How to Feed Orphaned Puppies

Handle orphaned puppies gently.
Hand held puppy image by Sdanimel from

Some puppies become orphaned when their mothers succumb to illness, birth complications or tragic accidents. Other puppies are orphaned by mothers that are too young and inexperienced to care for them properly or are temperamental and for some sad reason unable to care enough to raise young. Hand-feeding orphaned puppies is time-consuming, as newborn puppies will need to eat every four hours for the first two weeks of life. The process of holding a puppy and helping her eat is an emotionally rewarding experience, and you may find yourself bonding with her and falling helplessly in love.

Step 1

Take the orphaned puppies to your veterinarian as soon as possible to make sure they are healthy. They will need shots to prevent heartworms and intestinal parasitic worms. If you aren't sure whether the orphaned puppies nursed within 12 to 14 hours of birth from their mother, they may need an oral dose of plasma or blood serum from a healthy dog to ensure that they ingest the antibodies needed for survival. An alternative is giving the puppies 1 milliliter of colostrum supplement with an oral medicine syringe during their first 96 hours of life. Milk that a puppy consumes from her mother within her first 12 to 14 hours of life contains colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk the mother produces after birth; it is yellow cream in color and very thick. It contains antibodies that are crucial for a puppy's survival. Ask your veterinarian to give the puppies plasma or a colostrum supplement if she determines that the puppies need it.

Step 2

Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Boil the water for 10 minutes to kill any microbes that may be living in it. Take apart the puppy bottle and carefully place all of the puppy bottle parts, including the nipple, into the water and boil them for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Let the water cool, then remove the puppy bottle parts and let them air-dry on a clean towel.

Step 3

Prepare the puppy formula by mixing 2 parts formula powder with 3 parts warm water. Stir until it is fully dissolved. Place the formula in the puppy bottle and heat it to 101 degrees Fahrenheit, which is close to the normal body temperature of a dog. Screw the nipple holder on tight, then turn the bottle upside down to check the nipple opening. If the formula slowly drips out, the nipple is fine. If it pours out, replace it with a new nipple. If nothing comes out of the nipple, pierce the top center of it with a hot straight pin and keep the needle in the nipple until it has completely cooled to the touch.

Step 4

Feed your puppies 1/2 ounce of formula or 1 tablespoon per 2 ounces of body weight each day. If they are really hungry and want to consume more than that amount, allow them to eat until they are full. Hold a puppy so that she is laying on her stomach, or place the puppy on a warm towel on her stomach, and gently lift her head into your hand. Hold the bottle with the same hand. Run the nipple of the bottle over her lips to encourage her to open her mouth and begin to feed. Let her feed until her stomach looks full and round but is not taut or stiff to the touch.

If you are feeding newborn orphaned puppies, halfway through feeding, hold the puppy against your shoulder and gently rub her back to get her to burp or release any air bubbles she may have swallowed while eating the formula.

Most puppy bottles are marked with graduated lines that indicate the amount of formula they hold, which allows you to keep track of how much each puppy is eating. Feed small and weak puppies, or puppies that are 2 weeks old or younger, every four hours. Slowly increase the feeding interval time to eight hours by 4 weeks of age. When a puppy is feeding properly, little bubbles of formula will line the puppy's mouth. If a large amount of formula is dribbling down the dog's chin, the hole in the nipple is too large. Replace it.

Step 5

Submerge a wash cloth in warm water and wring it out. Gently run it over the puppy's genitals and anus for one to two minutes to stimulate defecation and urination. During the first three weeks of life, the mother will clean off the puppies and lick them to stimulate their bowels. It is essential that after every feeding, you do this with all of the orphaned puppies to ensure that they are excreting waste. Some puppies may respond better to this stimulation prior to feeding, so if you find that the puppies will not eliminate waste after feeding, try again directly before the next feeding.

Normal puppy urine is pale yellow or clear. Dark yellow or orange urine indicates that she is not getting enough water.

Normal puppy stool is brown and loose, but not watery. If you find that the stool is hard, dry, or they have difficulty passing it, the puppy is not getting enough water. Dilute the formula with 1 teaspoon water and feed it to the puppy that is having stool difficulty. If the puppy stool does not change after adding more water, take her to the vet and explain what is going on. She may need medication or an enema to assist with passing the stool.

If the puppy stool is green or yellow or has traces of blood or is black in color, take the puppy to the vet immediately, as she may have an infection.

Step 6

Weigh the puppies every day. When eating properly, a puppy will gain 5 percent to 10 percent more body weight per day, for the first 6 weeks of age. Set the puppy scale sling down on a flat surface and set the puppy into it with her body in a parallel line to the right and left corners of the sling. Pick up the other side of the sling and place its looped end onto the scale hook. Lift the scale hook several inches off the flat surface so that the puppy and the sling are in the air. Take a reading of the puppy's weight from the scale hook. Write down the name of each puppy, the date, and her weight in a notebook with a pen to keep track of each orphaned puppy's progress.

Step 7

Place formula in a shallow bowl once the puppies are 25 days old or when they are physically capable of lapping up formula. Mix the formula with dry puppy food, letting the dry kibble soak up the formula to make a mush. Feed the puppies four times a day with the puppy food and formula mush for one week. Every week after that, increase the amount of dry puppy food so that by the seventh week the dogs are eating only dry puppy food.


  • Do not feed puppies raw egg whites or honey, as this may cause life-threatening circumstance.

  • If a puppy is cool to the touch and not moving, do not feed her. Try warming her slowly with a towel placed over a heating blanket over the next two to three hours to a body temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Once she reaches normal body temperature, it is safe to feed her. If you cannot get her body temperature back up to normal, take her to the veterinarian immediately, as she may be experiencing a life-threatening situation.

  • While you can administer colostrum supplement at home, have your veterinarian administer it, as it is quite easy to accidentally send to supplement into the puppy's lungs, which can cause them to develop a life-threatening case of pneumonia.


  • Make enough puppy formula for your orphaned puppies to consume in one day. Place unused portions of formula in the refrigerator. If the formula isn't completely used up within 72 hours, discard it, as it may have bacteria growing in it, which could affect the health of your puppies.

  • Get puppy milk replacement supplement or formula that contains the essential amino acids L-arginine and DL-methionine to prevent the formation of cataracts in the puppies' eyes.

  • Keep orphaned puppies warm by placing them in a small box with a blanket or towel placed over a heating pad on its lowest setting. Monitor the heating pad closely to ensure that the puppies do not accidentally get burned.

Items You Will Need

  • Pot
  • Puppy bottle
  • Oral medication syringe
  • 2-ounce puppy-nursing bottle
  • Dog milk replacement powder
  • Straight pin
  • Washcloth
  • Puppy scale hook with sling
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Shallow bowl
  • Dry puppy food


About the Author

Alexis Rohlin is a professional writer for various websites. She has produced works for Red Anvil Publishing and was one of the top 10 finalists in the 2007 Midnight Hour Short Story Contest for Rohlin holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in English from Madonna University.

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