Hand Feeding Puppies

Commercial milk replacers that duplicate the composition of bitch’s milk are the best formulas for infant puppies. These milk replacers are available through veterinarians and many pet supply stores. They have all but replaced cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and foster mothers.

Bitch’s milk is unique in that it is high in protein and fat, low in lactose (milk sugar), and dense in calories. Cow’s milk is not a suitable substitute for bitch’s milk because it contains only half the number of calories per ounce and derives more calories from lactose than from protein and fat. Goat’s milk, traditionally used as an animal milk substitute, does contain more calories per ounce than cow’s milk, but is not ideal for puppies because it too is high in lactose and low in protein and fat. Newborn puppies do not have the intestinal enzymes to metabolize high concentrations of lactose, and feeding them cow’s or goat’s milk often leads to diarrhea.

Artificial bitch’s milk can be purchased as a premixed liquid or a powder. Powdered products are reconstituted by adding water. Refrigerate the unused formula, but don’t freeze it. Follow the directions of the manufacturer.

In the past, cataracts related to nutritional problems were reported in puppies fed home formulas and commercial milk replacers. These cataracts were found to have been caused by a deficiency of the amino acids phenylalanine and arginine. Commercial formulas have now been fortified to eliminate this problem.

While artificial bitch’s milk is the best substitute for natural milk, the following home formula can be used as a temporary expedient until a commercial product can be purchased:

  • 8 ounces (237 ml) homogenized whole milk 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) corn oil
  • 1 drop liquid pediatric vitamins


Mix well and feed as you would a commercial milk replacer; refrigerate the unused portions

This formula provides 36 to 38 calories per ounce, or 1 to 1.25 calories per milliliter of formula. This is the same caloric density as commercial bitch’s milk.