If you've just been given the job of being a foster parent to a puppy, lucky you! The puppy should be nursing and getting his mother's milk, but if that's not possible because the mother has rejected the puppy, isn't lactating, or is just absent, it's time to step in.
Number 1 Rule(s)
The Number 1 rule when it comes to giving milk to a puppy is this: don't use pasteurized cow's milk if you can avoid it, especially the reduced fat variety. If you have a newborn puppy, you will need to either find a commercial puppy milk replacement formula or make one yourself. Puppies given regular cow's milk from the grocery's dairy section will sometimes develop sinus problems, diarrhea, or tummy aches. A safer alternative is full fat evaporated cows milk in a can.
The OTHER Number 1 rule is to never, ever feed a puppy chilled formula. Puppies cannot regulate their body heat by themselves, and it is up to you to keep the ambient temperature warm for them.
Go to Market
There are several puppy milk replacement formulas on the market recommended by vets and breeders for newborn puppies. Some well-known brands include Pet-Lac, Farnam, Just Born, GNC Pets Ultra Mega Premium Milk Replacer, Breeder's Edge, Nuturall, and All Star. Some are made with goats' milk (which is easier for puppies to digest), and most are available as either a powder (which you reconstitute with water) or as a canned liquid formula. Choose one that has colostrum added -- a natural element found in mother's milk that helps boost the puppy's immune system.
Make It Yourself
You can also make your own puppy formula. This is often done in remote rural areas where there are no stores that carry puppy formula. Formulas can be ordered online, of course, but if you have a hungry puppy, you will need something something right away to tide him over. The following recipe comes from Leerburg.com: To 10 ounces of goat's milk (or canned, full-fat evaporated cow's milk), add one raw egg yolk. Mix in 1 cup plain full fat (not skim) yogurt. Add 1/2 teaspoon of corn syrup or simple syrup made from sugar and water. Mix well and bottle feed warm. Do not use a blender or whisk as you don't want a lot of air bubbles wreaking havoc in puppy's tummy. This formula will keep for a week in the fridge.
If the puppy is not thriving after a few days on the goat's milk formula, add two egg yolks and two dissolved packets of unflavored gelatin. The gelatin helps to build strong bones and teeth. Keep the formula in the refrigerator. Don't be alarmed if it solidifies, when you warm it up before feeding, it will liquefy again.
If you have any concerns at all about your puppy's health, see a veterinarian right away. This article is NOT a substitute for veterinary advice, and always follow your vet's instructions as they are specifically tailored for your pup.
By Michelle A. Rivera
About the Author
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.