Nursing puppies receive complete nutrition from their mothers' milk and should continue to nurse until they are at least four weeks old. At four weeks of age, dogs can begin to eat a high-quality kibble designed for puppies to ensure proper nutrition. It should be offered several times a day, and softened with warm water and a milk replacement, blended to prevent choking or damage to the puppy's teeth. Puppies can be transitioned to dry kibble at about eight weeks old.
If a puppy is rejected by or loses its mother, it can be hand nursed using a commercially-made, canine milk replacement formula. Using cow's milk or another type of milk replacement is not recommended, as it can cause diarrhea. A veterinarian should be consulted to learn the proper technique for bottle-feeding puppies, and they should be fed every few hours for the first several weeks.
A puppy being properly fed should gain approximately 10 to 15 percent of its birth weight daily. During the first several weeks, it is common for a puppy to double or triple its birth weight. A puppy that does not gain weight properly is unlikely to survive. At six weeks of age, a puppy should have its first visit with a veterinarian. This visit includes a physical examination, the first round of vaccinations and deworming.