How Long Do Puppies Nurse (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 6-7 Weeks

Mammals are quite distinctive creatures in a sense and unlike egg-laying creatures, they have a unique bond with their newborn ones. Mammals feed their young ones with their milk for a certain period. This is very vital for the newborn’s health and is known as the nursing period.

Similar to all other mammals, puppies also nurse their young ones with the utmost love and care. They feed them with their milk which is the only food a newborn can have. Then, slowly as they grow up, they move to semi-solid food and finally to solid food.

How Long Do Puppies Nurse?

Nursing StageWeeks Taken
Only Dam’s Milk for every two hours1st and 2nd Weeks
Only Dam’s Milk but every 4-6 hours2nd and 3rd Weeks
Still on milk but can also eat semi-solid foodBetween the 3rd to 5th weeks
Can move to fully solid food6th Week onwards

Puppies usually take up to 7 weeks to nurse their offspring. A whole bunch of processes is set to motion as soon as they are born.

As soon as the babies are born, the dam starts licking their bodies and even eating out membranes like the placenta. The mother of newborns is the primary source of contact with the rest of the world. Once the young ones are in their senses, they will yearn for their mother’s milk.

If there is no more offspring in the litter, the dam shall start feeding her child. This milk is the only food they would have for about three weeks. They would need the dam’s milk every two to three hours.

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As they would grow, their feeding duration shall increase. They may be fed every 4-6 hours during their second and third week.

Between the fourth and sixth week, their teeth begin to rise. This makes feeding them difficult for the dam and she will try to stay away from them. As a result, now they tend to move to semi-solid food and are comparatively less dependent on milk.

Sixth week onwards, their teeth are fully developed. They no more need their mother’s milk. They can eat solid food and can live on their own.

Why Do Puppies Nurse That Long?

Just like most mammals, puppies give birth to toothless offspring. These young ones take time for the growth of teeth. However, they obviously cannot go on an empty stomach for weeks and thus, have to be nurses by the dam and her milk.

The first twenty-four hours are very critical for any young one. They must be properly cared for by their mother and have her milk.

This milk of the first day contains ‘colostrum’ which is a vital substance. Colostrum is a mixture of various antibodies produced in the dam right after birth. This aids in the growth of puppies and give them passive immunity against several diseases.

As the third week of nursing approaches, the young ones are generally better placed in terms of health. Teeth begin to grow, which often causes discomfort to the dam. Slowly, the dam reduces the interaction time with the young ones prompting them to search for alternative sources of food.

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The young ones may now eat semi-solid food but the dam’s milk is still their primary source of nutrition. Though, as the weeks progress by, this dependency decreases and the young puppies move to solid food by the start of their seventh week of nursing. This process is crucial to teach the young ones the art of eating and chewing.

However, if someone finds an orphaned or lost newborn puppy, they can still be fed with special milk formulas. Though nothing stands comparable to mother’s milk, still they are quite helpful.

Conclusion

Puppies take six to seven weeks to nurse their offspring. This is a crucial phase where the young ones do not have any teeth, but they still need to be fed. The dam’s milk does the work for them and supplies it with important nutrients.

These nutrients act as a catalyst in the growth of young ones. They provide strength and act as a shield from diseases. Thus, this seven weeks long nursing period is of vital importance for the young ones.

References

  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00221325.1959.10534267?journalCode=vgnt20
  2. https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/abs/10.12968/vetn.2019.10.1.12

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