head around the new drinking skill needed, but they’ll get there in the end. Once they do, make sure that you tell them what a good job they’ve done!
You have to remember that up until now, your puppy has been getting all of their food from suckling their mother’s milk – so it’s natural for them to take a little while to adjust to it, and they might make a bit of mess in the beginning.
To ensure that they have the easiest time of getting the hang of it, it’s important to know that the smaller the bowl, the better! Alongside this, it can really help younger puppies to buy a bowl that has an anti-gulp design whilst they are adjusting to drinking from the bowl.
It is also worth mentioning that if you are introducing an entire litter of puppies to water, there is always the chance that you could run into another hurdle.
It is fairly normal for one or two puppies to become dominant, especially in comparison to the runt and could lead to them snapping at their brothers or sisters when they get too close to the bowl.
This is important to discourage to ensure that all of the puppies in the litter are getting the hydration that they need.
Bearing this in mind, then, if this type of behavior occurs, you can try introducing each puppy to the drinking water bowl individually, or remove the dominating puppy for a while until the others have had their chance to drink from the bowl.
You may find that your puppy is reluctant to drink water simply because it’s a foreign liquid to them, especially as they will have gotten used to drinking their mother’s milk.
To make water more enticing, then, you can try adding small pieces of food to the water as I suggested above. Not only will this soften the food and make it easier for your puppy to digest and swallow, but it will also get them used to drinking the water, too!
If this does not work, you can try flavoring the water by mixing it with one or two tablespoons of chicken broth.
The aromas from the chicken broth will hopefully entice your puppy to drink from the bowl, and after they have become comfortable with this method, you can begin to lower the volume of the broth each time that they drink until they are simply drinking water alone.
How often should a puppy drink water?
After you have successfully introduced your puppy to drinking water, you need to gauge how often your puppy should drink water. You need to monitor how much they are drinking in order to stop them from drinking too
little, or too much in one day, it’s all about balance! That being said, once they’re older you can begin to leave water out for them to drink as they wish.
A young puppy of around 4 weeks old should be given around half a cup of water every couple of hours to ensure that they remain hydrated whilst they are exploring more, however, this can differ depending on their activity.
They’ll still be feeding from their mother and they won’t be nearly as active as a puppy of 8 weeks old, so you might find that they are less thirsty on some days.
Too much water can lead to your puppy needing the toilet more often and as a result, could lead to frequent peeing around the house.
In more severe cases, it could even lead to an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea, so make sure that you are always monitoring how much your puppy is drinking and don’t leave the bowl in their reach all day.
What are the signs that your puppy is dehydrated?
Dehydration in puppies can quickly escalate into a serious situation if not addressed rapidly. Puppies are particularly susceptible to dehydration because they have much less body mass than an adult dog.
Generally speaking, a large majority of a dog’s water loss is due to urination and these fluids are replaced when the puppy eats and drinks again throughout the day.
Knowing the signs and how to spot them is incredibly important, and can prevent any more serious issue from occurring. Below are a few signs that your puppy could be dehydrated:
Dry gums and tongue – An early, noticeable sign of dehydration in a puppy is dry mucous membranes in which the dog’s gums and tongue are sticky or dry instead of wet and are often paired with thick saliva.
So how do you check this? Capillary refill time (CRT) is a good measure of hydration.
This is the time it takes for blood to return to mucous membranes after pressure is applied. To check your dog’s hydration, lightly press your finger on their gums.
A white patch will appear where you have pressed and will disappear rapidly if your puppy is hydrated. If not, then it is a sure sign that they are dehydrated.
Loss of skin elasticity – A more obvious sign of dehydration in a puppy is a loss of skin elasticity. Typically speaking, a puppy’s skin fits like a comfortable coat, with some room to move particularly in the shoulders.
Grasp the skin over your puppy’s neck and shoulders, and gently lift. If they are hydrated, the skin will quickly spring back into place upon release.
Bearing this in mind, the skin retracts slowly when the dog is 7 to 8% dehydrated. Dehydration of 10% or more is serious, and the skin will remain in a ridge when retracted, rather than springing back into place.
So, how do you treat hydration in puppies?
The main thing to remember: Take them to a vet immediately.
How a vet treats hydration in puppies will depend on what the cause of the dehydration is. However, it is crucial to be aware that puppies suffering from moderate to severe dehydration require immediate veterinary attention.
This is especially important to note if your dog has vomited or is experiencing diarrhea, but is also true of any moderate dehydration.
That being said, you must get your puppy checked by the vet immediately to ensure that they are safe and nothing more severe happens as a result of the dehydration.
In mild cases where vomiting is not a problem, simply getting the dog to drink water will be helpful, but you should get them checked out at the veterinarian clinic as soon as possible.
Your veterinarian may prescribe products similar to children’s Pedialyte, which also helps to replenish the electrolytes that your dog has lost due to dehydration.
The underlying cause of the dehydration will also need to be treated, and the vet will be able to determine this. Specific medication to control diarrhea and vomiting may be required to prevent further fluid loss if this is the cause.
The most important thing to stress is that if you have any suspicion that your puppy is dehydrated, then call your veterinarian for advice as soon as you can to ensure that they can help the situation and your dog receives the care that they need.
Is it dangerous for puppies to drink dirty water?
Your puppy is experiencing new places, people, and smells all for the first time, so it is totally natural that they’re going to be curious about puddles, too.
That being said, it is important that you are aware that the outdoors can also have its fair share of dangers for a curious or adventurous pup – and one of them is dirty water.
Although you might not think there’s any harm in your pup playing in or drinking from a puddle that they find, you will need to be aware of the danger it has when you’re out and about with your new puppy.
This is due to a disease named canine leptospirosis, which is caused by a bacterium called leptospira. This bacterium is often found in bodies of water, such as puddles or ponds.
This disease is a bacterial infection that enters your pup’s bloodstream and is spread via the urine of animals infected with the disease.
A dog with Lepto will become extremely sick and in severe cases, it can sometimes be fatal.
Keeping this in mind, it is always advisable that you monitor your puppy when you are on walks in the outdoors, especially around standing water and puddles.
Additionally, always keep your puppy on leash around any wet areas and make sure that they do not attempt to drink the water from any puddles, ponds, or other sources of water that you find on your walk for that matter.
Although they are curious and might pull on the leash to explore or play in the body of water, a few minutes of fun isn’t worth the potential risk that this can cause.
Your puppy could become really unwell as a result of this, so as a general rule, avoid it at all costs.
Once they hit the four week stage, you can then introduce your puppy to water and other forms of nourishment without worry.
You can start supplementing your puppy’s diet with food and water from four weeks of age by simply introducing it to them with some of their puppy food thinned with water.
If they are fussy and initially reluctant to drink water from their bowl, hopefully, the tips in this article will help or at least provide you with some ideas of what you can try.
Always make sure that you are monitoring how much your puppy is drinking and eating to ensure that they are as healthy and happy as possible.