When Do Puppies Start Eating Food and Drinking Water? 

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Are you a proud puppy parent looking to wean your little pet from their mom’s milk to regular food?

That’s a big milestone, but it can also be a time of confusion for you.

When do puppies start drinking water? When should they start eating regular dog food?

Read on for some handy tips on timing, food choices, and how to monitor their readiness and adjustment. 

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Dear Dog Owner

Puppies and Milk

Just like human babies, puppies need their mother’s milk in the beginning.

Here are some answers to your milk-related questions and more.

Why do puppies need milk first?

Why do puppies need milk first?

Milk, most especially the mother’s first milk, is an important source of nutrients for your pup.

Colostrum is full of nutrients and antibodies that work not only to help your pet’s body to develop but also protect the pup from illnesses since their immune systems are still developing. 

From birth until your pet is about 4 weeks old, milk serves as their only sustenance as it contains all the nutrients and calories needed by your pup’s body. 

It also contains protein, vitamins D and B, zinc, calcium, potassium, and more.

All these are important in helping your furry pal grow healthy and strong.

Doggy says, you might be interested to read this too: Corgi not eating?

When do puppies stop drinking milk?

Puppies need to drink milk until they’re about six weeks old.

After that, they should start eating more substantial food. 

If they are with their mother, the weaning process is natural and starts when the pup is around three weeks old.

But the process takes time, so your pet can actually be weaned completely at around six to seven months old.

Can puppies drink baby formula milk replacers?

Baby formula replacers are usually made to imitate human milk, and guess what? Human milk has lactose. 

Here’s the problem – most dogs are lactose intolerant.

So no, feeding your pup baby formula replacer is not a good idea. 

It can lead to tummy troubles like gas, soft stools, or even diarrhea because your furry friend won’t be able to digest the milk properly.

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What kind of milk can puppies drink?

You should stick to giving your puppies their mom’s milk or a special puppy milk replacer that’s formulated for dogs. 

Other types of milk, like cow’s milk or human milk, can cause tummy troubles for puppies because they might have trouble digesting lactose. 

Can puppies drink cow milk?

No. Giving your puppy cow’s milk can lead to discomfort and other digestive issues since it contains lactose that most dogs cannot digest.

Can puppies drink goat milk?

Surprisingly, goat’s milk can be a wonderful milk replacer for puppies! 

It’s packed with benefits like good gut bacteria that promote healthy digestion, reduce allergy symptoms, and fight inflammation. 

In fact, goat’s milk is hydrating and rich in essential nutrients like calcium, protein, potassium, and fatty acids that support your puppy’s immune system and bone development.

It’s a surprising yet excellent choice for your growing pup’s nutrition!

Doggy says, you might be keen to read this too: Why does my dog only eat half of his food?

Introducing Water to a Young Puppy

Introducing water to a young puppy is an essential step in their hydration and overall health, but it’s important to do it right to ensure their safety and well-being.

When can puppies start drinking water?

When can puppies start drinking water?

Puppies can begin drinking water at around 3 weeks after they are born.

This is about the same time that their moms make them ditch milk and encourage them to start eating more substantial foods.

How to get puppies to drink water for the first time?

Helping your adorable pup develop healthy hydration habits can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to do it right from the start! Here are some tips to guide you:

  • Use a shallow bowl

Start by offering a shallow bowl of water to your puppy.

Use a bowl that is low enough for the puppy to easily reach the water without getting their face submerged. 

Besides avoiding getting your puppy soaked every time it tries to drink, using a shallow bowl also lessens the spills that you’d need to clean up.

You can also try dipping your finger in the water and letting your puppy lick it to encourage them to explore and taste the water. 

  • Use a water bottle or syringe

The key is to get water comfortably into your pup’s mouth.

Squeeze a few drops of water onto your puppy’s tongue or allow them to lick the water from the bottle or syringe. 

This can be a helpful method for very young puppies or those who are hesitant to drink from a bowl.

  • Add water to food

Another way to introduce water to your puppy is by adding water to their food.

Mix a small amount of water with their regular puppy food to create a moistened consistency. 

This can help increase their overall water intake and encourage them to drink water.

  • Be patient and use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can play a crucial role in getting puppies to drink water.

Praise and reward your puppy with a treat, some cuddles, or a chance to play with their favorite toy when they show interest in the water, take a sip, or drink water on their own. 

This can help create a positive association with drinking water and motivate your puppy to continue doing so.

How much water should a puppy drink?

Keeping your furry little pup well-hydrated is crucial, and they should have about half a cup of water every couple of hours to stay cool and hydrated. 

Once they’re completely weaned off milk, they should aim for around half an ounce to an ounce of water per pound of body weight each day to quench their thirst and keep them healthy!

Do puppies need water at night?

Yes. Puppies should have access to clean water at all times, especially during hot seasons like summer, or in hot locations in general. 

Should I leave water out for my puppy all day?

Absolutely! It’s important to make sure your adorable pup has access to water throughout the day. 

Keeping a bowl of clean water available for them to drink whenever they’re thirsty is a great way to ensure they stay hydrated and happy. 

Just be sure to regularly clean and refill the water bowl to keep it fresh and inviting for your pup.

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How much water should a puppy drink during potty training?

During potty training, it’s important to ensure your puppy stays hydrated. 

Offer them small amounts of water at regular intervals throughout the day, and monitor their intake to avoid excessive drinking that may lead to accidents indoors.

Some owners have taken to withholding water from their dogs at night as a tactic, and that may well work during the training phase.

The appropriate amount of water for your pup will be based on their age, size, level of activeness, and even breed.

Your pet’s vet will know best how much water you have to give them.

Doggy says, you might be keen to read this too: Do Corgis need another dog?

Understanding a Puppy’s Eating and Drinking Timeline

As a pet owner, it’s important to understand the timeline of puppy eating and drinking habits to ensure proper nutrition and hydration. 

Here’s what you can expect as your furry friend grows from a newborn to a young pup!

Puppy eating and drinking timeline

  • Newborn to 3 weeks old

At this stage, puppies solely rely on their mother’s milk for nutrition and hydration. No additional food or water is needed.

  • 3 to 4 weeks old

Puppies start transitioning to solid food during this stage. It’s a good time to introduce a shallow dish or water bottle with water to encourage them to drink water alongside their solid food.

  • 4 to 6 weeks old

Puppies continue to eat solid food and drink water as they become more independent. Water should be made available to them at all times to keep them hydrated.

  • After 6 weeks

Puppies should have access to water at all times as they continue to grow. Make sure to provide clean and easily accessible water in a dish or water bottle, and encourage puppies to drink water regularly to stay properly hydrated. Ensuring they have a high-quality diet is also super important for their growth.

At what age can puppies start eating food?

Your little pup can start enjoying solid food at around four weeks old.

At this stage, their growing bodies need more calories than what they can get from their mother’s milk alone. 

By six weeks, they are usually weaned and will rely on the food you provide to meet their nutritional requirements.

How do you introduce food to puppies?

Are you getting ready to introduce food to your adorable pup?


To make the process smooth and enjoyable, here are a couple of tips to get you started.

  • Take it slow

Start by mixing a bit of puppy food with water or milk replacement to make a soft and tasty gruel. 

Use a shallow dish or a spoon to feed it to your pup.

Then, little by little, reduce the liquid and increase the solid food until your pup is munching on solid food like a seasoned pro.

  • Stick to a schedule

Set up a regular feeding routine for your pup, offering food at the same times every day. 

This helps them establish a routine and learn when it’s chow time.

Avoid free-feeding or leaving food out all day, as it can lead to finicky eating habits or overeating.

  • Be patient and cheer your pup on

Some pups may take time to get used to solid food’s texture and taste, so be patient and encourage your pup along the way. 

Use positive reinforcement, praise, and maybe even some warm water or low-sodium broth to make the food more tempting.

What is the best food to start feeding your puppy?

When it comes to feeding your adorable puppy, it’s important to choose the best food for their health.

A high-quality, age-appropriate commercial puppy food is usually the top choice, as it’s specifically formulated to meet their unique nutritional needs. 

Avoid giving them table scraps though, as they may not provide the right nutrients for their optimal growth and development.

Human-grade, high-quality ingredients
Personalized meal plans
Freshly prepared and cooked
Minimally processed
Free of artificial preservatives, fillers, and by-products
Convenient delivery

Is wet or dry food better for puppies?

While wet food can have some benefits like lower carbohydrates and higher moisture content, it’s important to consider your puppy’s individual needs and consult with your vet for the best choice.

What time of day should puppies eat their food?

When it comes to feeding puppies, it’s generally recommended to establish a consistent feeding schedule with set meal times.

Most puppies do well with three to four small meals per day. 

As for the specific time of day, it’s best to consult with your vet and consider your own schedule to determine what works best for you and your furry friend.

How much food should a puppy eat per day?

Most commercial foods provide guidelines regarding how much a puppy should eat depending on their weight and age.

They typically cover how much they should eat daily, so be sure to read the product’s label.

Keep in mind that you have to avoid overfeeding and underfeeding. 

This is typically tricky considering your puppy eventually grows, thus requiring a different amount of food.

It’s important to monitor how much your puppy eats in order to avoid these things.

How long should a puppy eat puppy food?

Puppies usually eat puppy food until they reach adulthood which varies with breed.

For smaller and medium-breed puppies, they can eat puppy food for around 9-12 months. 

For larger breeds, they can eat puppy food for about 12-18 and even up to 24 months for giant breeds like Great Danes or Mastiffs. 

Though this time frame can still vary depending on the individual puppy’s growth and development.

Take note though, your veterinarian might have a few comments on your puppy’s diet and recommend changes depending on the current situation.

Weaning Puppies to Commercial Food

Weaning your precious puppies from their mother’s milk to regular puppy food can be a bit tricky.

Here are some tricks that you can use to make the transition smoother and pain-free for you and your pup.

  • Start by introducing small amounts of soft, moistened commercial puppy food to their diet when they’re around 3-4 weeks old. 
  • You can mix the puppy food with warm water or puppy formula to create a soft meal that will help them get used to solids. 
  • Keep an eye on how they respond, as some may take to it quickly while others might need more time or prefer softer foods. 
  • Once they’re comfortable, you can gradually decrease the milk intake and increase the amount of drier puppy food.

It’s all about taking it slow and making sure your precious pups are happy and healthy every step of the way.

Can you wean puppies off before teeth come in?

Not really, the process of weaning puppies off of their mother’s milk begins after their teeth have started to emerge which is at 3 to 4 weeks of age.

What about weaning after the teeth come in?

Weaning as the teeth begin to emerge or have already come in after 3 to 4 weeks of age is typically the preferred route for most puppies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

My puppy is drinking a lot of water, should I be concerned?

While it’s normal for them to drink water, excessive drinking may be a sign of underlying health issues. Monitor their behavior, health, and well-being, and contact your vet if you notice any significant changes in their drinking habits.

What are the common causes of puppy dehydration?

This can be caused if they are taking in lesser fluids than is required. Insufficient water intake, fever, diarrhea and vomiting, excessive urination, and general heat exposure are typical causes of this type of issue.

How to tell if your puppy is dehydrated?

Signs of puppy dehydration include lethargy, lack of interest in surroundings, dry gums or mouth, decreased skin elasticity, darker urine, heavy panting, and reduced appetite/water intake.

Can 2-week-old puppies drink water?

Typically these puppies don’t really need water as they already get the hydration they need from their mother’s milk.

Can a one month old puppy drink water?

Yes, a one-month-old puppy can drink water, but they should primarily be nursing from their mother or a suitable milk replacement. Water intake should be limited to small amounts to avoid diluting their nutrients and causing stomach upset.

Can newborn puppies drink water?

Newborn puppies do not need water in their first few weeks of life. They receive essential hydration and nutrients from their mother’s milk. Introducing water too early can actually lead to digestive issues.

In Conclusion: When Do Puppies Start Eating Food and Drinking Water? 

In a pup-tastic nutshell, our little furballs start nibbling on solid food and lapping up water at around 4 weeks old.

As they grow, it’s crucial to make mealtimes a paw-sitive, scrumptious adventure with the right balance of nutrients.

So, raise a bowl to these budding chow hounds as they embark on their gastronomic journey – after all, a well-fed puppy is a happy, healthy, and tail-waggingly content companion!

Ready for more pawsome adventures? Unleash your curiosity here:

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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