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How to Successfully Bottle Feed Kittens and Puppies

Bottle feeding newborn kittens and puppies can be a daunting task, especially for first-time caregivers. Ensuring that the feeding process mimics how a mother would care for her babies is crucial. Here's how to navigate the essentials of bottle feeding to keep your little ones healthy and thriving.

Maintaining Hygiene During Bottle Feeding

Hygiene is paramount when handling newborn kittens and puppies. Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching them, especially if you have been around other animals. Ensure all bottles and feeding equipment are meticulously cleaned and sanitized to prevent disease transmission.

How Much Should You Feed a Newborn?

Avoid overfeeding newborns as it can lead to serious health issues like diarrhea or sudden death. It’s better to feed them smaller amounts more frequently. Feed until their tummy, located just under the ribs, feels full but not overstretched.

The Dangers of Overfeeding

Overfeeding can cause diarrhea, indicated by yellow, loose stools. If this happens, give electrolytes for one or two feedings and then resume formula feeding with a slightly reduced quantity. Sudden death from overfeeding carbohydrates (CHO) in milk replacers is a significant risk. High CHO can stimulate clostridium overgrowth, quickly leading to death. Commercial milk replacers are designed to have the right fat content to avoid this issue.

Signs of Underfeeding

Underfed babies will cry incessantly, become lethargic, gain little to no weight, and can quickly dehydrate. Dehydration is often indicated by dark urine. Their stomachs should feel slightly distended after feeding, and their stools should be brown to yellow and seedy.

Correct Temperature for Milk Replacer

Always warm the milk replacer to about 100ºF, which should feel barely warm to your wrist. Avoid microwaving the formula directly, as it can create hot spots and alter protein structures. Instead, warm a cup of water in the microwave and place the bottle in it.

Avoiding Colic

Feed kittens and puppies in an upright position to prevent colic. After feeding, gently burp them by holding them upright and tapping their back. If they spit up, reduce the volume at the next feeding. If colic persists, consider switching to a goat milk-based formula, which is often easier on their stomachs.

Stimulating Elimination

Newborns need help to urinate and defecate. Use a warm, damp cotton ball or soft paper towel to gently rub their genital and anal areas after each feeding. This mimics the mother's cleaning action and helps stimulate elimination.

Managing Constipation

Constipation can occur even with high-quality milk replacers. Adding 25% more water to the formula usually resolves this issue. If constipation persists, continue to mix in 10% extra water until weaning.

Handling Diarrhea

Diarrhea can result from a lack of digestive bacteria. Adding a probiotic to their diet can help restore balance. Start with three doses on the first day and then continue once daily. Ensure the probiotic is designed to bypass the stomach for maximum effectiveness.

Importance of Colostrum

Colostrum provides crucial antibodies from the mother. For orphaned or bottle-fed babies, a colostrum substitute can help. These substitutes contain proteins that bind and remove viruses and bacteria, offering some protection during the early weeks.

Additional Tips

  • Monitor their weight regularly to ensure they are gaining adequately.

  • Keep the feeding environment warm and clean.

  • If a puppy or kitten is too weak to bottle feed, consult a vet about tube feeding.

Proper bottle feeding can significantly impact the health and survival of newborn kittens and puppies. With careful attention to hygiene, feeding amounts, and nutritional needs, you can ensure they grow into healthy adults. For more detailed information and support, visit

Bottle Feed Puppies
Bottle Feed Puppies


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