Puppy and Kitten Care

Bottle Feeding Puppies and Kittens

November 29, 2022

Dog

Bottle Feeding Puppies and Kittens

Last updated: August 02, 2016

Sometimes moms can't take care of their puppies for various reasons. Common causes are insufficient milk supply, uterine infection, mammary gland infection or eclampsia. When this happens, bottle feeding or tube feeding is necessary. These following guidelines can help ensure a successful bottle feeding experience:

How to Bottle Feed a Kitten or Puppy

  • The amount to bottle feed is important and the rule is until the tummy starts to distend! The tummy should feel full but not stretched. The stomach is just under the ribs. Warm formula to 100º F (barely warm, not hot) and if any doubt, check on your wrist for too hot.
  • Always feed upright on sternum and tap them after to remove air bubbles to prevent colic. Never hold a puppy or kitten on its back when nursing.
  • After each meal the kitten or puppy should be stimulated to urinate and defecate. Massaging their anal area with a damp cotton ball or cloth will provide this stimulation.
  • Keep puppy or kitten warm for proper digestion to occur.
  • 18 cc per pound is the stomach's maximum volume. It is better to underfeed first few feedings and feed an extra feeding than to overfeed. If they spit up after feeding, back off volume for next feeding.
  • Until baby is five days old, feed every two hours or feed when baby start to get restless and tummy is empty. On day four, you can skip feeding every two hours from midnight to 6:00 a.m. We have to sleep!
  • Note that dam or queen milk is 15 percent fat minimum. Use a milk replacer such as Breeder's Edge Foster Care with balanced fat and protein for better results when bottle feeding.
  • If they are off mom longer than 24 hours, give a warm washcloth bath once or twice a day to keep them clean. Don't forget to stimulate urination after feeding and burping.
  • When bottle feeding or supplementing a large litter, if possible let mom handle feeding the smaller puppies and reserve the bottle feeding for the larger pups. Nothing is better than mom, so we want to give those smaller puppies the chance to feed directly from mom.
  • When puppies don't get colostrum from mom, giving a colostrum substitute such as Breeder's Edge Nurture Mate is a great way to support the puppy's immune system and protect the GI tract in the first few days of life. In addition to providing necessary antibodies, colostrum also tells the puppy's gut cells to start digesting milk. If a puppy is orphaned or the runt of the litter, give colostrum for two weeks to give them a boost and get their gut digesting milk.
  • All puppies can benefit from probiotics, but especially those that are orphans. Once a day give a probiotic such as Doc Roy's GI Synbiotics to help the dog or cat maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in their GI tract. Give probiotics from day two to seven. Day one we just let them have colostrum.
  • An electrolyte such as Breeder's Edge Puppy Lyte should be in your pet emergency kit.

Bottle feeding a litter can only be described as a lot of work. Enlist other family members to share in the feeding responsibility and you'll be successful.

If you have more questions on how to bottle feed newborn puppies and kittens, call us at 800.786.4751.      
     
– Dr. Bramlage
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.