Ideally orphan puppies should be put on a lactating bitch whenever possible.
No other product resembles bitch’s milk in nutrient content, and bitch milk
contains compounds that cannot be mimicked, such as enzymes, hormones,
and antibodies specific to that environment.
Weigh the pups at birth and continue to weigh them once daily. Do not
weigh more than once daily; the normal variation in weight due to feeding, urination, and defecation makes it difficult to recognize actual trends in weight
gain or loss. Puppies should maintain weight or gain daily and should double
their birth weight by 7 to 10 days of age. Often monitoring for weight loss is
the best indicator of adequacy of calorie intake or onset of illness in puppies.
Pups will have to be supplemented if the bitch cannot or will not allow them
to nurse. Commercial milk replacers are preferred to goat’s milk or cow’s milk,
neither of which approximates bitch’s milk in composition (Table 1-1). In an
emergency, a milk replacement can be made by combining 1
2 cup whole milk, 1
2 cup water, 1 egg yolk, 2 Tums, and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. With any milk
replacer, small cataracts may develop; these generally resolve after weaning.
Hand-raised pups grow more slowly than nursing pups but have been demonstrated to achieve the same size as littermates that were allowed to nurse by several months of age.
Puppies require about 110 calories per pound (7 calories/oz, 242
calories/kg) daily, split into 4 to 12 feedings. The emergency formula contains
about 0.75 calorie in every milliliter. An 8-oz pup would require 56 calories, or
74 mL, split over 4 to 12 feedings. If you feed the pups every 3 hours, or 8 feedings per day, that is about 9 mL at each feeding. The stomach of puppies can
hold about 18 mL per pound (40 mL/kg), so for an 8-oz (0.5 lb) pup, 9 mL
would be stomach capacity. Calorie content of commercial formulas is printed
on the label. Feeding frequency can be decreased to 3 times daily after the pup
is 2 weeks of age, and weaning can begin anytime after 3 to 4 weeks of age. Contact
your veterinarian for assistance with calculations for the amount to be fed.
Commercial formulas may be purchased premixed or as concentrate or
powder that is diluted with water. All these variations are nutritionally adequate. If puppies develop either constipation or diarrhea while being fed a
commercial milk replacer, the formula should be slightly diluted with water.
Severely constipated puppies can be given an enema using a narrow-diameter
red rubber tube as is used for feeding and warm water containing one drop of
Warm the formula to 95 to 100 degrees F (35 to 38° C). The animal can be
fed with a spoon, bottle, or feeding tube. Spoon feeding is messy and the animal may aspirate (breathe in) the milk, causing pneumonia, so spoon feeding
is not recommended.
Bottle feeding is best in that the animal is less likely to aspirate formula and
suckling on the bottle decreases the amount of suckling the neonate may do on
its littermates. Bottle feeding is time consuming. Make sure the hole in the nipple is just large enough to allow milk to drip slowly from the nipple when the
bottle is tipped, and never squeeze the bottle to hurry the feeding.
Tube feeding is quick. A soft red rubber tube is passed into the pup’s stomach. Use the largest diameter red rubber tube that the pup can tolerate.
Measure from the tip of the pup’s nose to its last rib externally, and mark the
tube at about 3
4 that length; this ensures that you will place the tube to the
proper length. Hold the pup on the palm of one hand with the pup lying on its
tummy. Pass the tube over the tongue, and gently push it down the throat. If
the pup is crying, you are in the right spot. You do not want to pass the tube
into the lungs; if the tube was in the trachea (windpipe), the pup would not be
able to make a sound. Formula is passed slowly down the tube with a syringe,
and the tube is withdrawn (Figure 1-7). The pup’s tummy should feel distended. Recheck the length of the tube weekly to allow for growth of the pup.
Always remember to stimulate orphan pups to urinate and defecate after
feeding by rubbing their genitalia with a cotton ball or soft cloth moistened
with warm water. It is normal for puppy feces to be soft and yellow.
Some people like to supplement orphan pups with yogurt, baby-food gruel,
or goat’s milk while the pup is receiving milk replacer. Anything you feed the
pups will alter the overall composition of their diet and may push the diet out
of balance. Be aware that if you add other things to the diet, the milk replacer
must be the primary component of the diet to ensure that it is balanced and