With a normal litter, the mother dog provides care and supplies milk to her newborn pups. In some cases, the mother may be unable or unwilling to nurse her little ones, requiring you to step in and provide care. Bottle-feeding requires time and patience as new puppies require feeding every two to three hours. Learning a few tricks will make feeding time easier on you and the growing puppies.
When bottle-feeding puppies, it is important to choose bottles that are comfortable for you to use as well as nipples that will properly deliver milk replacement to the hungry little ones. For the puppies, the important part is the nipple and the size of the openings. When the bottle is full of puppy formula, tip it upside down. Give the bottle a gentle squeeze. Ideally, milk will come out a small drop at a time. When bottle-feeding a puppy, nipple openings too small cause the pup to expend additional energy to try to get the milk out, often resulting in the pup not receiving enough nutrients. In addition, the pup can ingest too much air while trying to feed, leading to gas and bloating. If you see a puppy struggling to get milk, heat sterilize a needle and increase the opening size. Too large of an opening can result in too much milk being taken in and increases the risk of inhaling milk into the lungs.
Nipple openings will vary among pups. A weak pup may need a larger opening while a pup with a strong sucking reflex will do better with smaller openings. When feeding a large litter of pups, one trick is to label the nipple rings for each individual pup. When washing bottles, wash and separate each pup’s bottle separately.
Sanitation and sterilization is essential for bottle-fed pups, especially if they were unable to get any of the colostrum from their mother. These pups lack the antibodies to fight infection. Wash and sterilize all bottle components before the first use and after every feeding. Boil bottles and nipples for at least 10 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and allow to air dry until the next feeding.
When it comes to the best positioning to feed a puppy, think of how they nurse from their mother. Puppies lie on their tummies and snuggle up close to their mom for warmth. Bottle feeding is no different. Wrap the puppy in a small towel for warmth and lay her across your lap. Place the nibble in the pup’s mouth and slightly elevate the bottom. Give the bottle a gentle squeeze to expel some milk into the pup’s mouth to stimulate sucking. If the pup does not begin sucking, gently rub the chin and neck.
Just like human babies, puppies who bottle feed need burping to let out any gas. Lift the pup onto your shoulder and gently tap and rub her back until she burps. Once she burps, you need to help her go to the bathroom. New pups are unable to urinate or poop without assistance. Mother dogs must lick puppies to stimulate elimination. With bottle-fed pups, you must take on this role. Use a wet cotton ball or cloth to gently rub the pup’s anus and genital area. You should see urine at almost every feeding and stool every two to three feedings. Without stimulation, your pup can become constipated and sick.
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