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Feeding Orphan Puppies


Puppies need a warm, draft-free environment during the early weeks of life. Air temperature in the immediate vicinity of the kittens should be 85-95 F for the first week of life, 80-85 F the next 3-4 weeks and 70-75 F at six weeks. The higher temperatures during the first few weeks may be maintained with heating pads, light bulbs or heat lamps, but great care must be taken not to overheat or burn the babies when they are too young to move away from the heat source. Using a thermometer to monitior temperature greatly improves your success in maintaining proper temperature. Using a large bottle filled with water inside the box helps to stabilize the temperature more evenly. Using the lamp or heat lamp allows you to "fine tune the temperature by moving it closer or further from the box.
Clean newspaper is good bedding because it is easily disposed of. As the pups begin to move around, newspaper should be replaced because it is slippery. Cloth bedding offers good footing and is washable.


Puppies may be fed by bottle or by stomach tube. Stomach tube feeding is much faster and especially handy with large litters. Many people, however, prefer to bottle-feed because of prolonged puppy contact. Your veterinarian or clinic staff can instruct you in either method of feeding.
Newborn puppies should be fed 3-4 times daily by tube feeding or 5-6 times daily by bottle feeding. At 2 weeks of age, 3 tube feedings or 4 bottle feedings are usually sufficient.
Puppies must be helped to urinate and defecate by gently stroking the genital area with a tissue or cottonball moistened with warm water after each feeding. Be persistent until they urinate or defecate.
Frequent crying or failure to gain weight indicates a problem. Call the doctor. In general, a pup should double its weight in 8-10 days. Overfeeding can be worse than slight underfeeding.

How Much Should You Feed?

You can determine how much to feed an orphan pup by considering its daily caloric requirements. The total daily caloric requirements for pups under 4 weeks of age are:

1st week 3.75 calories/ounce of body weight daily

2nd week 4.50 calories/ounce of body weight daily

3rd week 5.00 calories/ounce of body weight daily

4th week 5.50 calories/ounce of body weight daily

In general, milk substitutes contain around 1 calorie per ml.

Example: You plan to feed a 5-ounce puppy less than 1 week of age 4 times daily. The puppy requires 3.75 calories/ounce body weight x 5-ounce pup = 18.75 calories needed for one day. You are feeding 4 times a day. Therefore, 18.75/4 = 4.68 calories given at each feeding. Your milk substitute contains 1 calorie/ml. Therefore, you should feed 4.68 ml (about 5 ml) each feeding.

Solid foods should be introduced at 3 weeks of age. Pan-feed a thin gruel made by blending good-quality puppy food with bitch's milk formula. Gradually thicken the gruel until no milk substitute is used at about 6 weeks of age. At this time, the pups should be offered good-quality puppy food 3 times daily.

Recommended products:

Bitch's milk substitute:
Weaning foods:
Puppy foods: