Puppy Formula
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When Should I Give My Puppy Formula?

Katelyn Son


Medically reviewed by

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In a perfect world, a dog has her puppies, feeds, and nurtures them until they are old enough to live independently. As you may know, this world is far from perfect. A dog is not always able to take care of her puppies. Several reasons such as illness can get in the way of a dog properly feeding her puppies. 

In such an event, the responsibility of feeding the newborn pup falls on the dog owner. Just like in humans, when a baby cannot access her mother’s breast milk, a substitute has to be provided. Since the gut of a newborn is very fragile and underdeveloped, the replacement has to be carefully selected to resemble the mother’s milk. 

A good breast milk replacement has to be similar in taste and flavor to milk, have a similar nutrition profile, and be highly digestible. This is where puppy formula comes in. 

What is Puppy Formula?

When Should I Give My Puppy Formula

Puppy formula or puppy milk replacer is a product made for newborn puppies to work in place or together with breast milk. Puppy formula is very similar to dog milk in texture and taste. It should not be mistaken for ordinary cow or goat milk. Puppy milk contains several other ingredients to boost its nutrition profile.  

Puppy formula can be either commercially produced or made at home. There are several brands of commercially made puppy milk replacers for example Vets Preferred Milk Supplement, Nutri Vet Milk Replacement, Petlac Milk Powder, and Esbilac Puppy Milk

You should treat the process of selecting one for your puppy as delicately as possible.

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.

Do all Puppies Need Formula?

No, not all puppies need formula. In fact, formula is a second resort if breast milk is not available or adequate.  After birth until a puppy is ready to eat solid food, breast milk is sufficient to support and sustain all the nutrition needs of a puppy. 

Mother nature has blessed mammals with the ability to feed their newborns on solely milk until they are ready to eat other foods. So no, if a newborn puppy is feeding adequately on her mother’s breast milk, she doesn’t need to get started on formula. 

Giving a well-nourished puppy formula may actually have some disadvantages. It may result in reduced milk production since breast milk production depends on how much the babies are feeding. 

Reasons You May Need Puppy Milk Replacer

While giving your puppy formula, you want to make sure that you are only giving it when necessary. Ideally, your little pup should be getting as much of the mother’s milk as possible and you do not want to get in the way of that. Some of the scenarios in which you will have to give a puppy milk replacer include:

  • If the mother passed away during birth
  • If the puppy refuses to breastfeed
  • If the mother rejects the puppy
  • If the mother is away 
  • If the mother is ill 
  • If the mother is not making enough milk for the litter

Benefits of Newborn Puppy Formula

While a puppy milk replacer cannot provide for a puppy what the mother’s milk can, it can still provide some benefits. Some of the benefits milk replacers can give young puppies include:

  • Growth. Milk replacement formula contains high amounts of protein that help promote growth in newborn puppies. 
  • Energy. With their high metabolic rate, pups need a steady supply of energy. Milk replacers contain adequate amounts of carbohydrates and fat to supply the required energy. A good energy supply also helps very tiny pups gain some weight. 
  • Vitamins and Minerals. If you get a high-quality puppy milk replacement, it should be enriched with different vitamins and minerals that support the health of the pup.  

Why Not Give a Puppy Cows Milk?

It may have crossed your mind to give your newborn puppy cow’s milk if she is not getting enough from her mother. However, this is not a good idea. You should not use pure cow’s milk to replace dog milk. Goat milk is just as unsuitable. 

First, a cow’s milk is produced to meet the needs of a calf, not a puppy. All animals have different needs, therefore, cow’s milk cannot meet those of a puppy. 

The proportion of amino acids in cow milk is far off from that of dog milk. Since protein is key to the growth of a newborn, this may negatively affect the development of the puppy.

The fat content of cow milk is also very low. Newborns have a high metabolism. Their energy expenditure per pound is much higher than that of an adult. For this reason, their milk is made with a high-fat content to provide a high-calorie value. 

Milk from cows may also trigger negative reactions in a puppy. It is not uncommon to see digestive symptoms in a puppy fed with cow milk. Some puppies may even have cow milk allergies that you may not be aware of because they are so young. 

Finally, cow milk has a much thinner consistency than dog milk due to its high water content. Puppies that have tasted dog milk may find the taste displeasing and reject it. 

You may see cow milk products like dried whey protein concentrate and dried skimmed milk in formula but in this case, they have been altered to suit your puppy’s needs. 

What to Look for in Puppy Formula

Like all commercially produced pet products, some will simply be superior to others. There are two important properties of a good puppy milk replacer:

Good Nutrition Profile

Above all, a good milk replacer has to provide the puppy with all the nutrients she needs. The milk replacer has to have a high carbohydrate, protein, and fat content. It must also be fortified with vitamins and minerals. 

If your puppy is constantly getting hungry, it is possible that her formula is not providing adequate nourishment particularly fat and protein. You should consult your vet if you suspect that your puppy’s needs are not met by the formula you are using. 

Minimal Food Additives

Food additives are used to improve foods in different ways. For example, preservatives are used to increase the shelf life of the product and thickeners may be used to improve the consistency of the milk. 

Additives do have their benefits but many of them have harmful effects on the body if used consistently. Try to use a milk replacer that has very few additives added to it to protect your puppy from potential illnesses in the future. 

At Honest Paws, we understand the importance of a good puppy diet. This is why we recommend The Vets Preferred Advanced Milk Supplement, a milk substitute that ticks both of these boxes. The Milk Supplement not only gives your puppy all the nutrients she needs but also contains vital antibodies. Antibodies are an essential part of the immune system that puppies must get from their milk as they develop and start to make their own. 

How to Choose the Best Puppy Milk Replacers

  • Do your research. If you are using formula for the first time, take your time to research your options. Use the internet to find out more about different formula brands. Ask fellow dog owners what formula worked for them the best. This way, you can make a more informed decision for your pup based on facts. 
  • Consult your vet. Do not hesitate to ask your vet what formula is best for your pup.  
  • Do not be afraid to experiment. If you choose a formula and find that it is not the best, you can change it for one you believe will work better.  

Types of Puppy Formulas

Types of Puppy Formulas

It is one thing to choose between different formula brands but how do you choose between products of the same brand? One of the differences you will notice between a brand’s products is the form in which the formula comes. 

There are three forms in which formula is sold; powdered, liquid (ready to drink), and concentrate. However, liquid and powdered formulas are the most popular among pet owners. 

Liquid Formula 

Liquid formula, just like the name says is, well, liquid.  Liquid formula has the advantage of being ready to drink. All the dog owner has to do is pour it into a feeding bottle and give the puppy. Sometimes, the milk comes in a feeding bottle where one can just attach the nipple and it is ready. 

On the downside, liquid formula is more expensive and requires much more storage space.


Powdered formula is no doubt the most popular formula. It comes in a can from which you can scoop any desired amount and mix with water to make the milk. Powdered formula is more affordable than ready-to-drink formula. 

It obviously requires more preparation time but the process is manageable for most pet owners. 

Homemade Puppy Formula 

If a dog is not able to feed her puppies and no formula is available, you can resort to homemade puppy formula. 

Homemade milk replacer is made to imitate the nutrition composition of dog milk. It is therefore highly advisable to follow the recipe to the dot without making any unnecessary adjustments. 

Homemade Milk Replacer Recipes

Puppies Cow Milk Replacer 

  • 1/2 cup of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup of sterilized water
  • 1 tbsp. of Karo syrup
  • 2 tbsp. of whole-fat yogurt
  • 1 dropper of liquid vitamins 
  • 2 raw egg yolks 
  • Add the ingredients to a blender and blend till smooth. 
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate until it is needed for up to 2 days. 

Goat Milk Replacer

  •  1 cup of goat’s milk
  • Two raw egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. of Karo syrup 
  • 1 dropper of liquid vitamins
  • Combine all the ingredients and mix them thoroughly.
  • Add to a serving bottle with a nipple and serve immediately or keep refrigerated for up two days.

How to Feed Puppy Formula to Your Newborn Puppy

The first consideration when giving a puppy milk replacement is good hygiene. Poor hygiene can give your puppy infections due to their low immunity. Always prepare and serve the milk replacement in a very clean environment. 

Ensure that the milk is at the right temperature. Not too hot and not too cold. The milk replacement should be warm and not hot to touch. 

Bottle feeds the puppy as she is not yet able to feed on her own. Always feed the puppy on her tummy as she would be while suckling her mother. 

Keep a feeding log to help you understand the puppy’s feeding habits better. The log may also be useful if or when you visit the vet. 

Our Final Thoughts

What is Puppy Formula

In case your puppy is not getting enough or any of her mother’s milk, a puppy milk replacement is a suitable choice. Milk replacers can provide your puppy the necessary nourishment to grow into a healthy dog. 

A puppy milk replacement should be used with extra precaution. First, only use it when necessary. Secondly, choose a high-quality dog’s milk replacement and finally, prepare and give it in a very clean environment.  

Milk replacers should only be used as an alternative milk supply, not the main one. Breast milk should always be the first resort when feeding a puppy. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you use baby formula for puppies?

No, puppies should be fed with puppy milk or a suitable replacement.  Baby formula is made to meet the nutrition requirements of a human baby, not a puppy. 

  • How do you make puppy formula?

You can make puppy formula by mixing  1 cup of goat’s milk, two raw egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of Karo syrup, and 1 dropper of liquid vitamins. There are many other recipes for formula that you can use for your puppy. 

  • What milk replacement is best for puppies?

The best milk replacer depends on the puppy’s needs and where you are located. However, a good milk replacement should have a well-balanced nutrition profile and very few additives. For a formula that meets all these criteria, try the Vets Preferred Advanced Milk Rx Supplement

  • What is a puppy milk replacer?

A puppy milk replacer is a milk-like formula given to puppies in case they are unable to get any or enough milk from their mother. 

  • Can you use cow milk or goat milk for a puppy? 

No, goat’s milk and cow’s milk do not have the right nutrition composition for a puppy.