When Can Puppies Eat Solid Food? What To Know about Weaning Puppies

Published Jun. 13, 2024
litter of small dalmatian puppies eating puppy gruel on a tiled floor

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Weaning—the transition from drinking only milk to eating solid food and drinking water—can be a nerve-wracking time in a puppy’s and pet parent’s life. Most people never have to take care of puppies who aren’t fully weaned, and finding yourself in that position for the first time can feel overwhelming.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about weaning puppies.

When Can Puppies Eat Dry Food and Wet Food?

Their mother’s milk (or puppy milk replacer, if necessary) is the only food a puppy needs from the time they are born until they are around 3 or 4 weeks old. At that point, weaning begins.

Weaning a puppy happens slowly. Though it can start when a puppy is 3–4 weeks old, the weaning process won’t usually be complete until a puppy is 6–8 weeks old. Over that time, puppies will gradually get less and less nutrition from milk and more and more from puppy food and water.

Initially, weaning puppies can only lap up very soft, wet foods—such as canned puppy food with a little puppy milk replacer mixed in to make a “puppy gruel.” By the end of the weaning process, they can be crunching on dry puppy food and drinking water from a bowl.

Choosing a Food for Weaning Puppies

There is no one puppy food that’s best for every dog and every situation. Your veterinarian can provide you with individualized advice for choosing a food, but here are some good options for weaning puppies.

How To Wean a Puppy

Weaning can look a little different depending on each puppy’s situation. For example, a puppy’s mom will naturally start restricting their access to milk, usually when they are around 4 or 5 weeks old, which will push them toward solid food.

If you’re bottle-raising pups, you probably want to get them weaned as quickly as possible. You can usually start at around 3 weeks of age.

Here are the steps for weaning a puppy:

3 to 4 Weeks Old

Make a very soft puppy gruel by mixing some milk replacer in with wet puppy food. Place it into a shallow bowl that the puppy can easily reach into. Dip your finger in the food and let the puppy lick it off.

Put the puppy in front of the bowl and let them lap it up. They usually take to it right away, but don’t force it if they’re hesitant. Just try again at the next feeding.

When a puppy is done eating, you’ll probably have to wipe them off. Puppies should be offered food at least four times a day, though they will still be getting a lot of their nutrition from milk at this point.

5 to 6 Weeks Old

By now, puppies should be eating soft food with gusto. There’s no longer any need to add puppy milk replacer to canned food. In fact, many puppies will be ready for food that has chunks in it.

If you eventually want to feed your puppy dry food, start by letting kibble sit in some warm water to soften it, then mash it up with a fork.

Provide puppies with food four times a day. They’re probably not getting much milk from their mom or a bottle anymore.

6 to 8 Weeks Old

Most puppies are fully weaned and eating only wet puppy food or softened dry food by the time they are 6 to 8 weeks old. You can gradually start reducing the amount of water you add to dry puppy food until your pup is crunching away at their kibble.

Even though most puppies are fully weaned by this time, they should ideally remain with their mother and littermates until they are 10 weeks old. Socialization is crucial for young puppies, and their mom and siblings are best suited for teaching them how to be a well-adjusted dog.

When Can Puppies Start Drinking Water?

Introducing water to a puppy follows a similar schedule as introducing them to solid food.

3 to 4 Weeks Old

Puppies should be getting all the water they need through their mother’s milk, bottle feedings, and the water present in their puppy gruel. It’s OK to offer extra water in a small bowl at feeding time, but don’t be surprised if your puppy doesn’t drink it.

5 to 6 Weeks Old

Puppies are learning to drink water from a bowl and their drive to do so will increase as the water content of their diet decreases. They should have access to drinking water whenever they are awake.

6 to 8 Weeks Old

Puppies are getting all the water they need by drinking from a bowl. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about your pup’s water intake or general nutrition.

How Long Do You Feed Puppies Puppy Food?

Now that your puppy is happily eating puppy food, you’re probably wondering when it will be time to switch to adult dog food. The best time to change is usually when they’re done growing in height. This happens earlier for small pups than for larger dogs:

As always, a pup’s unique circumstances can change these recommendations. Your veterinarian is in the best position to tell you what is right for your puppy.

Jennifer Coates, DVM


Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary...

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