Supplemental Feeding of Puppies

Sometimes puppies require supplemental feeding.
Sometimes puppies require supplemental feeding. (Image: Labrador retriever puppy image by crazy.nataly from

Newborn puppies need their mother’s milk to provide them with nutrients and antibodies to protect them from illness and disease. According to, the first 36 hours is the period of the puppy's most critical need for food. It might not always be possible for the mother to nurse--like if she has too many pups or is not producing milk. In other cases, puppies are orphaned. In any of these situations, supplemental feeding is necessary.


Commercial puppy formulas for supplemental feeding can be purchased in powder form or made from scratch. provides several recipes that include ingredients such as evaporated milk or goat’s milk, sterilized water, egg yolk, mayonnaise, corn syrup, whole yogurt and baby vitamin drops. Either way, it should be mixed thoroughly in a blender and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Puppies cannot drink cow’s milk.


Healthy puppies nurse immediately. According to Lowchens Australia, puppies typically nurse from their mothers more than 20 times in one day. Leerburg Kennel recommends hand-feeding a puppy 1 cc of formula per ounce of its weight every three hours. (One cc is equal to .03 ounces, or 20 drops.) By the time the puppies are 5 weeks old, they should be able to drink the formula from a pan or dish, and small bits of raw hamburger can be added to the formula.


Puppies can be fed with a baby bottle or syringe as long as the hole is large enough to pass the formula. Puppy formula should be the consistency of jarred baby food. In some cases, a stomach tube might be needed to feed a puppy. According to, warm the formula to 101 degrees, the normal body temperature of a dog. Any unused formula should be discarded after the feeding. Burp the puppies following their feeding to eliminate gas.


Orphaned puppies that are less than one week old will need stimulation to eliminate their bowels and bladders. indicates that this is done by gently massaging the abdomen and the genital area with a damp piece of cotton after feeding. The mother normally teaches them by licking them. Puppies should be kept in separate boxes, if possible, so bowel elimination can be monitored.


Leerburg Kennel indicates that newborn puppies that are not nursing can become dehydrated or hypoglycemic. Signs of dehydration include loss of the skin’s elasticity and a decrease in the production of saliva. Hypoglycemia is indicated by a weak and depressed puppy. The dog can be revived by placing a couple of drops of corn syrup on the puppy’s tongue.


If a puppy feels cold, lays limp and will not nurse, it needs veterinary care. Also, milk should drip from the bottle, not flow. If a puppy gets milk in its lungs, it can develop pneumonia, and this is usually fatal. However, if the milk does not drip easily the hole needs to be larger. Use a heat-sterilized needle to make the hole larger.

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