Bottle Feeding Puppies and Kittens
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:
Bottle Feeding Guidelines
- 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 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 Breeders' 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.
AmountsFor kittens or tiny breed puppies, tube or bottle feed 1 cc of warmed oral electrolyte solution. For average sized puppies start small as stomach is empty, give 4 cc for a puppy weighing one-half pound and increase by 1 cc per feeding. Capacity is 18 cc per pound but that is for a healthy puppy so always start low (one-half of maximum capacity) and work up. A warmed solution of Re-Sorb® in one gallon of water or a 50/50 mix of Pedialyte® and water can be used and should be in your 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 need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
- Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.