In a perfect world, newborn puppies will only eat mother’s milk for the first few weeks of their lives. But in some cases, mama isn’t around or she doesn’t produce enough milk for her entire litter. So you’ll have to step in and feed her infants. Before attempting to feed the puppies replacement food, talk with your vet to get any special instructions for your particular situation.
What to Feed
Regular cow’s milk is tough on a dog’s digestive tract and your pups will wind up with diarrhea if you feed it to them. You’ll need to feed your nursing puppies a specialized canine milk replacer. This commercial product is manufactured to closely mimic a lactating dog’s milk, giving your pint-size fur balls all the nutrients they need. Because they can’t feed themselves yet, you’ll have to let the pups suckle from a syringe or bottle.
Infant puppies, like newborn babies, eat often. During a pup’s first week of life, he needs to eat about every two hours. So if you have several puppies to take care of, you’ll need an extra set of hands to help get each pooch fed at this frequency. The following week, you can slowly start increasing the duration between feedings to every three to four hours until the puppies are 3 to 4 weeks old.
Getting Enough to Eat
You’ll know when your puppies are hungry -- they’ll whimper loudly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the canine milk replacer formula as to how much to feed. Their bellies will become firm when they’re full and if you feed them too much, the milk starts coming out of their nose. Monitor each little bundle’s weight to ensure he’s getting the right amount of calories. Newborn puppies should double or triple in weight during the initial nursing weeks, gaining 10 to 15 percent of their birth weight, reports the ASPCA. If they’re continuing to bulk up, you’ll know they’re eating enough.
Usually you can start weaning puppies off of milk at 3 to 4 weeks of age, according to the ASPCA. Make a watered down gruel mixture by soaking puppy kibble in warm water or milk replacer. It should have the consistency of loose oatmeal. Put the formula in shallow pans and let the puppies eat as much as they can handle for about 20 minutes or so. You’ll see them standing in it and possibly licking it off each other as they learn to feed themselves. Put the gruel out every several hours. Every few days, gradually minimize the amount of liquid you add to the kibble. By the time they are 7 to 8 weeks old, they should be able to eat dry food without needing it moistened ahead of time.