First Few Days
During the first few days of their lives, the puppies nurse almost constantly. The dam will hesitate to leave them except for a few minutes to relieve herself or get food. She will need at least three good meals a day during this nursing period with plenty of liquid, such as meat broth, in order to maintain her milk supply. If the litter is large (nine or more) or the dam’s milk supply not abundant, it may be necessary to supplement the feeding of the puppies from the second or third day on.
This may be done with a special formula or a regular baby formula. In litters of 10 or 12 it may be necessary to more or less rotate hand-feeding and nursing. Many puppies benefit from the addition of vitamins. The greedy, roughneck puppy may have to be restrained or limited in his feeding time as the days advance. Small puppies need additional food or more feeding time.
At nine days, add strained baby meat (beef) to the milk formula until it becomes a cocoa color. Meat is very important to puppies at this stage. Puppies will eat meat off the finger of the owner, which will allow for a sucking motion. A puppy of nine days may be held on the hand on a towel and fed lap warm liquids such as milk-meat liquid mix from a sauce dish tipped and held in the other hand. The puppies get a little wet during this process, so chilling should be avoided.
At the end of the second week, a small amount of baby cereal may be sprinkled into the milk-meat mix. The puppies will still enjoy ending with the liquid.
During the third week, more cereal may be added, and at the end of the third week, ground, semi-cooked extra-lean beef may replace the strained meat or baby food mix. About this time, puppy meal or small kibble may replace the baby cereal.
Why the extra-lean meat? Puppies eat a great deal in relation to their size, as they are growing very fast. They are shifting and adjusting to new foods while still getting a large supply of their mother’s milk. Any excess fat that there might be in the average hamburger can produce a loose stool, which is hard to handle. If diarrhea or loose stool occurs, important nutrition may be eliminated and lost to the puppy.
Week 4 and 5
During the fourth and fifth weeks, the mother will find it uncomfortable to nurse the puppies as they are big, their claws are sharp, and she begins to tire of her chores. But the puppies should remain to some extent on their mother’s milk until six weeks as they gain some immunity through her milk, and the relationship of dam and puppies is important to their emotional development, ability to receive training and their relationship to other dogs as revealed in puppy tests.
Week 6 to 8
Six-to-eight-week old puppies require three to four feedings per day, preferably two of milk-meat-kibble (meal) mix morning and evening and the mid-day feeding of milk, cottage cheese, and cereal. Boiled eggs and small amounts of cooked ground beef liver should be added to one of the meals or used three or four times a week. Raw eggs should not be given to dogs, particularly young puppies, as raw eggs are colloidal in dogs and so tend to remove minerals and vitamins during excretion. Tuna (either oil or water-packed) may be used for variety.
Specific amounts of food are difficult to give as the amount of milk of the mother, and the litter’s size varies. No puppy should be allowed to become seriously overweight as its bones are soft, and too much weight is harmful to its feet and general development. A too-thin puppy may lack for food when he needs it most.
Puppies at the age of eight weeks will eat almost as much as a full-grown dog because of the great rapidity with which they are developing. Each day in the life of the puppy in this period of its life equals about twenty days in a child’s life as far as its nutritional development is concerned, so the loss of a day or two can be serious.
At 12 weeks, one meal, preferably the noon meal, can be eliminated, and the total feedings should then be divided into one morning and one evening meal until the dog is six months old. Many breeders continue two feedings through the first year. The activity of the dog and the rate of growth determines the amount of food.
One of the chores during the entire eight-week period is the clipping of the toenails. In a ten-puppy litter, this makes a lot of toenails to clip, even though only the sharp tips are taken off to prevent scratching the mother. The usual clippers for the grown dogs are too large for small puppies. You will need small nail clippers that can be bought in a drug store.
- Gertrude Fischer – The Complete Golden Retriever