Puppies typically receive their nourishment through the mother's breast milk in the first four weeks of life. Sadly, some puppies are unable to nurse for a variety of reasons. Bottle feeding is an option if your puppies are unable to receive proper nourishment from their mother dog. Call your vet immediately if you suspect a feeding problem.
Mother Isn't Present
Some puppies may be abandoned due to separation or death of the mother. If the mother isn't present to feed her babies, they must receive their feedings through another source. A special canine replacement formula should be given every few hours through a feeding bottle per the instructions of your veterinarian.
Unfortunately, some dog-moms aren't the best at providing care for their tiny new bundles. Certain dog breeds are more prone to neglecting their young. If you feel comfortable and the dog is receptive, you may attempt to coax the puppy to latch on while you pet and calm the mother dog. If your attempts are unsuccessful, you may need to step in to have your puppy and mother dog evaluated by a vet and consider bottle-feeding.
When dogs have large litters -- that is, more pups than nipples -- some puppies may struggle to get enough to eat. The runt of the litter usually is the most delicate and may not be able to himself to nurse amongst the other, larger pups. In this case, your veterinarian may recommend supplementing the smaller puppies with bottles.
Inadequate Milk Supply
Some mother dogs may have an inadequate milk supply. Dogs who undergo cesarean sections may have delayed milk production, so puppies likely will need to be supplemented through canine milk replacement. If you suspect your mother dog may not be producing milk, contact your vet to get advice. Some clues that she may not have an adequate supply are slow-to-grow pups and puppies who don't seem satisfied with their feedings.
Jennifer Oster holds a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences from Louisiana State University and is also a certified lactation counselor. An expert in the field of infant and maternal nutrition, she began writing professionally in 2005 and has been featured in many nationally acclaimed magazines.