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Bottle Feeding Puppies and Kittens

How do I bottle feed a puppy or kitten? Sometimes cat and dog moms can’t take care of their puppies and kittens 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

  • Warm the puppy milk replacer or kitten 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. The rectal temperature should be 96° to 99° F for safe feeding.

How Much Do You Bottle Feed a Puppy or Kitten

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.

  • 18 cc per pound is the stomach’s maximum volume. This calculates out to approximately 1 cc per 1 oz (or 30 grams) of body weight per feeding.
  • 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.
  • When it comes to how often to bottle feed a puppy or kitten, until the animal 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 puppies or kittens 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.
  • Plasma from adult dogs can also be administered to help substitute for mom’s colostrum. This is available as a frozen product from a canine blood bank. The dose is 16 cc per pup, regardless of the size of the pup. This can be administered by feeding tube within 12 hours of birth, and later or for a larger volume, by subcutaneous administration.
  • All puppies can benefit from probiotics, but especially those that are orphans. Once a day give a probiotic such as Breeder’s Edge Nurture Flora 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.

Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services. This article has been updated/reviewed by Dr. Greer.
How to Bottle Feed a Kitten

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.