Replacement Food for a Nursing Puppy

If mom's not around, feed your nursing pup replacement formula.
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Pups younger than 4 weeks of age need to feed directly from their mothers to get their nutrition. If mom isn't available or if she's overwhelmed by too many little ones, you may have to step in and provide nutrition for her offspring using a canine milk replacement formula instead.

What to Feed?

If your puppy can't nurse from his mother, feed him a canine milk replacement formula. Unlike cow's or goat's milk, puppy-specific formula has the correct balance of fats, protein and lactose that your little one needs to thrive, according to Hartz. Feeding your puppy other types of milk or formula can cause diarrhea because his body can't digest them properly, warns the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. You can purchase puppy formula in both powdered and liquid forms in your local pet supply store or veterinarian's office. While the liquid form is ready to serve, you need to mix the powdered form with water according to the manufacturer's directions.

How to Feed?

Purchase a nursing bottle and nipples from a pet supply store to feed your pup his formula. After mixing the formula, pour it into the nursing bottle and poke a hole in the nipple with a pin. Heat the formula to room or body temperature by placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Test the temperature of the formula on the inside of your wrist; if it feels comfortable to you, it's ready to serve. With your pup sitting horizontally on his tummy, place the nipple of the bottle into his mouth and squeeze out just a drop or two of formula to tempt him to eat. He should naturally suckle the formula on his own.

Feeding Tips

Keep your puppy's bottle clean between feedings by boiling it in water for 10 minutes. Use boiled water, cooled to room temperature, to mix with powdered formula. The boiling process kills any germs that could harm your little one. Feed him every two hours during his first week, adding about an hour between feedings each week. When he reaches around 4 weeks old, it's time to start feeding him canned puppy food by mixing it with his puppy formula in equal parts. Offer this gruel-like mixture to your pup in a shallow dish. Gradually replace his bottle feedings with solid food feedings over a period of four weeks. During this time, reduce the amount of formula you mix with the food until you are feeding puppy food alone.


A mother dog produces special milk called colostrum during the first few days after she gives birth to her pups. This substance contains antibodies that help to protect your pup from disease and infection until he gets his vaccinations. If your newborn pooch can't feed from his mom during his first few days of life, he won't get these antibodies, even from puppy formula. Instead, he'll need oral doses or injections of healthy canine blood serum or plasma from your vet, recommends Dr. Ron Hines of In addition, you also may want to add some probiotic supplements for puppies to his formula to boost his immunity and prevent any bouts with diarrhea, as directed by your vet.

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