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Hand Rearing an Orphan Litter
(or when the dam has little to no milk)
(Many thanks to Leonie Thorne for providing the use of her puppies for the photos.)

I have written this article to show that babies of any size benefit from a human bottle
rather than veterinary 'kitten' bottles, and hopefully to provide a step by step guide on tube feeding.

Measurements are based on pug babies with a birth weight of between 150 and 200 grams.
It is important to weigh the puppies at the same time every day, to ensure they are gaining weight
  • 2 level scoops Biolac Milk Powder - I find this to be the best formula for puppies
  • 100 ml boiling water
  • Sterilised tubes and baby bottle


Biolac Milk Powder - best formula based on puppy requirements

Human baby bottle using a Newborn or Colic (slow flow) teat.Yes - I know it looks impossibly large for a neonatal whelp - however the bottles and teats sold by veterinarians are far too small for puppies to get suction - and they can slowly starve.

Measure the 100ml of water into the jug before adding the milk powder. If you add powder first and only fill to 100ml - the mixture can be too thick and the puppies can get constipated.
If they get constipated, dilute the milk formula a little until motions resume.

Shake well once in the bottle, screw lid on gently but firmly. Tip bottle up to remove the first spurt of milk that always comes out too quickly. Once the milk has stopped coming out, the newborn then can suckle safely without getting too much at once. Every so often you may need to unscrew the lid so that the milk comes out more easily (due to the vacuum effect caused by milk leaving the bottle).

Even though you only want to feed body temperature milk - I find it a good idea to place the bottle into a jug of boiled water to keep it warm, so that the last puppies are not drinking cold milk. You can increase up to 200ml and 4 level scoops as puppies grow


To introduce the bottle to a baby, dip the teat in some mixed warm milk, and gently introduce into the babies' mouth. It will take around 20 to 30 seconds for the baby to 'click' that this is warm delicious food - and they will start suckling vigorously almost immediately.

Take great care not to allow air into the teat.

I let them drink as much as they want until they come off the teat themselves. My vet had told me 5 to 6mls per feed (when I was tube feeding) - however they were losing weight. When I bottle fed them later that day, they were drinking 10 to 12 mls!


Tube Feeding

There will be times when you need to tube feed. This could be right at the start, when you have a weak puppy, or they have just been born and you need to wait a day or two before introducing the bottle. It is a great, safe way to feed a baby without any risk of inhaling liquid.

It is much safer to do this with two people though ... which is why I generally move on to using a bottle after a couple of days ... friends and family are great however you need to feed two or three times during the night as well!

I usually have 5 to 6 tubes, and 2 to 3 bottles and teats. These need to be boiled for 2 minutes before each use - so it is handy in the middle of the night to have spares.

Step 1

Measure the length of the tube first. The tube must go from the mouth to the stomach area (below the sternum and above the umbilical cord site). Measure while the puppy is asleep and not wriggling around. Mark the length with clearly visible and waterproof tape.

This way, you can insert the tube until it gets to the marked spot. If the tube 'stops' half way and will not go further, you have gone down the wrong passage into the lungs.

Babies need to be fed every 3 hours.



Mix up the milk formula, (You can use any highly recommended milk replacement).   Always put your finger in the formula and swish it around before feeding the babies, to ensure it is only body temperature.

Fill the syringe with the exact amount of milk that you need for ONE puppy at a time - this avoids the risk of overfeeding or milk coming out of the tube when you are pulling it out.

Always put the formula into the syringe before attaching to the tube - then dip the tube into the formula, so it is 'coated' and easy to swallow. Push out the excess air from the syringe and tube before feeding the baby so no air gets into the stomach.   Place the tube onto the babies mouth and express a few drops of milk to start the sucking process.

  1. Holding the puppy upright and as straight as possible to allow a clear passage into the stomach, allow the puppy to 'swallow' the tube by itself. This is a safe way of ensuring the tube goes into the stomach area.
  2. You may get a little squirming and resistance to begin with (on the first two attempts) however when the puppy gets to taste the formula, the puppy will be keen to 'drink' the tube down.
  3. As soon as the tube reaches the marked tape, gently squeeze the syringe with liquid into the stomach. Once finished, remove.
  4. After you have fed each puppy, hold them up on your shoulder or place them over your knee and gently pat their rib area or rub your fingers up and down their back until you hear a very small 'burp'. This is very similar to burping a baby after a meal, and much more comfortable for the puppy.


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