How to Make Milk Replacement Formula for Puppies

Puppies need just a few things to make their first few months of life healthy and successful — ideally they have their mother to show them how to act as a puppy, they get their mother's milk as a nutritious and healthy food, and they get to be socialized with other puppies, animals, and humans when the time is right. But in the event that they lose their mother for some reason, you may have to figure out a puppy milk replacer.

Directly Above Shot Of Puppies Drinking Milk In Container At Home
Orphan puppies, or puppies whose mother refuses to or can't nurse them for some reason, need a puppy formula that is as close to their mother's milk as possible.
credit: Jose Mari Principio / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Orphan puppies, or puppies whose mother refuses to or can't nurse them for some reason, need a puppy formula that is as close to their mother's milk as possible. Veterinarians can recommend a commercial puppy milk replacer that is best for your puppies. You may be tempted to feed cow's milk to the puppies, as cow's milk is cheap and readily available. However, the American Kennel Club says that cow's milk is not a suitable puppy milk replacer because it does not have enough calories, calcium, or phosphorous for growing pups.

Puppy formula usage

Make up only the amount of puppy formula that you need for feeding time rather than making up a large batch at once; puppy formula can easily grow bacteria. When you start feeding the puppies, weigh each one and keep a feeding log of how often you are feeding and how much weight they gain as each day goes by. When you take them in for their checkups, this can help your veterinarian be sure they are getting the nutrition they need to grow properly.

They will need to be fed several times a day. Different breeds will likely need a different amount of calories based on their size and how fast they grow. Check with a good breeder or your veterinarian to be sure they are getting the right amount of nutrition for their needs.

Check the temperature of your puppy formula. The puppies will drink it and enjoy it more if it is the temperature of milk from their mother, rather than cold straight from the refrigerator. Likewise, be sure it's not too hot because that could burn them and also make them less likely to take food from the bottle the next time you have to feed them.

Feeding a puppy milk bottle

When you're feeding your puppy a milk bottle, PetSmart says to feed your puppies while they're lying on their stomachs. Try to picture the way that a puppy nurses in real life — they are usually sprawled on their stomachs next to each other, with their paws and their faces touching their mom's belly. Puppies can "breathe" in the formula and get it in their lungs if they're not in the right position. Puppies need a little help burping after you feed them.

Certa Pet notes that you might need different-size puppy milk bottles depending on the breed of dog you have. A smaller dog like a Chihuahua will need a smaller nipple size than a malamute, for instance. For very small or very young puppies who might not be great at the nursing motion yet, you might need to try feeding them very slowly with a syringe rather than a bottle. The hole in the nipple should be big enough for the thick formula to drip out, but it should do so very slowly. The same goes for feeding with a syringe.

If you are using a bottle, be sure that the hole allows for milk to drip out enough for them to drink but not so fast that they are getting too much or the formula is leaking out around their mouths because they can't swallow it fast enough.

Homemade recipe

If you want to make a homemade puppy formula, try this recipe: Mix 1/2 cup of evaporated milk with 1 cup of boiling water, 1 teaspoon of corn oil or Karo syrup, 1 drop of pediatric multivitamin, 2 raw egg yolks, and 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. Heat the formula to room temperature. Check with your veterinarian to be sure this is the best recipe you could be using.