Feeding baby dogs

Feeding Orphaned Puppies | VCA Animal Hospital

Newborn puppies are relatively immature at birth compared to many other mammals, and large breed puppies are less mature than small breed puppies. The period of time they spend being nursed by their mother (bitch) helps the newborn puppy transition from in utero nutrition to solid food.

When puppies are raised on their mother's milk, their growth and health is influenced by:

  • the nutrition of the mother during pregnancy and early lactation,
  • the mother’s overall physical health and behavior, and
  • good neonatal care. 

The first few days of a mother's milk is known as colostrum. Colostrum is very high in protein and transfers important immune system elements. Whenever possible, newborn puppies should receive their mother's milk as it sets the stage for normal immune system function and protection from disease.

If the mother is incapable of raising her puppies herself, the puppies are considered orphans and some important needs must be met in order to ensure their survival. These needs include appropriate heat, humidity, nutrition, elimination, sanitation, and social stimulation.

"If the mother is incapable of raising her puppies herself, the puppies are considered orphans and some important needs must be met in order to ensure their survival."

Fortunately, most orphaned puppies can be raised successfully with a bit of care and attention to detail. Using a logbook to track their development is a good place to start.

What should I track in a logbook?

Maintaining a logbook about the orphaned puppies does not need to be complicated. The intent is to simply keep track of how they are doing so you can identify if there are any potential concerns with their development.

Tracking their weights, milestones, and routines are key, so be sure to record details of when their eyes open, when their teeth begin to erupt, their food intake, and stool consistency.

TIP: Individual puppies must be identified in some way, so consider colored collars or nail polish on a few front toenails.

How often should puppies be weighed, and how much should they weigh?

The birth weight of each puppy should be recorded, and weight should be taken every day or two for the first four weeks of life. Starting in their fifth week, you can switch to weekly weigh-ins. A digital food scale with capacity up to 5 pounds works best for these measurements.

Puppies should gain about 5% of their current body weight per day during the first 4 weeks. This means that body weight may double by 8-10 days after birth and triple by the third week of life.

What do orphaned puppies need for proper nutrition?

Water is a critical nutrient for orphaned puppies, just as it is for all other stages of their life. Normal water intake is relatively high for puppies, needing 130-220 milliliters (mL) of fluid per kilogram (kg) of body weight each day.

On average, the total fluid volume fed per day (including milk replacers) should be approximately 180mL/kg of puppy body weight. Mother's milk is highly digestible and very calorie dense. Compared to cow's milk, milk from a puppy's mother contains more than twice as much protein, which helps to explain why cow's milk is not ideal for feeding orphaned puppies.

Commercial puppy milk replacers are recommended as they are superior to cow's milk and home-made mixtures. The milk replacer you choose should meet several key nutritional factors. For every 100g of milk replacer fed (on a dry matter basis), there should be:

  • 33g crude protein
  • 42g fat
  • 14.5g lactose

How do I feed orphaned puppies?

Most puppies will suckle on small pet nursing bottles, also known as pet nursers. When bottle fed, puppies will nurse until they are full and then reject the bottle.

Be sure the opening in the nipple restricts the outflow of fluid to one drop at a time in order to avoid a flow rate that is too rapid for the puppy. When the flow rate is too rapid, it can lead to aspiration, pneumonia, and/or death; and when the flow is too slow they have to work too hard to nurse.

When feeding, hold the puppy in a horizontal, head-neutral position as it would be when feeding from its mother. If the puppy is too weak to suckle, your veterinarian can show you alternative feeding methods and assist in tube feeding if needed.

TIP: Handling puppies during feeding contributes to critical socialization.

How much and how often should I feed orphaned puppies?

Orphaned puppies should be fed on a strict schedule, preferably every 2-4 hours. Puppies up to two weeks old can generally consume their daily intake in 4-5 meals per day. Small breed puppies should be limited to 10-15mL per feeding during the first week of life in order to prevent diarrhea.

Commercial milk replacers are labeled to help you calculate the total volume to be fed per day. To calculate the amount for each feeding:

  • dilute the total daily volume of milk replacer to a final volume of about 180mL/kg of puppy body weight, and
  • divide that total into the desired number of meals per day.    

It is recommended that you warm puppy milk replacer to approximately 100°F (38°C) before feeding, but be careful not to overheat it. Cold formula, overly rapid feeding rates, and overfeeding can lead to regurgitation, aspiration, bloating, and diarrhea.

If the orphaned puppy develops diarrhea, reduce the formula volume. It is better to slightly underfeed than to overfeed neonatal orphaned puppies. Puppy milk replacer should be the sole source of nutrition until 3-4 weeks of age at which time the weaning process may begin.

The transition from formula to solid food is a gradual process, so be patient. Use a high-quality food formulated to support growth and reproduction. Introduce small amounts of semi-solid or solid food to supplement formula, and transition to solid food by 5-6 weeks of age.

What’s my role in helping a puppy to eliminate?

Puppies cannot eliminate (urinate or defecate) on their own until about 3 weeks of age. They rely on their mother to stimulate their reflex to initiate elimination. Orphaned puppies, on the other hand, rely on their caretakers to stimulate them to eliminate.

After feeding, you can stimulate their reflex to eliminate by gently stroking the area between the anus and vulva or penis with a warm, moistened cotton ball or soft cloth. Your veterinarian can help teach you this technique.

What are some best practices for proper puppy hygiene?

Orphaned puppies require you to pay strict attention to their hygiene for optimal health and development. Follow these best practices for proper puppy hygiene:

  • Bottles and nipples should be cleaned and then boiled in water to sterilize them between uses. 
  • Never prepare more milk replacer than can be used within 24 hours and always keep it refrigerated. 
  • Discard formula after 1 hour if left at room temperature. 
  • Once or twice each week, gently wash the puppies with a moist cloth.

By paying attention to the details of feeding and hygiene, you can help orphaned puppies thrive.

raising | VCA Animal Hospital

Raising puppies can be an extremely gratifying experience or it may produce disappointment and letdown. The following information is provided in order to increase your chances of success when caring for young puppies.

What do I do to care for the newborn puppies?

The mother should spend most of her time with her puppies during the first few days after birth. For the first month of life, puppies require very little care from the owner because their mother will feed and care for them. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, the pet owner should not interfere with the mother's care.

The puppies should be kept warm and should nurse frequently. They should be checked every few hours to ensure they are warm and well fed. The mother should be checked to make certain that she is producing adequate and normal-appearing milk.

"The puppies should be kept warm and should nurse frequently."

If the mother does not stay in the whelping box the majority of the time, the puppies' body temperatures must be closely monitored. If the puppies are cold, supplemental heating should be provided but caution needs to be taken to avoid burns as puppies do not have the same reactions to heat as adult dogs do. During the first four days of life, the newborn puppies' box and external environment should be maintained at 85° to 90°F (29.4° to 32.2°C). The temperature may gradually be decreased to 80°F (26.7°C) by the seventh to tenth day and to 72°F (22.2°C) by the end of the fourth week. If the litter is large, the external temperature does not have to be kept as warm. As puppies huddle together, their body heat provides additional warmth.

If the mother feels the puppies are in danger or if there is too much light, she may become anxious and not produce adequate milk. Placing a sheet or cloth over the top of the box to obscure much of the light may resolve the problem. An enclosed box is also an excellent solution. Some dogs, especially first-time mothers, are more nervous than others. Such dogs may attempt to hide their young, even from the owner. Moving the puppies from place to place may endanger the puppies if they are placed in a cold or drafty location. Dogs with this behavior should be caged or confined in a secure, secluded area. This type of mother has also been known to kill her puppies, intentionally or inadvertently, presumably as a means of 'protecting' them from danger.


What are the signs that the puppies are not doing well and what do I do?

Puppies should eat or sleep 90% of the time during the first two weeks of life.

"If they are crying during or after eating, they are usually becoming ill, are not receiving adequate milk, or the mother's milk has become infected (mastitis)."

If they are crying during or after eating, they are usually becoming ill, are not receiving adequate milk, or the mother's milk has become infected (mastitis). A newborn puppy is very susceptible to infections and can die within a few hours of becoming ill. If excessive crying occurs, the mother and entire litter should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Puppies should gain 5-10% of their body weight daily. When the mother's milk supply is inadequate to support this, supplemental feeding one to six times per day is recommended and should be performed routinely on any litter with greater than five puppies. There are several excellent commercial milk replacers available. They require no preparation other than warming. These milk replacers should be warmed to 95°to 100° (35° to 37.8°C) before feeding. Its temperature can easily be tested on your forearm: it should be about the same temperature as your skin. 

Any milk replacer that is used should contain optimal levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a nutrient that is important for the development of the puppies' brains and eyes. Goat milk is not recommended as it is far too low in protein and fat. Supplemental feeding may be continued until the puppies are old enough to eat puppy food on their own.

If the mother does not produce milk or her milk becomes infected, the puppies will cry. If this occurs, an entire litter can die within 24 to 48 hours. Total milk replacement feeding using the mentioned products or adopting the puppies to another nursing mother is usually required. If replacement feeding is chosen, the feeding amounts listed on the product should be used. Puppies less than two weeks of age should be fed every 3-4 hours. Puppies two to four weeks of age do well with feedings every 6-8 hours. Weaning, as described below, should begin at three to four weeks of age.

What should I expect from the puppies during the first few weeks of life?

Puppies are born with their eyes closed. Most puppies will begin to open their eyes within seven to fourteen days of birth. If there is swelling, bulging, or discharge underneath the eyelids, they should be opened gently. A cotton ball dampened with warm water may be used to assist opening the lids. If the swelling is due to infection, pus will exit the open eyelids and should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. If the eyes have not opened within fourteen days of age, the puppy should be examined by a veterinarian.

Puppies should be observed for their rate of growth. They should double their birth weight in about one week. Careful and routine daily to weekly weighing should be performed to ensure the puppies are growing normally. Failure to gain weight may indicate a problem and the need for veterinary care.

At about two weeks of age, puppies should be alert and trying to stand on their own. At three weeks, they generally try to climb out of their box. At four weeks, all of the puppies should be able to walk, run, and play.

"At four weeks, all of the puppies should be able to walk, run, and play."

Puppies should begin eating solid food about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 weeks of age. Initially, make gruel by mixing a milk replacer in puppy food soaked in water and place this mixture in a flat saucer. The puppies' noses should be carefully dipped into the mixture two or three times per day until they begin to lap; this usually takes one to three days. Next, canned or dry puppy food should be placed in the milk replacer or water until it is soggy. As the puppies lap, they will also ingest the food. The amount of moisture should be decreased daily until they are eating the canned or dry food with little or no moisture added (usually by four to six weeks of age).

I have heard of milk fever. What exactly is it?

Eclampsia, or milk fever, is a depletion of calcium from the mother due to heavy milk production. It generally occurs when the puppies are three to five weeks old (just before weaning) and most often to mothers with large litters. The mother typically has muscle spasms resulting in rigid legs, spastic movements, and heavy panting. This condition can be fatal in 30-60 minutes, so a veterinarian should be consulted immediately.

Do puppies need to be fed a special diet?

Diet is extremely important for a growing puppy. There are many commercial foods specially formulated for puppies. These foods meet their unique nutritional requirements and should be fed until twelve to eighteen months of age depending on the breed of puppy and body condition. To minimize developmental problems, large breed dogs should eat a large-breed puppy food and then transition to an adolescent formula until they stop growing. Puppy foods are available in dry and canned formulations.

"Diet is extremely important for a growing puppy."

You should buy FOOD FORMULATED FOR PUPPIES. Adult formulations are not recommended since they do not provide optimal nutrition required for a puppy. Advertisements tend to promote taste, color, and shape rather than nutrition, so it is important not be influenced by these ads. Generic dog foods should be avoided. Table or human food is not recommended for growing puppies. Although the puppy may show a preference for table food, unless you follow a properly-balanced recipe developed by a veterinary nutritionist, the puppy's long term health will be compromised.

Discuss diet choices with your veterinarian. The diet should contain optimal levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a nutrient that is important for the development of the puppies' brains and eyes. It is generally a good idea to avoid generic brands of food. It is recommended that only food with the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) certification is purchased. Usually, this information is very easily seen on the food label. AAFCO is an organization that oversees the entire pet food industry. It does not endorse any particular food, but it indicates if the food has met the minimum requirements for nutrition, which are set by the industry. Most of the commercial pet foods have the AAFCO label. An ideal diet will have completed feeding trials prior to marketing their food (see handout “Feeding Growing Puppies” for more information).


When should my puppies receive vaccinations?

Puppies are protected against many canine diseases before and shortly after birth by passive antibody transfer from their mother. Some antibodies cross the placenta and enter the puppies' circulation. However, the majority of antibodies are provided in the mother's first milk known as colostrum. These maternal antibodies protect the puppies against the diseases to which the mother is immune during the first few weeks of life. This explains why it is often recommended to booster the mother's vaccinations within a few months prior to breeding.

Although very protective, maternal antibodies last for only a few weeks; after this time, the puppy becomes susceptible to disease. The vaccination program should be started at about six to eight weeks of age. This is the age when many maternal antibodies are beginning to die and the puppy becomes susceptible to infectious disease. Puppies should be vaccinated against canine distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus, and rabies. Other vaccines are also available for certain situations, and will be discussed at the time of the first visit for vaccinations.

Maternal antibodies are passed in the mother's milk only during the first one to three days after delivery. If, for any reason, the puppies do not nurse during this important period of time, their vaccinations should begin earlier than six weeks of age, depending on likely disease exposure. A veterinarian can make specific recommendations for each particular situation.

Do all puppies have worms?

Intestinal parasites (worms) are very common in puppies. Symptoms of intestinal parasites include poor overall condition, chronic soft or bloody stools, loss of appetite, a pot-bellied appearance, a dull, dry haircoat, and weight loss. Some parasites are transmitted from the mother to her offspring either in utero (while in the womb) or in the milk and others are carried by fleas or other insects. Some are transmitted through the stool of an infected dog. Very few of these parasites are visible in the stool, so their eggs must be detected by the veterinarian with a microscope.

"Intestinal parasites are very common in puppies."

A microscopic examination of the feces will reveal the eggs of most of these parasites. Generally this test should be performed at the time of the first vaccinations. However, it may be performed as early as two to three weeks of age if an intestinal parasite problem is suspected. The Companion Animal Parasite council recommends deworming puppies for roundworms and hookworms every two weeks starting at two weeks of age. Other treatment may be needed based on the results of a fecal examination. Your veterinarian should be consulted for specific recommendations for your puppies. You should not administer any over-the-counter deworming compounds without first consulting your veterinary hospital.


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Homemade food for a small dog - Proper feeding is the source of your pet's longevity!

Proper nutrition is the source of your pet's longevity!

Russian Toyka Elaida - "Light Breakfast" - Go to the photo album page

Like any owner of a miniature dog, you want your pet to grow up healthy and full of energy. And in order for your chihuahua or toy terrier to feel good, you need to feed him balanced nutrition that provides all the needs of a growing and developing organism. What to feed - dry food or home-made food - is up to you: there is no unanimity among experts on this issue. Each method has its pros and cons, but we will talk about them later. In this article, we will tell you about the rules that must be followed when feeding a pet with homemade food. What should be the table of a small dog? Let's find out...

Feeding frequency

The frequency of feeding a Chihuahua or Russian Toy directly depends on the age of the dog. Veterinarians agree that it is best to feed a small dog puppy according to the following scheme:

  • 1-2 months - 6 times a day;
  • 2-3 months - 5 times a day;
  • 3-4 months - 4 times a day;
  • 4-10 months - 3 times a day;
  • 10-18 months - 2 times a day.

From the age of one and a half, a small dog can be fed once a day. However, this should not be done if your pet has gastrointestinal or liver problems. A valid option is one where the dog has two feedings per day.

The amount of one serving

The amount of food eaten by a small dog is selected strictly individually, depending on the needs of the dog's body. Both overfeeding a dog, which leads to obesity and problems with the gastrointestinal tract, lungs and heart, and insufficient feeding, which can cause dystrophy and disorder of the nervous system, are considered unacceptable.

If you watch a Chihuahua or a Toy Terrier carefully, you will notice that the sides of a small dog become slightly larger after eating. Follow this indicator. Normally, the sides of the dog should not stick out as much as they should be sunken.

What can I feed a Chihuahua and Toy Terrier?

Let's talk about the important topic of your small dog's diet. First of all, I would like to note that you can start feeding a dog from the age of three weeks. Porridge and cottage cheese are the first to be introduced into the dog's diet. From 1 month, meat is gradually introduced into the dog's diet.

When choosing a diet for a Chihuahua and Russian Toy Terrier, you should remember that a dog, no matter how large or small it is, is a wolf, so the basis of your pet’s diet should be protein food in an amount of at least 2/3 of the total diet volume. Protein foods include meat, offal, fish, poultry, cottage cheese, kefir, milk, eggs. Some veterinarians and experienced dog breeders recommend that all these products be given exclusively in their raw form. However, there is an alternative opinion on this matter. Raw food opponents claim that raw foods (meat, fish, poultry, offal) may contain helminths or their larvae, which causes significant harm to the animal's body.

Let's take a closer look at the foods that should be in the diet of your Toy or Chihuahua.

  • Meat. Meat is given either in the form of pieces or sliced. It is undesirable to give minced meat to a small dog: it is poorly digested. For a small dog, the pieces of meat should be finely chopped. Fatty meat is not allowed. As one of the options for a variety of pet diets, there can be meat broth. At the same time, it is not recommended to cook the broth on the bones: the very frequent use of such broths leads to a violation of the digestion of the Chihuahua and Toy Terrier. The ideal option is cartilage broth, which contains a lot of collagen, which favorably affects the growth of bones and ligaments of a small dog. How Much Meat Should a Chihuahua and Toy Terrier Diet? From ¼ to ½ of the weight of the entire diet. It should be borne in mind that a young growing body needs more meat than an old and inactive dog.
  • Offal. Liver and heart are the most useful offal. The liver contains a large amount of vitamins A and D. Offal is thoroughly boiled and given no more than 1-2 times a week, but in a volume 1.5 times the volume of meat.
  • Fish. Small dogs, like the Chihuahua or the Russian Toy Terrier, are given only sea fish - cod, hake, pollock. Containing a small amount of fat, they include the necessary amount of useful fatty acids, as well as the iodine and phosphorus necessary for the body. Fish should be offered no more than 1-2 times a week.
  • Dairy products. Should be presented in the dog's diet in the form of kefir and cottage cheese. Offering milk to small dogs older than 2 months is not recommended: upon reaching this age, milk begins to be poorly absorbed by the body and does more harm than good. As for eggs, they are introduced into the diet raw and no more than 1-2 times a week.
  • Cereals. Contains fiber needed for bowel function. Rice, hercules, buckwheat are preferred in the diet. But millet and pearl barley are poorly absorbed by the body of a chihuahua and toy terrier, so it is better to avoid their use. Grains should make up 1/3 of a small dog's diet.
  • Vegetables and fruits. Compared to other products, they are absorbed worse. From vegetables, a small dog can consume carrots, which are an indispensable source of vitamin A. Carrots are given raw, carefully grated. It is best offered in conjunction with vegetable oil, since the vitamins found in vegetables and fruits are best absorbed on an oil basis. You can also offer your Chihuahua and Toy Terrier cabbage, but not the stalk, because they contain the main nitrates that the cabbage may have been fertilized with. But it is better not to introduce potatoes into the dog's diet. In addition to the danger of poisoning with solanine contained in some tubers, potatoes prevent the absorption of B vitamins. Cauliflower, zucchini, and tomatoes can also be introduced into the diet of a small dog. From fruits, the use of an apple is permissible. Vegetables and fruits can make up ¼ -1/3 of the diet.

Here are the essentials that your small dog should have in his diet.

What should not be given to toys and chihuahuas?

What should you never and never feed your pet if you want health and longevity for it? Here is an approximate list of foods that should be eliminated from the diet of a small dog:

  • Bones. Forget about bones. Sharp fragments of bones can pierce or injure the dog's stomach, get stuck in the throat, and damage the health and life of your pet.
  • Pork. Its meat is extremely fatty, and this will put a huge strain on the liver of a small dog.
  • Raw river fish. As a rule, it is affected by helminths. In addition, river fish contains a large amount of bones, so its consumption is generally undesirable for small dogs.
  • Peas, beans, legumes. They create problems with the removal of gases from the intestines.
  • Alcohol. In addition to all the harm that alcohol does to the body of a small dog, and which we already know enough, keep in mind that alcohol is not broken down in the body of a dog, it is highly addictive.
  • Sweet. Causes watery eyes in small dogs.
  • Salty. Firstly, it is extremely burdensome for the kidneys, and secondly, it causes the deposition of salts and an increase in blood pressure. There is no need to add additional salt to the food that you prepare for the Chihuahua and Toy Terrier. It contains a sufficient amount of salts necessary for the body. This also includes the ban on spices.
  • Fried, fatty. Causes stress on the liver.
  • Pasta, white bread. Contain a large amount of "simple" carbohydrates, which contribute to the accumulation of fat mass.
  • Sausages and frankfurters. They put a lot of stress on the liver.

Recommendations for feeding dogs at home

Basic rules to follow when feeding Chihuahua and Toy Terrier homemade food.

  • A small dog should only be fed fresh, quality food.
  • You can not feed the dog from the common table. The food that you eat does not suit your Chihuahua and Toy Terrier, neither in terms of salt, nor in terms of fat and spice.
  • If you decide to switch your dog to commercially prepared food, the transition should be gradual. At the same time, keep in mind that mixing homemade food and food is not recommended, as well as mixing food from manufacturers from different companies.
  • Never leave unfinished food in the feeder. It can turn sour, which will provoke poisoning in the dog, and in addition, it will accustom a small dog to an irregular and erratic diet.
  • After your small dog has eaten, give him time to rest. Do not immediately go for a walk or engage in outdoor and active games.
  • The dog's main drink should be fresh water. Keep in mind that small dogs require more fluids than large ones.
  • Chihuahua and toy terrier nutrition should be balanced, that is, contain all the necessary proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the required volumes and proportions.
  • In the autumn-winter-spring period, add special vitamins and microelements to the diet in the form of tablets and powders. After all, homemade food, unlike industrial food, is not saturated with all the necessary substances.
  • Be sure to monitor the weight and health of your small dog. After all, malnutrition will affect the appearance and well-being.


The phrase “we are what we eat” applies to small dogs as well. Remember that how well your Chihuahua or Russian Toy eats depends on its longevity and well-being. Your pet's diet should be well balanced and varied.

With proper nutrition, your dog will feel great and will repay you with devotion and love that will last for many years thanks to your efforts and efforts. Be healthy!

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See also:
Canned and wet food for small dogs


Dry dog ​​food. Breeder's note Alekhin Ignat

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