When your puppies first begin eating puppy food, you will have to soften it for them. This is often called puppy mush or puppy gruel due to its consistency and look. They cannot yet handle completely solid food, so it has to be incredibly soft and mushy. Slowly, the mixture can be adjusted to fit the puppy’s life stage.
Luckily, this stuff is straightforward to make and takes no more than what you already have laying around your house.
When Should Puppies Begin to Eat Puppy Mush?
In the beginning, puppy mush will not be the only food your puppy is eating. They may not get many calories from the puppy mush at first as they try and figure out how exactly to eat it. It can be more complicated than you might think, especially when you’re a little puppy!
For this reason, the first introduction of puppy gruel isn’t meant to provide many calories. Instead, it’s to introduce the puppies to solid food so they can begin getting used to it.
Usually, this should begin when they are around 3-4 weeks old. However, the timing will depend on the mother somewhat. Eventually, the mother will stop feeding the puppies as much as she begins to wean them. This is your sign to introduce solid food – as in mush or gruel.
Some mothers will never initiate the weaning process, though. In this case, introduce the mush in week 4 anyway. The puppies will need to be weaned, even if the mother doesn’t seem like she knows how to start the process.
After only a few introductions, you should encourage the puppies to switch entirely to puppy mush and stop nursing. The mother’s milk will dry up around 12 or so weeks, so the switch needs to be made entirely before then.
How Often Should Puppies Eat Puppy Mush?
Puppies are growing quickly, but they only have small stomachs. Like human babies, they need to eat a little bit often. Even if it doesn’t seem like your puppies are consuming much of the gruel, they are likely taking in a decent number of calories.
Preferably, the puppies should eat the mush three to four times a day. This is a lot and will require plenty of clean-up from you. If the puppies are tiny, you may need to increase this amount but lower the amount of food you offer at one time.
Be sure to weigh the puppies as they grow to ensure they’re on track. You may need to adjust their food intake based on this information. More is not necessarily better, as it can cause health problems down the line if the puppies develop too quickly.
Throughout the puppy’s development, you will want to increase the amount of food per meal but lower the overall meals. They should be eating only two meals a day when they are ready for their new homes, though smaller breeds may still need three to prevent their blood sugar from getting too low.
How to Teach a Puppy to Eat Puppy Gruel
Transitioning a puppy from their mother’s milk to mush isn’t a matter of teaching. Instead, the puppies typically figure it out through exposure. Your job will mostly be to expose the puppies to the food and ensure that the correct amount is available. You may also need to ensure that all the puppies get the appropriate amount, especially if some pups seem to be bullied away by their siblings.
The most you’ll need to do is coax the puppy to try the new food. You may put some on your finger and then offer it to the puppy, who will likely try and suck your finger, consuming the gruel in the process.
Understand that puppies will not quite understand how to eat effectively for some time. For this reason, you’ll need to prepare for plenty of clean-up. The puppies will likely get more on themselves than they actually consume. For this reason, you’ll need to ensure that you have plenty of towels and prepare to support their learning process.
It may take a few times for some puppies to even try a little bit. However, you should continue to offer it regularly. Repeat exposure is exactly how puppies wean, even if they don’t eat very much at first. Eventually, the puppy will recognize their new food and recognize it when you offer it.
There will be little actual teaching when it comes to weaning the puppies. Instead, your job is to offer the right food and provide puppies with plenty of chances to eat it.
Puppy Mush Recipes
There are several ways you can go about making puppy mush, though many of these recipes are incredibly similar. Several breeders will have one recipe they swear by. However, all of these recipes are appropriate for most puppies.
You should use the same kibble to feed the mother, as the kibble will have affected her milk flavor. If the new food tastes closer to what the puppies are used to, the odds are that they will take to eating it faster.
Puppy Gruel Ingredients
The first step to making puppy mush or puppy gruel is to choose the perfect ingredients. The ingredients matter substantially when it comes to feeding your puppies properly. There are a few essential ingredients any puppy mush is going to include.
Firstly, you’ll need some high-quality puppy dog food. The food must be designed for puppies, as this sort of formula contains more of certain nutrients that puppies need, like DHA. It also has a different protein and fat level, which is essential to support the puppy’s growth. You will also need water, which you can get from your tap. The amount of water will depend on the kibble. Some take a bit more water to become mushy, while other types take less. Experiment to figure out the best amount of water for you.
You will also need a puppy milk formula. Some breeders use goat milk instead, which should work similarly. You don’t want to use cow’s milk, as it can upset your pet’s stomach.
To feed about 6 to 8 puppies, you’ll need 2 cups of dry food and about 12.5 ounces of milk. The exact amount of water will depend on how mushy you need to make the food.
The milk, water, and kibble make up the base of the recipe. However, there are several other things you can add as well. Many of these things are considered “superfoods,” but whether they do anything is debatable. Scientific studies have not been done on these ingredients, so the benefits of adding them are not known.
Many breeders add broccoli and dog-friendly seeds. These are added to increase the dog food’s overall nutritional value, as they are deficient in calories but high in nutrients. Types of organ meat are also added, but you have to be careful about pets overeating vitamin K and other vitamins. Organ meats are a little too high in certain circumstances.
Some breeders may add raw meat, but this is not recommended because it can introduce diseases that the puppies aren’t yet prepared to deal with.
In most circumstances, it is best to use a high-quality kibble that is already complete instead of adding in a whole bunch of “superfoods.” If you’re using a good kibble, you shouldn’t need to add in extra stuff.
How to Make Puppy Mush
Now that you’ve figured out what ingredients you’d like to use, it’s time actually to make the gruel. Firstly, you should add the kibble and goat milk to a bowl. Mix the food as much as possible and let it sit for a few minutes. This will soften the kibble and make it easier to mix.
If you don’t have a blender, you will need to add warm water to soften up the mixture. The kibble doesn’t have to be incorporated entirely, but you do want it mostly all mixed. If you have a blender, you don’t have to spend as much time waiting for the kibble to soften. Instead, throw it all in the blender (single-serve blenders and Ninja blenders work well for this purpose).
A hand mixer works as well, though not necessarily as good as a blender. A potato masher works incredibly well. Your goal should be to get it about oatmeal consistency.
How to Feed Puppy Gruel
Now that the puppy gruel is made, you should place it in a few very shallow pans. Regular baking sheets work just fine, as do pizza pans. Some specialized puppy-gruel pans are available, but these are pretty unnecessary in the large scheme of things.
Put the food in an area that you don’t mind getting dirty. If the ground is cold, lay down a towel. Then, lay the puppies near the gruel. Don’t shove their heads in it, but they should all be able to find it quite easily.
Let the puppies eat at their rate. In the beginning, it may be relatively slow. When the puppies are no longer interested, you can take it away. Usually, puppies will fall asleep after they are full.
Featured image credit: Switlana Sonyashna, Shutterstock