Feeding newborn puppies baby formula

How and When to Use Puppy Formula to Bottle-Feed a Newborn Puppy

While a mother’s milk is always the best option, sometimes that’s not possible. Along with a veterinarian’s support, here’s how you can support your newborn puppy’s health and growth with formula if necessary.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Puppy gets bottle fed in a person's hand

Credit: pushish images / Adobe Stock

In order to grow and develop properly, newborn puppies require their mother's milk for nutrition. However, if a mother is unable to nurse her pup because she isn't producing enough milk, isn't present, or has rejected the puppy, an alternative milk supply is necessary. Thankfully there are emergency milk replacement recipes and commercial puppy formula products available to help keep up with your puppy's nutritional needs.  

Once you have formula prepared, it's also important to learn the safe and proper way to bottle feed your puppy.

Do All Puppies Need Formula?

"A puppy may require formula as a supplement when the mother cannot make enough milk to satisfy the puppy's needs," according to Elizabeth Fuller, DVM. Fuller serves as the Vice President of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and Chief Medical Officer for the Charleston Animal Society in Charleston, S.C. A puppy may also require formula if she cannot nurse from her mother at all, including if the mother is ill or otherwise unavailable.

"Of course, puppies should nurse from mom as much as possible," Fuller says. "There are benefits beyond just nutrition; behavior later in life is better when puppies are allowed to stay with mom for at least 8 weeks."

How to Make Homemade Puppy Formula

Fuller directs owners caring for orphaned puppies to the resources available through Maddie's Fund. Maddie's Fund is committed to keeping humans and their pets together by providing funds and resources to help animals in need of care.

Maddie's Fund provides two emergency milk replacer recipes, depending on the ingredients you have available at home. "It's important to remember that this should only be used for a short period of time, until a commercial milk replacer can be obtained," Fuller says.

How to Bottle-Feed a Newborn Puppy

When feeding a newborn puppy formula, it's important to follow the instructions on the milk replacer carefully. "Mixing in the incorrect amount of water can cause constipation or diarrhea, both of which can be very dangerous for a puppy," Fuller says. 

According to Fuller, puppies should be fed on their stomachs with their heads upright. You should use a bottle with a small hole in the nipple, just large enough for the milk to drip out slowly. Your puppy should suck the milk out instead of having it fall into the mouth. It's also important to not overfill your puppy's mouth or force-feed them. "Feeding incorrectly will very likely cause pneumonia," she says.

"Please remember that you should only care for an orphaned animal with the support of a licensed veterinarian," Fuller says. "Puppies can become very sick very quickly, so careful monitoring is crucial."

4 Best Puppy Formula Options

Fuller's shelter primarily uses Breeder's Edge puppy formula. She considers Esbilac, Pet Lac, and GNC to be other reasonable alternatives.


Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Revival Animal Health Breeder's Edge Foster Care Powdered Milk Replacer

Buy Now

Breeder's Edge Foster Care Canine Milk Replacer gives puppies complete and balanced nutrition. The formula includes two beneficial ingredients, Bio-Mos to promote a healthy GI tract and Globigen IC (IgY) to support the immune system. This milk replacer can also be used as a milk treat or flavor enhancer.

Shop now: Revival Animal Health Breeder's Edge Foster Care Powdered Milk Replacer, $23; amazon.com


Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

PetAg Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer Powder

Buy Now

PetAg's Esbilac milk replacer powder provides additional nutrition for newborn puppies who have been orphaned, rejected, or are nursing and need supplemental feedings. The formula contains prebiotics and probiotics plus vitamins and minerals. It provides the same amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates found in a mother's milk.

Shop now: PetAg Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer Powder, $48; chewy.com


Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

PetAg PetLac Puppy Milk Replacement Powder

Buy Now

This powdered formula is specifically crafted for puppies newborn to 6 weeks old. It's packed with live, naturally-occurring microorganisms and contains milk and vegetable proteins, encouraging proper growth and development. Once open, the product can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 14 days. 

Shop now: PetAg PetLac Puppy Milk Replacement Powder, $14; chewy.com


Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

GNC Pets Ultra Mega Premium Milk Replacer Goat's Milk Puppy Powder Formula

Buy Now

Made with whole goats milk, this powder formula provides all of the essential nutrients your puppy needs. Like pure mother's milk, it supports the development of strong bones, healthy teeth, and a healthy immune system.

Shop now: GNC Pets Ultra Mega Premium Milk Replacer Goat's Milk Puppy Powder Formula, $16; chewy.com

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.

Artificial feeding of puppies

Newborn puppies are always a lot of trouble in the house. It is good if the mother of the kids is responsible for their development and upbringing. Unfortunately, it often happens that the bitch is deprived of maternal instincts, she does not have enough milk, or mastitis has begun to develop, or the mother of the puppies died during childbirth, and then you have to become a “nursing mom” or dad. The question arises - what and how to feed babies?

Newborn puppies need to be fed every 2-3 hours. Now on our market there are an abundance of mother's milk substitutes, as well as bottles and nipples of various sizes, but you can use a regular nipple (for very small ones, you can use a pipette rubber stretched over a small bottle). If it is not possible to use substitutes, then the mixture for feeding can be prepared by yourself. To do this, take 1 liter of cow's milk (if it is not skimmed, homemade or high-fat, then it must be diluted in half with boiled water), add a dessert spoon of honey (or sugar) and one raw yolk. Everything is thoroughly mixed, preferably with a mixer. It is necessary to prepare the mixture before feeding. It is also possible to use ready-made milk formulas for children (“Baby”). Food should be warm (35 - 37 ° C). nine0005

Foster parents should remember that newborn puppies are not able to cope with natural needs on their own, for this, a real mother, licking the puppies, gives them a massage of the tummy, anus. Therefore, before each feeding, it is necessary to stroke the tummies with light massage movements, as if to "turn on" the internal organs, preparing them for eating. The required amount of the mixture at one time is very individual, focus on the behavior of the baby - well-fed puppies sleep peacefully until the next feeding. nine0005

Puppies sometimes have intolerance to cow's milk protein, which is manifested by allergies, diathesis, diarrhea, the puppy is restless, does not gain weight. Such children need to choose dairy-free baby food, where milk protein is replaced by soy protein (soy milk). In this case, the selection of food should be carried out only after examination by a veterinarian and the appointment of concomitant therapy!

On days 10-14 of you can start feeding the puppies with raw fresh meat. Complementary meat is given in the form of minced meat, passed through a meat grinder twice. The first piece should be the size of a pea and be given once a day, then twice: in the morning and in the evening. Gradually, the amount of bait is increased, while increasing the amount of meat. The number of feedings at this age is at least seven times a day. nine0005

From 14-15 days puppies are fed with milk porridge, wiped with a blender. It can be oatmeal, rice, buckwheat well boiled. You can also use ready-made baby food "Baby" and "Baby", preferably without fruit additives. It is not recommended to feed semolina, wheat, barley groats - they contribute to a large load on the pancreas, which will subsequently affect the development and health of young animals.

From 18–21 days low-fat or calcined cottage cheese, vitamin and mineral supplements are added to the diet. You can cook calcined cottage cheese yourself. To do this, bring 1 liter of milk to a boil and add 2–3 tablespoons of 5–10% calcium chloride, simmer over very low heat for another 2–3 minutes, and then filter through gauze. Given that calcium is absorbed in the body with the help of vitamin D, it is recommended to add tetravit or prodevite to such cottage cheese at the rate of 1 drop per 1 puppy. nine0005

By the 30th day of , the milk drink should be completely replaced by a feeding ration. If by the month your “children” are in normal condition, cheerful and playful, then you have coped with the task perfectly and you can be quite proud of yourself!

Umka clinic
Alexandra Aleksandrovna

For any questions regarding the health of your pets
you can contact our clinic at:
st. Novomostitskaya, 2, tel: 067-100-34-75 from 9.00 to 21.00
prosp. Minsk, 10, tel: 098-598-57-28 from 9.00 to 21.00
from 14.00 to 15.00 Sanitary hour
Veterinary clinic "Umka"

Care And Feeding Newborn Puppies

Caring for orphaned puppies or is it hard to be a bitch?

It is very sad when newborn puppies are left without a mother. Usually their owners try to find a foster mother for the puppies - a bitch who recently calved herself, but brought very few puppies. It is desirable that the adoptive mother be similar in size to the mother of orphaned puppies. If the puppies cannot find a foster mother, the owners have to raise the puppies themselves. nine0005

Artificial rearing of puppies is the last resort to keep puppies from dying.

Artificial feeding of a puppy

Artificial rearing of puppies has more disadvantages than advantages:

• Requires a huge amount of time and effort from a person. If a person does not have the skills to raise newborn puppies, then one cannot do without calling a veterinarian or consulting an experienced breeder. nine0005

• Artificial formula, whatever it is, is always worse than mother's milk. Mother's milk in the first few hours after birth - colostrum contains vitamins, antibodies that protect puppies from infections from birth to three months. Puppies that have not received colostrum require special attention. Sometimes there are cases of sudden death of artificially grown puppies under the age of 1 month.

• Oddly enough, the character of puppies - "artificial" turns out to be imperfect. A mother dog teaches puppies a lot from a very young age. Maternal warmth, care is a great start in life. In the first 3 weeks after giving birth, the dog is almost constantly in the “nest” next to her puppies, which creates an atmosphere of security and safety. By one month, the bitch begins to teach puppies to be independent, and by two months, she can give the puppy a good "thrashing" for bad behavior. nine0005

Orphan puppy at 15 days old

Benefits of formula feeding puppies:

• Since the puppies are given constant attention and care, a close bond develops between them and the person who acts as a foster mother.

Orphan puppy care:

Puppies need to survive:

• Warm. Thermoregulation in puppies is not developed. Outside the warm "nest" the puppy dies of hypothermia even at room temperature. nine0005

• Feeding. It is important to know what and how to feed, how often, how much the puppy eats in one "feeding".

• Stimulation of urination and defecation. Puppies under the age of 3 weeks cannot go to the toilet on their own. They need stimulation to urinate and to empty their bowels.

Heat for newborn puppies

Puppies need to be kept warm to survive. They are contraindicated in temperature changes or drafts. Puppies can go long enough without food and survive, but they won't survive if they get too cold. Warmth for newborn puppies is no less important than food. The first week of life, the temperature in the "nest" should be 30-35 ° C. Since newborn puppies cannot regulate their temperature, it is completely dependent on the ambient temperature. From hypothermia, puppies quickly catch a cold, and it is very difficult to save them. nine0005

Feeding orphaned puppies

Feeding frequency: breaks between feedings for newborn puppies - 2-3 hours.

Milk formula temperature: 38 - 40 °C.

The volume of milk for feeding a puppy weighing 300 g is two full pipettes, but this is only a guideline. If the amount of milk formula is chosen correctly, the puppies sleep peacefully from one feeding to the next. A very common mistake - overfeeding, leads to severe constipation, or vice versa - to a disorder of the "stool". nine0005

What to feed? For feeding very young puppies, a pipette or a disposable syringe is suitable, to the end of which is attached a rubber tube with small holes - holes (for example, from another pipette). As puppies get older, you can switch to a bottle with a pacifier. It is important that the holes in the nipple are small, otherwise the puppies will choke! Several small holes in the nipple are preferable, instead of one large one.

What to feed? What is the composition of the milk formula?

Bitch's milk contains almost 2 times more fat and protein than cow's milk, and 1.5 times less sugar. You can use ready-made mixtures - bitch milk substitutes are sold in large pet stores or veterinary pharmacies. You can make your own mixture.

Puppy Formula Feeding Recipes

Recipe number 1 - 0.5 l of milk + 1 raw egg yolk without shell.

Recipe number 2 - 0.25 l of milk + a tablespoon of powdered milk = stir and strain. nine0005

Urination and defecation stimulation in puppies

After eating, you need to help the puppies urinate and empty the intestines. To do this, massage the puppy's stomach with a piece of cotton wool or a terry towel moistened with warm water, imitating the movement of the bitch's tongue, in order to cause the separation of urine and feces. Puppies are not able to "empty" on their own until three weeks of age.

Veterinary advice on caring for orphaned puppies

Owners of orphaned puppies periodically turn to our veterinary service "Vasilek" for advice from a veterinarian or for veterinary help in more difficult cases. nine0005

Ball with Lusha

From personal experience: bottle feeding puppies twice

Some of our clients are faced with the need to feed puppies twice. For the first time, being caring people, we couldn't get past the puppies, put up by someone in the trash. A box with three newborn puppies stood next to the dumpster. It was early spring outside, the puppies were hypothermic, and I had to call the veterinarian. The condition of the puppies was serious, out of three, only one "girl" was saved. The puppy was given a name - Lusha, surrounded by warmth and care. In a large friendly family, the puppy was fed strictly “by the hour”, the feedings were divided among themselves. As a result, Lusha grew up. She has become a wonderful loyal dog. Throughout her life, Lusha almost never got sick. At the age of 6, the dog had to be sterilized for medical reasons. Since then, a veterinarian call was needed only for routine vaccinations. nine0005

And when Lusha was 10 years old, history repeated itself. Again - "foundling". An abandoned newborn puppy was lying on the grass in the courtyard of the kindergarten, he loudly called "mother". The puppy was brought home without hesitation. The owners already knew exactly how to care for the baby. While the puppy was small, the spoiled Lusha almost did not take part in his upbringing, but after a month she could no longer "get away" from his persistent attention and unceremonious games. A veterinary consultation was needed only once. On the eleventh day, the puppy had a severe "constipation", which was managed thanks to the advice of the veterinarian. From the fourteenth day, the puppy began to learn to eat from a saucer.

Learn more