Taking care of newborn puppies is a gift that not many people get to enjoy.
You get the chance to see them open their eyes for the first time, test out their tiny little legs and bond with their mom.
During their first few weeks of life, they experience many firsts.
It takes them a bit to get used to everything, especially when it comes to fighting for a spot during mealtime when they all drink their mother’s milk.
What happens when milk isn’t enough for them anymore?
That’s when it’s time to make puppy gruel and puppy mush.
Check out how to make both and why they’re crucial for puppy development.
What is Puppy Gruel?
When puppies grow to three or four weeks old, it’s a good time to get them off their mother’s milk.
Their mom may start producing less milk as her body returns to its pre-pregnancy state.
They also start developing their baby teeth, which makes their mom less inclined to feed them.
Even when their mom is done with her milk, puppies can’t transition directly to dry kibble. It would be a shock to their digestive system.
Instead, they should step into the world of puppy gruel.
Puppy gruel is a highly nutritious soft food that most puppies enjoy.
It can be made a couple different ways, depending on what you have on hand.
How to Make Puppy Gruel
Before you pull out your canine milk replacement, recognize a puppy’s need to learn to eat solid foods.
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Gruel is the first step in that process, so here are a few ways to make it.
Option 1: Use Puppy Kibble
If you’ve already bought your bag of dry puppy kibble, don’t toss it out.
Puppies need protein, fat, phosphorus and calcium during their first few weeks, so check for a kibble brand that emphasizes those nutrients in its food.
After you’ve brought the food home, it’s time to take out your blender.
Pour two cups of puppy food into a big bowl and soak it all with a 12.5 ounce can of puppy milk replacement. Let it sit for ten to fifteen minutes, or until the kibble is swollen and soft.
Dump it all in a blender to blend it into a liquid or mash it with a potato masher until the kibble is broken up.
Option 2: Use Baby Rice Cereal
You soak the rice cereal in the puppy milk replacement until it’s soft and mush it up into a liquid.
It may not have all the nutrients of kibble, but the milk replacement will step in to help.
What is Puppy Mush?
Puppy mush and gruel are often interchangeable, but the process for making them is slightly different.
How to Make Puppy Mush
At the end of week five and beginning of week six, it’s time to introduce the puppies to thicker foods so they get used to chewing.
That’s where puppy mush comes in.
You’ll definitely want to use puppy kibble with their milk replacement.
Feed them the same two cups of food per meal, but decrease the milk replacement bit by bit.
The idea is that the kibble still soaks for around fifteen minutes, but doesn’t dissolve or become blended. It should still be soft enough for them to munch on without putting too much pressure on their new teeth.
Every few days, continue decreasing the milk so they’ll be used to eating dry kibble by the time their new parents pick them up.
The main bonus of using kibble at this stage is that the puppies will have a few weeks to get used to digesting the brand you choose.
If they’re sent home with a bag of that same brand, the new owners won’t have any potty accidents to clean up from an upset puppy stomach that’s forced to digest brand new food.
Tips for Making Puppy Mush or Gruel
The process of adjusting a puppy from milk to gruel to mush may sound simple, but there are a few important facts you need to remember while the puppies are in your care.
Add More Water
Between birth and four to six weeks of age, puppies may not drink much water.
That’s because they’re getting water from their mother’s milk or the milk replacement.
As soon as you start switching them to puppy mush, when the liquid is decreased, they’ll become thirstier.
Leave out extra water during the last few weeks with the puppies so they stay hydrated.
Although it may surprise you, water intake encourages the metabolic processes, which keep each puppy growing on track.
If puppies are left dehydrated, their physical and mental development could become stunted.
Stick With Puppy Food
Puppy kibble is formulated specifically for a puppy’s needs, which includes all the nutritional demands they need during their continuous growth spurts.
Adult dogs don’t grow like puppies do, so their food is slightly lower in carbs and protein.
While that’s great for what adult dogs need, it leaves puppies nutritionally lacking.
Stick with puppy food for the gruel and mush.
While most puppy food is designed for all puppies, it may be wise to get a breed-specific puppy food. Especially with certain breeds such as German Shepherds
Don’t Reuse Mush or Gruel
Sometimes it takes puppies a bit to get used to eating their mush or gruel compared to sucking for milk.
While you can help them learn by bringing the food to their mouth for the first few mealtimes, you shouldn’t reuse the softened food if they don’t eat it all.
After kibble is soaked and exposed to air, it starts to lose its flavor and quality.
It’s meant to be packaged, stored and served dry, so soaking it is like introducing a bag of dog food to moisture. It grows mold quickly.
If the mush or gruel smells strange after sitting in the bowl for even thirty minutes, toss it out.
It’s always better to serve food fresh than risk the puppies eating bacteria or mold.
Transitioning puppies off of their mother’s milk to kibble is easier than most people realize.
You don’t need special formulas to make mush or gruel. Just use the puppy kibble or rice cereal you have on hand, combine it with puppy milk replacement, and your puppies will be good to go.
Have patience while they learn and the puppies will be just fine when they drive off to their forever home.