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Mother’s Milk vs. Cow’s Milk – Can Your Lab Drink Both?
Although we think of puppies as cuddly, adorable creatures, they’re technically mammals. Like many mammals, from when they’re born and onward, a Labrador puppy will consume its mother’s milk as its primary means of nutrition.
According to PubMed, dog milk contains 7.53 percent protein, 31 percent milk energy, 9.47 percent fat, and 146 kilocalories (kcal) in 100 grams. Puppies need the nutrients and calories to grow and develop. They’ll continue suckling from their mother for a month or more unless mother and dog are separated before then.
If that does happen, can you supplement mother’s milk with the milk you have in your fridge?
No. Cow’s milk is very hard on the stomachs of dogs and especially puppies, Labradors and other dog breeds alike. Canines have a hard time with dairy milk digestion so they could suffer an upset stomach and even diarrhea.
This isn’t something your Lab will outgrow when they’re bigger either. If anything, Labradors are a breed that’s especially sensitive to milk, so please, never give your dog cow’s milk (or any of your other pets, for that matter!).
If you must feed your Lab puppy any milk-like product, make it a puppy milk formula like PetLac or Esbilac from PetAg.
When Should a Labrador Puppy Start Drinking Water?
If the mother and Lab puppy stay together, when does the puppy begin transitioning away from drinking mother’s milk? Once they’re about a month old, the weaning process slowly begins. The mother may not quit nursing entirely, and that can be true even beyond the point when the puppy eats solid foods.
However, she will feed her puppies less and less milk as the weeks continue. By the time the Lab puppy is six weeks old, sometimes seven weeks, they’re done relying on their mother as their primary food supply. They should have been eating solid food since about the four-week mark, maybe four and a half weeks. This is where their nutrition comes from now.
At seven weeks old, you can switch your Lab puppy’s beverage to water. This should be their drink of choice for the rest of their lives!
How Much Water Does a Labrador Puppy Need?
Puppies already have to pee a lot since they have tiny bladders. Offering them too much water will only increase the number of times you need to take them out…or the number of accidents you have to clean.
How much water should you give your Lab puppy? Each day, they should drink an ounce of water per pound of body weight.
Let’s say your Labrador weighs 8 pounds. Your dog should drink at least 8 ounces of water. It’s okay if your puppy consumes 0.5 ounces of water per pound of body weight, but no less than that. Using the example from above, an 8-pound puppy should drink 4 ounces of water a day if they consume 0.5 ounces of water per pound of body weight.
On some occasions, your Labrador will drink more than even 8 ounces of water a day. For example, in the summertime, they’ll need more hydration. That’s also true if they’ve had a fun romp in your fenced-in backyard and they’re panting.
You always want to have water available for your puppy unless you’re housetraining then. The American Kennel Club recommends moving your Lab’s water bowl out of reach at night to prevent accidents. Cut off all eating and drinking no later than two hours before you and your Lab go to bed.
During the day, please let your Lab drink what they need to. Puppies can become dehydrated much more easily compared to adult dogs. You’ll know your puppy is dehydrated because they’ll exhibit the following symptoms:
- Thick, heavy saliva
- Dry gums and nose
- Sunken eyes
- Nonstop panting
- Vomiting and possible diarrhea
Can Labrador Puppies Drink Anything Else Besides Water?
You get bored drinking nothing but water day in and day out, so you can only imagine how your Labrador puppy must feel. You’d love to change up their beverage routine. Is this okay?
Let’s go over some common beverages that people offer their Labs and talk about whether these drinks are acceptable.
Chicken Broth – Yes
Puppies don’t always want to drink water, but since maintaining their hydration is important, what some dog owners do is pour a bit of chicken broth in the dog’s water bowl. This will impart the flavor of the broth into the water so your Labrador puppy will gladly drink.
Bone Broth – Yes
If all you have is bone broth instead of chicken broth, you can use it in much the same way without upsetting your puppy’s stomach.
Ice Cubes – Yes
An ice cube is a lovely treat on a hot summer’s day. Once your Lab puppy starts developing its teeth, it’ll gladly chew on ice cubes. That’s better than your furniture, right?
You can plunk a few ice cubes into your puppy’s water bowl or let them play around with the ice on the kitchen floor. Besides the entertainment factor, ice cubes keep your Lab hydrated too, so they’re a win-win.
“Dog” Wine or Beer – Maybe
Yes, that’s right, now your Labrador can enjoy a bit of vino or beer with you to unwind after a hard day. These dog beers and wines such as Bowser Beer and the aptly-named Dogwine are nonalcoholic and may include healthful ingredients like malt barley and glucosamine.
As a puppy, you probably don’t want to give your Lab these beverages. Some adult dogs have been known to turn their nose at dog wine or beer too, so don’t force the matter.
Juice – Often Not
Whole juices that are more fruit than added sugars are okay for dogs, but in very small quantities. Always avoid giving your Labrador grape juice, including the whole juice kind. This fruity beverage can lead to kidney failure or death.
Even if a juice isn’t grape-flavored, it may contain grape, so read the ingredients label before offering juice to your canine companion.
Tea – No
Tea is caffeinated, and while we humans can’t live without that caffeine buzz, dogs must. The toxicity of caffeine can lead to symptoms such as seizures, vomiting, hyperactivity, fast heartbeat and pulse, and restlessness.
Coffee – No
Since coffee is caffeinated as well, you especially want to prevent your Labrador puppy from getting into your Starbucks cup. Coffee may have more caffeine than tea per serving, so it’s even worse for dogs.
Labrador puppies drink their mother’s milk for a little over a month until they’re fully weaned. Then they should consume water. Offering other beverages to your dog can lead to illness and even death. If you worry your Lab is bored with its diet, try a new brand of dog food, but don’t swap out water for any other beverage!
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson