Whether you have just had a litter or find yourself hand-rearing a puppy, you are going to be faced with the question: when can puppies eat kibble?
Like babies, puppies can not simply be introduced to kibble in one meal. It is a gradual process to get a puppy moved from milk to soft food to hard kibble.
Then there is the question of whether kibble is the best choice for your puppy? What about wet food or raw diets? Every pet parent needs to be armed with as much basic knowledge as possible to make the best decision for their dog.
When can puppies eat kibble or dry food?
How old puppies have to be to transition to eating dry food or kibble is typically between six and eight weeks. Breeders usually make this a gradual process. Some can take longer before they stop soaking the kibble with water.
Every breeder may have their own strategy, but the typical transition from mother’s milk to dry food or kibble usually looks like this:
Puppies typically begin developing teeth from about three weeks. Around three-and-half weeks, nursing will become uncomfortable for the mother, and she will start to cut it short or avoid it.
At this point, the pet parent must step in, especially as the smallest puppies will struggle through this stage and may not receive enough nutrients.
At this point, puppies will only be offered very watery food. This should be a special mother and puppy formula chosen for size (small, large, or giant breed) as a puppy’s nutritional needs are very precise at this point in their development.
The dry food or kibble should be left in boiling water for several hours until it has cooled and been turned into a type of porridge. For the first few days, it may be better to use Esbilac’s weaning formula to make a more watery gruel before gradually adding softened kibble.
It may take puppies a few days to adapt to the idea of eating solid food. Fresh water should always be available during this time so that they can experiment with the action of lapping. From this age (between three and four weeks) to about six weeks, they should be fed three to four times a day with softened food. Tiny breeds that are prone to hypoglycemia may need to be fed more often.
Any change in a dog’s diet can upset their tummies. So adding a little probiotic powder can help the process.
Gradually, the water to dry kibble ratio should be reversed until the puppies are only eating dry kibble. In most cases, this happens between the period of six-to-eight weeks. However, we recommend getting closer to eight weeks before moving entirely to dry kibble.
You can also move from a special early puppy or mother and puppy formula to your kibble or diet of choice from eight weeks.
A special note on young puppies and kibble:
In litters that compete for food by eating out of the same bowl and pushing one another out the way, puppies may learn to gulp food down extremely fast without chewing. This can lead to a choking hazard if pups are suddenly moved from mushy, easily swallowed food to hard pellets.
For this reason, puppies should eat from separate bowls. Competing for solid food should be limited as it can also encourage resource guarding.
“Gulpers” or puppies that seem to inhale their food need to be supervised as they move to dry food. They can also be fed smaller pellets or in toy food dispensers that slow their eating down.
If you have a puppy that eats extremely fast, invest the time in learning how to remove objects from airways in young dogs and do canine CPR, as it could literally be a lifesaver.
If your puppy doesn’t want to eat their kibble, then be sure to read our post: Puppy Won’t Eat Kibble? Do This!
And if you would like to use your puppy’s kibble as treats, then be sure to read Can Kibble be Used as Treats? (Dog trainer answers)
Why is my adult dog vomiting food for the puppies?
It is perfectly natural that mother dogs and sometimes even other adult dogs in the household might regurgitate their food for puppies, usually from when the puppies are four weeks old. Puppies who beg the most get this questionable “treat” most often.
Natural as it is, many people find this behavior, understandably, a bit disgusting. If you want to avoid it, simply keep the adult dogs away from the puppies for three to four hours after eating.
Can puppies only have kibble? Is kibble enough for my puppy?
Yes, puppies can only have hard kibble in their diets, and generally, a good quality kibble is enough for them. A trusted premium kibble is best, like Blue Buffalo Puppy Kibble.
Although navigating the waves of information on pet food may be daunting (and sadly often misleading), we will touch on some of the key points to consider. However, if you are feeding your puppy kibble, remember that it should be age and size appropriate.
For food to be labeled “complete and balanced” by the FDA, it must pass feed trials and/or chemical analysis. This ensures it meets the American Association of Feed Official’s (AAFCO’s) basic minimum and maximum requirements for essential minerals and nutrients necessary for a dog to be healthy.
Therefore, a good quality premium kibble should be designed to feed your puppy a complete and balanced diet. You can add a few treats to this diet as a training aid, but these treats should never be more than 10% of your puppy’s total diet.
It is best to interfere as little as possible with a properly formulated kibble diet, as it can result in nutritional imbalances or create problems that owners are unaware of. We will go over this more below.
So, in short, if your puppy is on a good brand of well-formulated kibble, it’s best not to add anything that could disrupt the balance of their diet. However, kibble or dry, commercial dog food for puppies is growing more complicated and divisive.
Do puppies have to eat kibble?
No, puppies do not have to eat kibble, and there are a number of options available. Owners can investigate nutritionally balanced homemade diets or raw diets. Or they can explore commercially available less processed food such as Stella and Chewy’s or Instinct’s Raw Boost.
We also recommend you check out a service like Pet Plate, which do everything for you and match the diet to your dog’s individual breed and size. It’s also delivered to your door, which makes life easy.
Although the best diet will depend on the individual puppy; so it is worth really taking your time before you decide on a diet.
Furthermore, it’s best to work closely with a veterinarian and a nutritionist in this area. This is especially true since both marketing and dietary trends can lead to mistakes that owners may never even be aware of making.
Do puppies need kibble?
Whether your puppy needs kibble or not depends on your specific situation and your puppy. If you can feed your puppy a nutritionally-balanced homemade diet by consulting with a nutritionist and your veterinarian then no.
Or if you can find a suitable commercial puppy food that is less processed, but still meets your dog’s requirements, then you do not need to feed kibble.
However, if you cannot find a veterinary nutritionist to help you establish the best diet for your puppy, then finding the best available kibble for your puppy’s specific nutritional requirements is the best way to go. Most dogs live long and healthy lives on quality dry food.
Is your puppy a fast-eater? If so, be sure to read our post on the subject here.
Is kibble good for puppies?
There is a growing debate about whether kibble is good for puppies. As raw diets and other trends become prevalent, pet parents can become increasingly worried about whether or not to feed kibble.
The truth is not as clear-cut as we would like. With the research currently available to us, we know that there are pros and cons to feeding kibble to puppies.
Pros of feeding puppies kibble
Some cons of feeding puppies kibble (or factors to be aware of)
Grain-free diets have been known to use subpar plant proteins such as peas, lentils, potatoes, or sweet potato proteins to artificially push up the amount of protein in the food.
Plant proteins have an inferior amino acid profile, and the increased fiber may interfere with the absorption of taurine. Therefore, the FDA has issued an alert and begun investigating the link between grain-free diets and dilated canine cardiomyopathy.
Retrievers are among the most commonly reported dogs with dietary-related DCM.
Large and giant breed puppies especially have very exact dietary needs.
Being overweight or consuming too many calories can seriously impact their musculoskeletal health with devastating consequences. Thus, larger puppies more than most need to be kept lean and not overfed kibble or any other food.
Kibble or commercial dog food can be guilty of oversupplying essential minerals. Dog foods that make extensive use of animal meals do not always account for minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium already in the food from the bone content before adding supplements.
Remember that oversupplying nutrients can be just as dangerous as a deficiency, and some nutrients need to be fed in the correct ratio, such as calcium-to-phosphorus ratios and omega-6-to-omega-3 ratios.
This can be problematic in the long term, as growing puppies need minerals such as calcium and phosphorus in the right amounts and in the correct proportion.
High levels of copper can also lead to renal and liver trouble. Because of this, supplementing your puppy’s food with more minerals like calcium can lead to severe health issues.
Kibble is highly processed, and questions have arisen over the quality of food after the extensive rendering and extrusion, which may affect:
- Heat-sensitive vitamins
- Scorch oils, fats, and starches and release carcinogens
- Destabilize amino acids such as Lysine
The addition of vitamins, amino acids, and minerals after processing is generally because of the loss of nutrients during processing.
The frequency of recalls, especially after the 2007 melamine contamination scandal, has left fewer people trusting the big dog food companies.
Finally, there is increasing concern about the quality and dangers of animal and plant by-products used in commercial dog food. While not all of these concerns are warranted, and many are overblown, some are definitely valid.
Should puppies eat dry or wet food?
Weaning puppies between three and four weeks old might benefit from wet or canned food while their milk teeth form.
Still, generally, puppies should transition to dry food from about seven or eight weeks.
Both wet (canned or pouched) and kibble are equally processed and have the same drawbacks. Wet food is more palatable because of the added moisture content and enticing smell. So, it can definitely entice fussy eaters and is more hydrating.
Nutritionally, there is no reason that wet or canned food is better for puppies than dry food. In fact, soft food can lead to periodontal disease, leading to many other inflammation-related problems.
Dry food is also easier to store and generally more hygienic.
When can puppies eat kibble without water?
A puppy can usually stop eating kibble with water to soften it between seven to eight weeks. A puppy should never be introduced to dry kibble immediately. Instead, the owner should gradually reduce the watery consistency of the pellets over about a week to two weeks.
That is, at six weeks, the puppy should still be eating kibble that has been left in boiled water and turned into soft gruel. Gradually, the amount of time the kibble is left in the water to soften can be reduced as the puppy becomes accustomed to chewing.
Here is a video of someone weening a 4-week puppy over to dry food using a blender:
Can an 8-week-old puppy eat kibble?
Yes, an eight-week-old puppy should be fine eating hard kibble. However, it is essential to first check that the breeder has already transitioned the puppy over to hard food.
If not, it’s best to start the process yourself and take a week or two to move from soft food to hard food to avoid choking. Probiotics are helpful at this point and be sure that any changes in food brands are done gradually.
Can a 6-week old puppy eat kibble?
It is not impossible for a six-week-old puppy to eat kibble, as their milk teeth should have come in at this point. Still, it is a bit early, and the hard food may be a bit much for their little jaws and teeth.
To avoid choking or other issues, it is better that their kibble is still softened with water at this stage or that they are given wet food as they adjust to chewing.
Can a 7-week old puppy eat kibble?
Most seven-week-old puppies can handle eating kibble or hard food, provided they are not eating too fast or are not a tiny breed that could struggle with the pellets.
Suppose the owner began transitioning from water or milk-soaked kibble or wet food at six weeks. In that case, many puppies will have successfully transitioned to hard kibble by the time they are seven weeks old.
However, some breeders may want to extend this process to eight weeks before giving puppies completely dry kibble.
Knowing what age to introduce their puppies to hard kibble is usually not a problem for pet parents. After all, most will only get their puppies at eight weeks, when they have already been fully weaned.
However, sometimes a puppy needs to be hand-reared, or a new breeder finds themselves with their first litter. In that case, it’s crucial to know beforehand how and at what age to move their puppies to kibble.
Also, while not every diet is perfect for every puppy, making the crucial decision on your puppy’s diet is vital for their health and longevity.
Is your puppy eating grass? If so, you might be interested in reading Puppy is Eating Grass: Should You Be Concerned?
We have great news; our dog feeding calculator is now LIVE. You can use it here: Dog Feeding Calculator.