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Weaning

Weaning a Newborn Shih Tzu Puppy

Overview

Weaning is the process of transitioning a young puppy from a liquid diet to a solid diet. 

Puppies do not naturally make this transition themselves, though the dam will gradually nurse less and less. 

It will be the owner's responsibility to ensure that weaning is done correctly and that any issues are dealt with quickly. 

The overall goal will be a gradual yet steady change-over. When this process is rushed, it can cause health issues for the puppy and malnutrition can occur. 
Additionally, studies have shown that when the steps are not followed carefully, food allergies may develop. 

Any intolerance to foods may affect a dog's health for their entire life.

In this section, we will cover the correct age to wean a Shih Tzu puppy, proper guidelines to follow, and how to resolve some of the most commonly seen issues. 

Issues Seen Even Before the Weaning Process

Problems with puppies receiving enough calories and nutrients may occur even before the weaning process. 

For reasons not quite fully understood yet, some dams will push their pups away. 
newborn Shih Tzu puppy
If a puppy is rejected, the dam will not allow the pup to nurse. 

There may also be other instances of the dam not able to produce enough milk or if she is struggling with a health issue she may not be able to care for her litter.

Therefore, if you are taking care of a new litter, you must carefully watch to make sure that they are receiving what they need.

If you notice that things are not flowing smoothly, you will need to step in and bottle feed the puppies. This is done using a dropper or small bottle with a very small nipple tip. 

Do not use cow's milk or goat's milk; it does not contain the necessary vitamins and nutrients for a growing puppy. There are special formulas specifically designed to feed a very young puppy; you can obtain these through your veterinarian very quickly.

Age to Start Weaning a Shih Tzu Puppy

The weaning process should begin towards the end of week 3 or beginning of week 4. Larger puppies with robust appetites can start towards the beginning of this window and smaller pups may begin towards the end of this window. 

Weaning is typically complete by the 6 week mark, and in some cases by the 7 week mark. 

It is important to note that no matter how enthusiastic a puppy is to nurse, and regardless of a dam's willingness to continue nursing, that you will need to begin the weaning process at this time in order for the puppy to be on solid foods at the proper age.  

The Beginning of the Process

While puppies will receive some level of nutrition from their mother until about 6 weeks old, the weaning process will begin at approximately 3 to 4 weeks. There will be a gradual separation from the dam, as puppies slowly yet steadily become more independent. 

By week 4, the puppies will begin to grow curious about the world. They will begin to stray a bit away from their mother in an attempt to explore what is beyond the small area that they have been living in. It is important to give the puppies an opportunity to do this. 

During this time, the Shih Tzu puppy is starting to learn independence and this is needed for good emotional health when it will be time to fully be on their own with their human family.

It seems that usually the dam realizes this as well, as she may push the puppies away after a while of feeding.

How to Wean a Shih Tzu Puppy

The goal:

This will be done in gradual steps. Food should begin as having a very wet, mushy soup-type consistency. Over the course of a couple of weeks, it will contain less and less liquid until the pup is finally on fully solid food. 

What is needed:

The food that you will prepare to wean a pup will be a blend of dog food kibble and puppy milk replacer.

All of the items that you'll need are: A blender, puppy milk replacer, dry dog food kibble, and hot water (bottled, spring, or filtered water).

For the kibble, it is suggested to use the food that the dam has been eating as the 'base'. In this way, no new ingredients are introduced to the puppy, which decreases the chances of any stomach upset or other gastrointestinal issues. 

For the milk replacer, do not substitute this with cow's milk or goat's milk. It is recommended to use a quality formula like Esbilac Powder Milk Replacer for PuppiesThis is generally very well tolerated, is easily digested, and has all the needed vitamins and minerals. 
Instructions for preparing the blended food for weaning:

While you can make smaller quantities, you may find things easier if you make several day's worth at a time.  And the actual amount will of course vary depending on whether you  are weaning 1 puppy or several. 

After 3 days, it will most likely be time to take another step toward the goal of solid food, with more kibble and less liquid. 

To begin:

1- Place 2 cups of the dam's dog food into a blender.

2- Add 12.5 ounces of liquid puppy milk replacer.

3- Top the blender off with the hot water.

4- Blend until it has the consistency of baby food.

Offer this in small, shallow stainless steel or ceramic bowls, 3 to 4 times per day. The pups will need some time to learn to sense the food and lap at it. Pay attention to when the puppies go to the dam to nurse. You will want to politely interrupt this to offer the blended food. Once they are done, they may go back to the dam for a bit of nursing to 'top off their tummies'.

Each week, continue to use the blender so that the food is 'mushy', but decrease the amount of liquid, so that it slowly transitions more and more into more solid food. 

The goal is to have the pups used to eating only solid food - with no milk replacer - by the end of 6 weeks and no later than week 7. This said, some puppies need a longer weaning period and these will be the ones that often need to wait until the 3 month mark to go to new homes (if that is the intention). 

While you are paying attention to feeding the puppies, this will give their mother a good opportunity to leave for a bit. She will be very exhausted and in need of some alone time; much like a human mother who just needs to get away for a few moments to regroup.

As time goes by, the weaning puppies will get used to having their mother gone for a longer and longer period of time. Simultaneously, the weaning pups will become more adjusted to your presence. This will continue on like a domino effect, until they are completely ready to move out on their own.

Red Flags During Weaning

Young puppies should be weighed regularly to ensure that they are gaining weight. This is usually done using a kitchen scale. If there is no weight gain, this is a red flag that warrants immediate veterinary intervention.

In addition, if the pup has any diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, or any other signs that point to an issue, this may be due to a food intolerance or other serious health issue that requires veterinary care. 

Looking for More Info?

Do you wonder why it is so difficult to find detailed, step-by-step instructions for breeding, whelping, weaning, bottle feeding and raising puppies? 

The answer is because only a few select professionals know all of the 'trade secrets'. Most do not share this type of information. We have the answers for you. The AllShihTzu Team has combined all of our knowledge together, to bring your the only Shih Tzu book you will ever need. Why are we so sure? Find out here.
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