Sometimes a mother cat or dog can't produce enough milk to feed her babies. Sometimes kittens or puppies are abandoned by their mothers or orphaned. With any of these scenarios, milk formulas especially made for kittens or puppies can save these babies and give them a chance at life.
You can buy commercial kitten or puppy milk replacement formulas at pet stores, or your vet might sell it. Your vet can also tell you which type of formula is best for the puppy or kitten at its particular stage of development. Tiny babies need different formulas than those who are a few weeks old. Don't try to feed kittens or puppies formula designed for human babies or cow's milk. It will make them sick. When you mix up milk replacement formula, just use enough that will be used in 24 hours. If your little charges don't finish all of it, throw it out and mix up a fresh batch for the next day.
While commercial formulas include all the nutrients needed for babies, there might be times when you just can't get to the store in time to purchase them. Odds are that if you find an abandoned kitten or puppy, it will be on a weekend evening when stores are closed and the baby needs immediate nourishment. One veterinarian recommendation for emergency kitten formula contains goat's milk. However, most people aren't likely to have goat's milk on hand, so canned evaporated cow's milk will have to do in a pinch. If you've got a four-ounce can of evaporated milk, mix with four-ounces of boiled water, a tablespoon of regular mayonnaise, a teaspoon of corn syrup and a fish oil capsule. For temporary puppy feeding, use one cup of whole milk, two eggs, a tablespoon of salad oil and a liquid multi-vitamin, mixed together in a blender.
Mixing up the formula is the easy part. Feeding requires a huge time commitment. Your vet will advise you on how often to feed the babies, but it can be as often as every two hours with newborns. You'll also have to burp puppies after they've eaten, and softly stroke the kitten's or puppy's genital area to stimulate urination and defecation. A mom cat or dog does this by licking the babies. Your vet can provider you with nursing bottles. Until you get to the vet, try using an eyedropper.
Once the babies reach the age of 3 weeks, start mixing small amounts of oatmeal in with the formula. By this time, you can also start feeding babies out of bowls rather than with nursing bottles. It's important to weigh kittens and puppies daily to make sure they aren't losing weight. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, "High-pitched, constant crying or inactivity with an accompanying weak sucking reflex are advanced indications that the nursing puppy or kitten is malnourished." Also check the babies' feces regularly (not that you can avoid this) to make sure they don't have diarrhea.
There's no substitute for real mother's milk. Ask your vet if she knows of any nursing canine or feline moms who might accept the babies. You can also check with local rescue groups, who might have a nursing mom and babies on hand. Moms won't always accept a strange baby, but if they do it not only give the puppy or kitten proper nourishment but they learn social skills from their new littermates.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.