How and When to Use 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.
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.
Revival Animal Health Breeder's Edge Foster Care Powdered Milk Replacer
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
PetAg Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer Powder
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
PetAg PetLac Puppy Milk Replacement Powder
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
GNC Pets Ultra Mega Premium Milk Replacer Goat's Milk Puppy Powder Formula
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