Should you use a Puppy milk replacer
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Should You Use a Puppy Milk Replacer?

Katelyn Son


Medically reviewed by

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A mother’s love and good nutrition are the most important factors in a newborn’s health. Good nutrition is essential for the development of the newborn puppy and can largely impact her quality of life when she is older.

Thanks to mother nature, a mother’s breast milk is made to provide all of the nutrients a newborn needs. A newborn is supposed to feed on her mother’s breast milk for as long as she cannot eat solid food. In some instances, a newborn may even continue to breastfeed after starting on solid food.

In a perfect world, this system would work for every mother and her puppies. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. For different reasons, a mother may not be able to feed her puppies. In such a situation, the role of feeding the newborn falls into the hands of the owner.

Before a dog owner thinks of anything else, he/she has to assure adequate feeding for the newborn. We know a newborn cannot eat because the teeth are underdeveloped. Even if the food were to be mashed, their digestive system is not developed enough to digest it.

What is a Puppy Milk Replacer?

What is a Puppy Milk Replacer

Just like the name suggests, a milk replacer is what a puppy would feed on in place of her mother’s milk.  When a puppy cannot access her mother’s milk, it is crucial to provide a food supplement similar to the real thing.

A milk replacement formula has to be carefully crafted to provide a caloric pattern similar to that of the mother’s milk. The formula also has to be similar in taste and consistency to encourage the puppy to drink it.

Benefits of Puppy Formula

Dog milk is superior to milk replacer but that doesn’t mean that the replacer has nothing to offer. The right formula can help boost your puppy’s well-being in many different ways:

  • It offers energy to support the metabolism of the newborn puppy. The energy comes from the high carbohydrate and fat content of the formula.  Newborn pups require a lot of energy because of their high metabolisms so an adequate supply is very essential to their survival.
  • It is a source of protein that promotes the growth of the puppy. Protein is essential for the proper development of all body tissues including the skin, muscles, internal organs, and even fur.
  • Milk replacement formulas also provide micronutrients, that is to say, vitamins and minerals that support the well-being of the puppy in different ways.  Essential vitamins and minerals for puppies include folic acid, ascorbic acid, and calcium.
  • The formula might also contain probiotics in the form, live naturally occurring microorganisms that support body health.

Why you might Need a Milk Replacement

Not all puppies need a milk replacement. In fact, puppies should ideally not be using a replacer and drinking their mother’s milk instead. However, some circumstances will call for the use of a replacer. Such circumstances include:

  • If the mother is not present to feed the puppies. If in the unfortunate event that the mother has been hospitalized or passed away during birth, you will definitely need a milk replacement for her puppies.
  • Rejection from the mother. The process of pushing a whole being out of your body needless to say is a very demanding one. The toll of giving birth may exceed the physical body and may  affect the mental state of the mother as well. This may make an otherwise loving mother reject her puppies.
  • Inadequate or no milk production by the mother. For some reason for example illness or stress, a mother may fail to produce enough milk for her puppies.
  • A very large litter. Dogs unlike humans can have upwards of a dozen puppies at a go. Lactating bitches are sometimes unable to sustain such large numbers. Breeds like Labradors and Poodles tend to give birth to very large litters.

If a mother cannot feed all of her litter adequately, you may have to start the pups on a replacer to top up on the mother’s milk. This is known as supplemental feeding.

Puppy Milk to Avoid

You might think to yourself, ‘if a dog is not providing enough milk for her pups, why not just use a different type of animal milk?’

Under no circumstances should you feed puppies on milk from another animal in place of their mother’s milk.

Cow’s milk and other types of milk like goat do not qualify as milk replacements. You may see cow and goat milk used to make puppy formula. In formula, they have been altered to improve their nutrition and digestibility for the puppy.

Why you can’t Use Other Types of Milk for Puppies

  • In the days right after birth, puppies need a special kind of milk known as colostrum milk to give them a boost in nutrition after leaving the womb. Using alternative milk cannot provide this initial boost. For this reason, you should choose a puppy formula enriched with colostrum in the early days.
  • Cow’s milk has a much lower nutrient content compared to dog milk. The fat and protein content of cow milk is too low to sustain a growing puppy.
  • Cow’s milk has a much thinner consistency than dog milk. The taste may be unpleasant to most puppies especially if they have fed on dog milk before. 

Best Puppy Milk Replacers

Best Puppy Milk Replacers  

Milk replacers come in different forms. There are three common states puppy formula comes in; powdered, concentrate, and liquid (ready to drink). Liquid and powdered replacers are the most commonly used.

Best Seller
VetsPreferred Puppy Milk Replacer Supplement
10/10Our Score
  • Rich with essential proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Helps maintain a healthy digestive and immune system for your dog or puppy.
  • Suitable for all dogs: This pet supplement is recommended for vulnerable dogs like puppies, birthing or lactating mothers, and senior dogs.


Powdered Milk Replacers

Powdered formula is by far the most popular type of replacer. This is because it is the most affordable and also requires the least shelf space. Pet owners that buy in bulk also love it for its longer shelf life.

It has the downside of needing more preparation time. To use it, one must first mix the formula with water to make the drink. It is however usually worth the effort for most.

When mixing powdered formula, ensure a high level of hygiene. Puppies’ immune systems are not fully developed therefore cannot fully protect themselves from infections. The bottles and water used should be properly sterilized to avoid risk of infection. 

Liquid Milk Replacers

For pet owners that are low on time, ready-to-drink options may be more suitable. While it costs more than the powder, it is more convenient.

Liquid formula may also be the better choice for owners that have very many puppies. Can you imagine mixing formula for a dozen puppies? What if you had two pregnant dogs? In such a situation, you may go for a liquid formula if you don’t mind spending the extra cash.

Homemade Formula

If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot get your puppies a milk replacer, you can make one from scratch at home. Pet owners that live in and close to rural areas might find it difficult to get a milk replacer on short notice.

Homemade Formula Recipes

Homemade Formula with Vitamin-E Supplement

  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon regular vegetable oil or soybean oil
  • 1 drop of liquid vitamin E supplement for infants. A multivitamin is also fine.
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Blend all the ingredients till smooth
  • Pour into a small animal nurser bottle and feed the puppy.
  • You can keep the formula under refrigeration for up to 24 hours.

High-Calorie Puppy Formula

  • 400 ml full fat cow’s milk (without lactose)
  • 50 ml cream (40% fat)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 10 g butter
  • 25 g calcium caseinate (milk protein)
  • Blend all the ingredients until well mixed.
  • Serve the puppy in a feeding bottle

How to Bottle Feed a Newborn Puppy

After preparing your puppy’s formula, it is time to feed her. An important factor to always watch is the position of the puppy while feeding. You should always feed your puppy with her stomach facing down.

Feeding your pup with her stomach facing upwards is a very dangerous practice. This position may cause your dog to asphyxiate on her milk.

The nipple of the bottle should also be correctly sized. It should be small enough for milk to drip out slowly rather than pour out continuously. If the milk is flowing too fast, it could cause the puppy to choke on the milk.

If your puppy is too weak to swallow, she may need to be tube-fed. Tube feeding should only be done by a professional breeder, veterinarian, or any other animal professionals.

What to Look for in a Puppy Milk Replacement

A good milk replacer is defined by three characteristics; a well-balanced nutrition profile, no dangerous additives, and high-quality ingredients. The common ingredients used include vegetable oil or fat, dried whey protein concentrate, dried skimmed milk, and dried corn syrup.

To provide minerals, minerals salts are added, for example,  potassium iodide, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, thiamine hydrochloride, potassium citrate, manganese sulfate, choline chloride, calcium carbonate, magnesium sulfate, and potassium chloride.

Necessary vitamins may also be added to provide extra nutrition, for example, folic acid, niacin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and ascorbic acid.

Goat Milk Vs Cow Milk Replacement

If possible, always opt for milk replacers made from goat milk rather than cow milk. While goat milk is usually more expensive, it is more digestible by puppies than cow milk formula.

If your puppy has been showing some digestive symptoms since she started formula, the problem may be with cow’s milk. Cow’s milk formula may cause signs and symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and stomach upset.

Options You Can Try

Vets Preferred Advanced Milk  Rx Supplement

The Vets Preferred milk supplement is made with the best ingredients to ensure proper development of your puppy. The milk supplement also contains immunoglobulins to provide temporary immunity as the puppy develops her own.

VetsPreferred Puppy Milk Replacer

Get it on Amazon

Esbilac Puppy Milk

Esbilac Puppy Milk

Get it on Amazon

Esbilac puppy milk is another favorite among dog owners. The formula offers a strong nutrition profile that supports optimal growth for puppies. Esbilac also contains probiotics that will help boost your puppy’s immunity and gut health.

Revival Animal Health Breeder’s Edge Foster Care

Revival Animal Health Breeder's Edge Foster Care

Get it on Amazon

Breeder’s Edge Foster Care is a wonderful choice for any pup. The nutritious formula has gut health-enhancing properties and also offers immunoglobulins for boosting immunity. 

 Our Final Thoughts

In conclusion, a good milk replacement can be given to puppies if they are not getting adequate feeding from their mother. Milk replacements should only be used when absolutely necessary.

Circumstances that call for a replacement include when the puppies have been orphaned, when the mother is sick, when the litter is too big, or when the mother is not willing to feed her pups.

If no already-made replacer is available, a homemade replacer can be used instead. Cow or goat milk should never be used as a replacer.

Ensure to select the best quality milk replacement for your puppies. A good quality replacer should contain all the nutrients a newborn puppy needs and no dangerous or toxic additives.

Puppy formula is not suitable for human consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is milk replacer good for young puppies?

Yes, a high-quality puppy milk replacer is good for puppies. It should however never be used if a puppy can get milk from her mother.

  • What type of milk can puppies drink?

puppies should only be fed on dog’s milk. If it is not available, a suitable replacement can be used. Puppies should never be fed on plain cow or goat milk.

  • Can puppies drink baby formula?

No, baby formula is made to meet the need of human babies, not puppies.