Puppies Taste Solid Food
When the puppies turn 3 weeks old, I watch for some developmental signs that they’re ready for solid food. They need to have their eyes open, their mobility has to be not-too-wobbly, and mostly potty-ing off of the sleep area. The mamas behavior helps me too. She may start to spend less time with them, not want to nurse as often.
With very large litters, I am especially ready for this transition. That mama is TIRED!
All litters are different (after all, dogs are individuals). And within one litter, there are definitely developmental differences that can relate to their developmental age at birth (conception can happen over a couple of days), and their experiences after birth.
How does all of this play out for Ripley’s pups?
Ripley gave birth to 7 puppies. 3 died within the first week. Little Tiny (officially named Groot), was struggling for the first week that he was here. He was latching on well, he was nursing, but he wasn’t gaining weight at the same rate as the other puppies. This is why it’s important to weigh them daily. That is a strong indicator of whether you might have a problem that needs to be addressed. I tried to supplement his nursing with a bottle, but he was not having it. Then suddenly, he started gaining weight. His little body started to ‘look right’ – no distended stomach after nursing. And I stopped worrying.
When the puppies turned 3 weeks old, I didn’t see the developmental signs I was looking for. They were still sleeping most of the time. Their eyes hadn’t started opening until 2 weeks old (usually happens around 10 days old), and they weren’t very mobile. A couple days after their 3 week birthday, I offered a little mush from my fingertip. Surprise of the century! Little Tiny loved it. He couldn’t get enough. Over the next couple of days, the biggest puppy started to show a little interest, and the middle-of-the-road puppy sort of liked the food. But the grey boy showed absolutely no interest at all. (I really need to learn their names. My husband does the naming; I do the nick-naming).
I continued to offer food at least once a day. Every single other litter I’ve fostered has taken perhaps 3 days max to get the hang of eating. Finally Ripley’s puppies started to lap up the food, tonight! They are 4 weeks and 3 days old!
This is one of the best things about fostering – there are NO wrong answers. I get to spend time with the pups (and mom), to observe behavior and signs of developmental stage. We’re not on a strict schedule. I look for milestones reached by each puppy and offer the thing that they need next in order to enrich and fulfill.
So, I’d been offering food on my fingertips. That has worked for every litter I have ever fostered…. Then I transition the pups to move to the edge of the plate (where the food is), then they figure out that there’s more in the center of the plate. It takes them a minute to transition from pointing their heads up for nutrition (think about their nursing position), to aiming their heads down toward a plate of food. Tonight, I figured out that if I lifted the plate up to their nose/mouth height (mere inches off the floor for these little guys), they could smell the food better and they started lapping it up! Even the grey boy, who had been uninterested in this experience up until this point.
Of course, they also enjoyed the full-body experience of FOOD.