Common feeding problems in puppies

The two most common feeding problems are overfeeding and underfeeding. Overfeeding causes diarrhea. An underfed pup will fail to gain weight. Both of these can be avoided by monitoring the weight of the puppy and computing the correct amount of formula to give at each feeding. Steady weight gain and a normal stool (firm to semi-firm and yellow to light brown) are good indications that you are feeding the right amount.


Experience has shown that breeders are more likely to overfeed than underfeed a puppy. The best way to tell whether a puppy is being overfed is to monitor his stools. If the puppy is fed four times a day, you can expect four to five stools, or about one stool after each feeding.

The first sign of overfeeding is loose stool. A loose yellow stool indicates a mild degree of overfeeding. Reduce the strength of the formula by diluting it one-third with water. As the stools become firm, gradually restore the formula to its full strength.

With moderate overfeeding, there is more rapid movement of food through the intestinal tract, indicated by a greenish stool. The green color is due to unabsorbed bile. Dilute the strength of the formula by one-half. Mix one part water or Pedialyte to one part formula. Gradually return the formula to full strength as the stools become yellow and firm.

Unchecked overfeeding leads to very rapid transit and depletion of digestive enzymes and electrolytes. This causes a grayish diarrhea. Eventually, when there is little or no digestion of formula due to rapid transit, the stool looks like curdled milk. At this point the puppy is getting no nutrition and is rapidly dehydrating. This puppy will need to be rehydrated by giving a balanced electrolyte solution subcutaneously or hourly by stomach tube; this is best done by a veterinarian.

Any diarrhea that does not respond to diluting the formula – or where the stools are gray or white – is serious and may be caused by neonatal infection. Call your veterinarian without delay. This requires professional attention.


Puppies who are being underfed cry continuously, appear listless and apathetic, attempt to suckle littermates, gain little or no weight from one feeding to the next, and begin to chill. Puppies dehydrate quickly when they’re not getting enough formula. Review your feeding protocol. Check the temperature of the incubator.