How Do I Bottle Feed A Puppy?

February 22, 2021

Puppy being bottle fed

Ideally, this isn’t a question anyone should have to worry about. However, in the unfortunate circumstance that the pup has been abandoned by its mother or the her demise, a pup must be fed using a bottle. There may also times where you'll need to feed a small pup with a bottle if they unable to fend for themselves because they are too weak. Any of these scenarios can result in the pup not getting the required amount of nutrition, and the result is the rapid decline of their health. Since you're they're new parent, you're responsible for ensuring that they get enough to eat and survive.

However, bottle feeding should always be looked at as a a last resort since the milk of a mother is always the best food for a puppy. It contains the required amount of nutrients that their bodies need and will help protect them from potential infections. Before bottle feeding a pup before you talk with your vet and take their advice. After a vet approves your plan, you'll want to learn the proper techniques to make sure you puppy is feeding properly and staying well fed. Initially, this whole situation can be a bit scary. But with time, you'll build the skills necessary and improve your confidence.

We have formulated a list of fundamentals of bottle feeding puppies to get you started:

The Fundamentals of Bottle-Feeding Pups

In case your dog is pregnant, it is important to remain prepared as you can never predict if something will go wrong during the time of birth.

Remain Prepared

There are chances that you may have to help a puppy live, so make sure that you bring about a few supplies and keep them ready. Do not buy any milk available in the store. Look for puppy formula that is either sold as a powder or as milk. This product will contain the required combination of ingredients needed by a newborn puppy. In the case of powdered milk, all you have to do is mix it with warm water.  Refrain from using human milk formula as the nutrients list is not suitable for a puppy and may cause illness.

The next requirement is a bottle and a small nipple that can fit in the mouth of your puppy. These can be bought separately. However, many companies also create kits that come with every tool required for this process. You can opt for a human baby-bottle or human bottle nipples created to assist babies born prematurely.

Determining When to Bottle Feed a Puppy

As stated already, only opt for bottle feeding if you have exhausted every other option and have consulted your vet. Ideally, artificial methods of feeding should not be used until the pup is several weeks old. The reason for this is that the milk produced by the mom- the colostrum- contains all the nutrients and antibodies required to fight off infections. Whenever possible, the puppy must receive it within the first 24 hours of their birth. However, if the mom passes away, this is not a feasible solution. For such puppies, an alternative method must be leveraged immediately.   

If you do decide to bottle feed newborn puppies, do remember that it will take up a lot of your time and will require commitment.  

The Practical Aspects of Feeding a Newborn Puppy

Every day, you must feed new puppies every two hours throughout the day and at night. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to create the substitute for puppy milk. In case you bought ready-made cartons of a substitute milk, all you need to do is warm it up. Ensure that the product is not too hot. Ideally, it must be at or just slightly above room temperature. To test the milk's temperature, drop a small amount of it on your wrist. If it feels cold to your skin, you should warm it a bit more. Ideally, the milk shouldn't feel either warm or cold when tested on your wrist.

If the puppies are really young, you should begin by filling up a 3ml syringe with the substitute and then slowly squeeze it into the mouth of your pup. If the puppies are about a couple of weeks old, you can make use of a bottle and nipple. A few nipples sold don't have holes. You'll need to use a needle to make two holes. However, remember to sterilize the needle before you use it. This can be done by holding it over a flame for a few seconds.

After you create the holes in the nipple, be sure to check the speed the milk is expelled from the nipple. Make sure it is not too fast as the puppy may end up breathing it in and choke. Or, it may even enter their lungs, resulting in pneumonia. To avoid this issue, make sure the holes are small.

When feeding the puppy, hold them gently, with their face down over your lap. You shouldn't not place them on their back when feeding, like you would a Human baby. Place the nipple inside their mouth, enabling them to suck. Either hold the nipple horizontally or at a very small angle.

What is the ideal amount of formula for a newborn puppy? Usually, you will have to feed a new puppy about six times throughout the day and a minimum of once during the night. When the pup is about four weeks old, the number of feedings will drop to about four times each day.   Puppies under 4 weeks will require approximately 3.5 calories for each ounce of body weight every 24 hours. Most of the puppy milk products have one calorie each ml. hence, new puppies would require about 22.5ml, which adds up to 3.75ml during each feeding. Please keep in mind that these are rough numbers and you may need to tweak them according to your puppies’ needs. It can be a good idea to provide the puppies with several feedings that are on the smaller, as opposed to just a few big meals.

Halfway through their feeding, new puppies must be 'burped'. This can be done by placing them over your shoulder, similar to a human baby. You should gently pat them on their back. it won't take long until you learn to tell when the puppies have had enough food. Their small stomachs will look full, and they seem warm and sleepy. Typically, only hungry puppies will wake up to cry. Remember if your pup feels cold and seems to be lethargic, and is visibly squirming, it is crucial to call your vet. If a puppy is cold and not eating, its health may decline very quickly, and there may be a need to provide IV fluids for a few nights.

After feeding, rub the lower bellies of your pups to help them digest their food and to also help them with expelling it.

Feeding Pups of Toy Breed 

Because the sizes of toy breed puppies tend to be extremely small, it can make the process of feeding them even more difficult. Usually, the weakest among the litter - the runt - is very weak, and it can be a mammoth task to feed them. They may even lack the strength to suck, and their mouths are so small that even very small nipples may seem big. For pups like this, starting off with an eyedropper is a much better idea. If required, you'll have the option of squeezing food into their mouth, so they merely have to swallow to get nutrition they need. When the puppy is on your lap, position the dropper in a way that it is bent towards the side of the puppy’s mouth. This way, the feeding will not directly enter their throat, preventing choking and gagging.  

When compared to a syringe, an eyedropper works better for extremely small puppies since they can usually suckle for their food. Once they begin gaining a bit of strength, you won't need to squeeze it as much.  As they get better at sucking they'll learn that they are provided food through the act of dropper feeding. As a result, shifting them to a bottle and nipple will become a lot easier.  

You should only opt for the syringe as the last resort when nothing else works. You should begin with nipples and bottles, especially if you can find some designed for smaller animals.

Syringe feeding a new puppy

Tube and Sponge Feeding

One more technique that is used to feed pups that are unable to nurse is tube feeding. Since this is a little different, it requires proper skills, and you should only perform it after a skilled professional such as an experienced breeder or a vet demonstrates it to you. In case the tube goes down their windpipe, the food can get into their lungs, which is quite dangerous. Based on your pup’s breed, you must find a special tube feeding kit ideal for their size.

In case the thought of tube feeding puppies makes you anxious, it is a good idea to try sponge feeding, which can be much easier and not as invasive. But this is only possible if the pup has the strength to suckle a little bit. You just need a small sponge, and I would recommend cosmetic sponges. At one end, cut it, so it is comparable to Mother dog’s teat. A syringe is also required for this method.

At the other end, make a hole and poke a syringe filled with the milk into the hole. Remember to dip the sponge’s other side in milk before you place it in the mouth of the pup, enabling them to suck. After they begin sucking, slowly press on the plunger to ensure that the milk in the sponge is replenished by the syringe.

Putting an End to Bottle Feeding

Obviously, these steps are just temporary. After your puppies begin to chew, you can start the transition towards a combination of a good wet puppy food and milk substitute. Usually, this stage begins after three to four weeks.

Eventually, your pup will begin eating and drinking water. That is your cue to stop bottle feeding since their food will be able to provide them with adequate nutrition.

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