Puppies, much like other mammals, survive strictly on their mother’s milk for the first critical weeks of life. However, some puppies must be hand-fed or encouraged to eat because of illness, absence or lack of milk from their mother. Hand-feeding puppies will help them survive infancy and live long, healthy lives.
Call your veterinarian if the puppy goes more than six hours without eating. Dehydration can be deadly in puppies, and your vet will show you how to properly feed the puppy. He will also recommend how much, and how often, to feed your puppy based on his breed and weight.
Mix the recommended amount of puppy milk replacer and warm it to body temperature. Pour the milk into a small bottle and hold the bottle in a pan of simmering water. Shake the bottle back and forth to evenly heat the milk, and test a drop on the inside of your wrist before screwing on the nipple. The milk should feel warm on your skin, but not so hot that it is uncomfortable.
Place the puppy on his belly across your legs, and hold the nipple close to his nose. Let him sniff and root around for the nipple rather than sticking it in his mouth. If he has trouble finding the nipple or seems uninterested, squeeze a drop of milk onto the nipple and rub it against his lips to entice him to latch onto the bottle.
Hold the bottle at a slight angle during feeding to prevent him from sucking in air as he eats. Allow the puppy to eat at his own pace and don’t squeeze the bottle, as this may cause him to aspirate milk into his lungs.
Lift the puppy gently to your shoulder once he is finished eating, and rub your hand up and down along his back. Despite your best efforts, the puppy may still suck in some air and need to be burped in this fashion. Wipe the puppy’s mouth with a towel to prevent milk from drying in his fur.
Wipe the puppy’s lower belly and genital area with a cotton ball dipped in warm water after every feeding. Mother dogs lick their puppies after feeding to encourage them to go potty, and the cotton ball simulates this feeling. Clean the puppy after he goes potty, and place him on a heating pad covered with a towel to keep him warm.