When Can Puppies Eat Hard Food? Everything You Should Know!

The new puppies have been around for a while now- and seem constantly hungry!

Your mother dog’s starting to look just a bit sore from all the suckling.

You wonder to yourself, “When can puppies eat hard food? Is it time…?”

Puppies can normally begin to eat soft, semi-solid food from 3 weeks of age. This is when their milk teeth start to grow in, giving them the ability to gnaw, bite and chew for the first time!

However just because they are able to chew doesn’t mean that you should give them hard food straight away. Since puppies are accustomed to feeding on milk from birth, their delicate bodies will have a hard time digesting hard, dry food when they are not yet ready for it.

This is why puppies should be at least 8 weeks old before being given hard food! By this time, at least 28 baby teeth should have grown in. Even then, water can and should be mixed in with the kibble to ensure an easier transition.

However, each puppy will be different based on their size, weight, health and breed, so 8 weeks is more of a guideline than a strict rule. Check with your vet if you’re not sure if it’s the right time to change up your puppy’s diet just yet!

Can Puppies Eat Solid Food At 3 Weeks?

When do puppies learn to clean themselves ?

Yes! You can begin to feed your puppy with solid food when it is around 3 weeks old.

During the first three weeks of your puppy’s life, it feeds exclusively on its mother’s milk. However, when it reaches three weeks, you can slowly transition the puppy to eating solid food.

At three weeks old, a puppy’s milk teeth will have come in- meaning it will now be able to begin the weaning process and to chew solid foods.

However, it is important to note that the transition from milk to solid food should not be instantaneous. It should be a gradual process that should take at least a month.

While the puppy is not yet fully weaned, the first food that you offer to it should be soft and easily digestible.

Remember that the puppy’s stomach is used to digesting milk. When you introduce solid food that is super hard, the puppy will find it difficult to chew!

Additionally, the puppy may also suffer from constipation and dehydration when it first starts to make the transition from milk to solid food.

Therefore, when you begin feeding your puppy, the diet should be a mixture of milk and solid food to make the digestion process easy.

Puppy drinking milk out of bottle

The food should be made by mixing food with special milk for puppies. Never use cow’s milk! This is because cow milk contains lactose, and most dogs are lactose intolerant.

The final texture of the mixture should be smooth so that your puppy can eat it without straining. Experts recommend that you should heat your puppy’s meal to around 20 degrees to increase its palatability and make it more appealing to your puppy.

When you start feeding your puppy with solid food, experts also recommend that you feed it at least four times a day in small quantities.

Don’t let your puppy feed on it’s own, however. Instead, supervise him while feeding on the bowl to ensure that he does not choke.

Once the puppy is done eating, discard the remaining food and wash the bowl. Please don’t recycle food, as this can result in stomach bugs and a poor, sick pup. Always feed your puppy with fresh food!

During the first few days of feeding, your puppy may be hesitant to eat solid food because it is used to feeding exclusively on milk. Puppies love to nurse, so chewing food may not go well with him initially.

Therefore, if your puppy is reluctant to chew solid food, start by putting small bits of food on its nose and mouth and give it time to chew. Usually, they won’t be able to resist the aroma for very long.

However, if your puppy is not ready to chew food, don’t force it! Instead, give him time, then try again after a few hours.

Can 8 Week Old Puppies Eat Hard Food?

French Bulldog puppy eating out of white bowl

Yes, an 8-week old puppy can eat hard food!

At eight weeks of age, your puppy will have at least 28 baby teeth that can easily chew hard food.

Additionally, at this point, your puppy is already used to solid food, so eating hard food will not be an issue. It will also help with puppy teething issues by giving them something to chew on!

As your puppy grows, its demand for food will also increase. At eight weeks, your puppy will be super active and his appetite for food will follow suit!

If you are still feeding him with paste (a mixture of milk and solid food), you will have to feed him more often because he will not feel full for long.

The only way to really satisfy your puppy’s growing appetite is by feeding it with hard food. Hard food will make it feel fuller for longer, thus limiting the need to feed him as often.

Another good thing about hard food is that it doesn’t spoil as fast, which may be the case with semi-solid paste.

This means that you can place the food in your puppy’s bowl and let it feed the whole day though this generally isn’t recommended unless your dog is a super picky eater!).

Consult with your vet for exact instructions on how much, when and the type of food to feed your eight-week-old puppy.

Should I Add Water To My Puppy’s Dry Food?

White Labrador puppy eating out of bowl

Most people tend to forego adding water to their puppy’s meals after a few days of feeding it with hard food. However, that is not a good idea.

Unlike adult dogs that can eat dry food with ease, your puppy’s digestive system is still delicate and cannot handle dry food as efficiently.

So, when feeding your puppy dry dog food, it is recommended that you add water. Below are the main benefits of adding water when feeding your puppy with dry food.

Increases Daily Overall Water Intake

Puppies are notorious for not drinking enough water. That’s why you should always leave a full bowl of fresh water out for your pup all day long!

One of the main benefits of adding water to your puppy’s dry food is that it helps to increase its water intake, thus meeting its daily hydration needs.

Keeping your puppy well-hydrated is a very important aspect of its overall health. So, adding water to its dinner bowl is a great way to ensure that it drinks enough water to keep it in tip-top shape!

Helps To Improve Digestion

Another benefit of adding water when feeding your puppy with dry food is that it aids in digestion.

When you feed your puppy dry food, it will most likely swallow it whole rather than chew- forcing the digestive system to work harder to break down the food.

Puppies have a very small digestion tract, meaning that food has a shorter timeframe to be digested. As a result, if the food is dry, a puppy can easily suffer from stomach upset, constipation, and diarrhea.

When you add water to your puppy’s food, it will become softer and easier to digest. This means that the chances of your puppy suffering from stomach discomfort is minimized. Adding water to dry food also makes it easier for your puppy to chew.

Improves Appetite

Most people think that adding water will make the puppy lose its appetite. However, the opposite is usually true!

On the contrary, adding water will most likely improve your puppy’s appetite. When you add water to your dog’s food it releases the aroma trapped within, increasing your puppy’s desire to eat.

Additionally, most puppies prefer wet food to dry because it is easier to chew, thus making the eating experience more enjoyable. Therefore, adding water could pique a picky puppy’s interest in the meal!

Adding Water Slows Down Eating

Have you noticed that your puppy clears their bowl in seconds? Contrary to what you may believe, dogs aren’t natural chewers of their food.

Adding water will help slow down your puppy’s eating speed. Speed eating has been linked to numerous health conditions, such as bloating, constipation, and even choking.

Adding water to your puppy’s dry food will help prolong mealtime, thus preventing potentially fatal stomach problems.

When Can Puppies Eat Dry Food Without Water?

Puppy lying on sack next to kibble plate

You now know the importance of adding water to your puppy’s food.

However, the question that you are probably asking yourself right now is: “At what life stage can I feed my puppy with dry food without adding water?”

There comes a time when you will have to transition your puppy to dry food. According to most vets, puppy owners should transition their puppies to dry food when they are around 8 weeks of age.

At this time, your puppy will be already used to eating solid food and also have its full set of baby teeth. As a result, your puppy will have no problem eating dry food.

The transition from wet to dry food will not happen in a single day. It is a gradual process that will take at least a month for your puppy to fully transition to a completely dry food diet.

When transitioning your dog from wet to dry puppy food you should reduce water content on its food by 10% every three days in order to allow your puppy to adjust to the new food at a comfortable pace.

The general rule of thumb when deciding whether to transition your puppy to dry food depends on whether their full set of teeth have come in.

While this typically happens when the puppy is 8 weeks old as previously mentioned, your puppy’s breed will also determine when you should start feeding it dry food.

Some breeds transition to dry food in as early as 7 weeks, while others take up to 9 weeks. So, when determining when to transition your dog to dry food, you should consider its breed and consult your vet.

However, it is important to reiterate that puppies are not the same. Some puppies can transition earlier while others take time before they transition. So, if your puppy is nine weeks old and still not ready to move onto fully-dry food- please don’t rush it!

Each puppy has its own time frame of development. As the owner, your role is to give your growing puppy a gentle push in the right direction.

Why Is It Important To Transition To Dry Food Eventually?

Of course, you may be wondering why you should transition to dry food at all, seeing as they seem to be fine with wet food!

If you don’t transition your puppy to dry food, it may become a picky eater in the future. This will then affect its overall health and wellbeing in the future. Your dog may never grow out of wanting wet foods due to the more enticing flavors that it offers!

Transitioning to dry food also broadens your puppy’s nutrition and helps to boost its immune system.

Finally, soaking food reduces its lifespan. If you add water to your puppy’s food, it will only last for about 30 minutes, after which the food will begin to ferment and become inedible.

So if you want to limit costs (and let’s face it, it’s not cheap to have a dog!) but still provide your puppy with high-quality and nutritious food, then dry food should be a top option.

How Do I Know If I’m Feeding My Puppy Enough?

Corgi puppy holding onto leg

As a puppy owner, sometimes it is quite challenging to know whether you are feeding your puppy enough food or not.

One of the best ways to keep your puppy healthy is by feeding it with the right amount of nutritious dog food every day. Feeding it too much, or conversely not enough, can have certain negative health consequences.

These can include (but are not limited to):

  • Reduced quality of life
  • Skin disorders
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Musculoskeletal problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Low energy levels.

There are a few different ways in which you can determine whether your dog is having sufficient food intake for its daily needs:

Check Your Puppy’s Rib Cage

One of the easiest ways to determine whether you are feeding your puppy enough is by putting your hand on your puppy’s rib cage to feel for its ribs.

If you can feel the ribs but can’t see them, then you are feeding it sufficiently. A poorly fed puppy will have visible ribs- in which case it’s time to increase the amount of chow!

Check Your Puppy’s Health

Another way to determine whether you are feeding your puppy the right amount of food is by analyzing its health.

A well fed puppy is usually lively and active. If your puppy is mostly sickly, lethargic and dull, then that is a clear indication that it does not have enough of an energy source.

Both the quantity and quality of food that you give your puppy matters a lot! If you don’t give your puppy a sufficient amount of quality food, it will most likely become sick and lethargic due to a weakened immune system.

Check If The Puppy Clears Its Food Bowl

If your puppy is full, it will not clear everything in the bowl- at least not instantaneously. Instead, it will leave a small amount of food in the bowl due to feeling pretty full!

However, if your puppy clears everything and keeps licking the bowl when it is done, that is an indication that it is not yet full and may need more to eat.

Keep Note Of How Often Your Puppy Ask For Food

When your puppy is hungry, it will ask for food. It’s as simple as that!

Most dogs (seemingly by magic) know exactly when it’s time for their meals. How often your puppy asks for food may indicate whether you are feeding it enough or not.

For instance, if your puppy asks for food often and ends up clearing and licking the bowl in a matter of minutes, that’s a pretty big clue that it probably needs more to eat!

On the other hand, if you give your puppy food and it ends up taking only a few bites and leaves the rest, then that is a sign that you are either giving it too much food, food that it doesn’t like- or both.

And just like Goldilocks and the three bears: If you feed your puppy just the right amount, it will eat the food given and then go on about the rest of its day without further puppy eyes or demands.

If you are still not sure of whether you are feeding your puppy the optimal amount, please consult your vet for advice and recommendations tailored specifically to your dog!

In Conclusion

So, when can puppies eat hard food?

Most puppies can begin to eat semi-solid food (such as a pet milk/wet food mixture) from as young as 3 weeks old.

However, hard food generally needs to wait till they are around 8 weeks of age. This is because this is around the time when puppies will have at least 28 baby teeth grown in, as well as a more developed digestive system able to handle hard, dry food.

Even though your puppy may prefer wet foods at first, it is important to eventually transition them to hard foods. Not only is this better for their teeth, it’s also better for the habits, immunity, and overall health and wellbeing!

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