How much should you syringe feed a newborn puppy?

What is syringe feeding?

Syringe feeding is a method of providing nutrition to newborn puppies who are unable or unwilling to nurse from their mother. It involves using a small syringe (typically 3-12mL) to deliver milk or formula directly into the puppy’s mouth. Syringe feeding is commonly used for orphaned puppies or those in large litters that have trouble competing for their mother’s milk. It can also be used as a supplemental feeding method for puppies not getting enough nutrition from nursing alone. The goal of syringe feeding is to mimic natural nursing by providing small, frequent feedings of an appropriate puppy milk replacer.

When should you syringe feed a newborn puppy?

Syringe feeding should be used any time a newborn puppy is not nursing properly or unable to get adequate nutrition from the mother. Common situations where syringe feeding is needed include:

  • Puppies from large litters who have trouble competing for milk
  • Weak, small or ill puppies not strong enough to nurse
  • Orphaned puppies without access to mother’s milk
  • Puppies rejected or ignored by the mother
  • Puppies separated from the mother due to health issues
  • Supplemental feeding for puppies not gaining weight properly

Ideally, newborn puppies should nurse every 1-2 hours. If they are unable or unwilling to nurse this frequently, syringe feeding should be provided to ensure they get adequate nutrition. Watch for signs of hunger including crying, restless behavior, and rooting motions.

How often should you syringe feed a newborn puppy?

For newborn puppies 0-2 weeks old, the recommendation is to syringe feed every 2-3 hours around the clock, or 8-12 times per day. The total number of daily feedings can be gradually reduced as the puppy matures and begins transitioning to solid foods after 3-4 weeks of age.

Here are some general syringe feeding frequency guidelines based on puppy age:

  • 0-2 weeks: Feed every 2-3 hours, 8-12 times per day
  • 2-4 weeks: Feed every 3-4 hours, 6-8 times per day
  • 4-6 weeks: Feed every 4-6 hours, 5-6 times per day
  • 6-8 weeks: Feed every 6-8 hours, 3-4 times per day

The number of feedings can be adjusted based on the individual puppy’s appetite and body condition. Smaller, weaker puppies may need more frequent feedings. Healthy, vigorous eaters may need fewer daily feedings. The key is to feed on demand and ensure the stomach is never empty.

How do you choose the right syringe size?

Most veterinarians recommend using a small 3-12mL slip-tip syringe without a needle to syringe feed puppies. The ideal syringe size depends on the puppy’s size:

  • 3-5mL syringe for toy/small breed puppies
  • 6-12mL syringe for medium/large breed puppies

Choose a syringe that allows you to provide milk in small drops and thin streams, mimicking natural nursing. Avoid using a syringe so large that allows milk to gush into the puppy’s mouth too quickly. This can cause aspiration pneumonia.

For weak or compromised puppies, start with a 1mL syringe and work up to a larger size as they gain strength. Slip-tip syringes are ideal because they don’t have a plunger that needs to be pulled.

What temperature should the milk be?

For newborn puppy feeding, the milk replacer or formula should be warmed to around 100°F/37°C – the approximate temperature of fresh milk from a mother dog. Milk that feels warm to the touch on your wrist is a good feeding temperature for puppies.

Avoid feeding cold milk from the refrigerator, as this can cause digestive upsets in delicate newborn puppies. Likewise, avoid making the milk too hot as it can scald their mouth and esophagus.

After warming, give the milk a gentle shake and test the temperature before feeding. A thermometer can help check that it’s in the ideal 100°F/37°C range.

How much milk should be in each syringe feeding?

The volume of milk per syringe feeding depends on the puppy’s size and age:

  • 1-2 mL per feeding for tiny puppies less than 2 weeks old
  • 3-5 mL per feeding for small puppies 2-4 weeks old
  • 5-10 mL per feeding for medium to large breed puppies over 2 weeks old

Aim for smaller, more frequent meals to start. For orphaned newborns, begin with just 1 mL every 2 hours. As the puppy gets stronger, the volume can be increased to 2-3 mL.

By 2-3 weeks of age, a vigorous puppy may take up to 5 mL per feeding. Give the puppy time to swallow in between syringe depressions. Avoid overwhelming their mouth with too much fluid at once.

How much total formula should a newborn puppy receive daily?

The typical total formula volume for syringe feeding per day is based on the puppy’s weight:

  • 100-120 mL per kg of body weight

So a 2 lb/1 kg puppy would need about 100-120 mL total for the day, divided into 10-12 frequent small feedings.

As a rule of thumb for the first week:

  • Toy puppy (<2 lbs): Total of 24-40 mL per day
  • Small puppy (2-10 lbs): Total of 40-400 mL per day
  • Medium/Large puppy (10-25 lbs): Total of 400-1000 mL per day

Weigh puppies daily on a gram scale to ensure they are receiving adequate milk and gaining about 10-15% each day. Adjust the feeding volume accordingly if weight gain is too slow or fast.

What is the best puppy milk replacer?

High-quality commercial puppy milk replacers are the best choice for syringe feeding. These contain nutrients in ratios tailored for newborn puppies.

Some options include:

  • Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer
  • PetAg Goat’s Milk Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer
  • Wombaroo Puppy Milk Replacer
  • PetLac Puppy Milk Replacer

Avoid products made for adult dogs, kittens, or other species – these don’t have nutrients appropriate for puppy growth. Also avoid cow’s milk, as puppies cannot digest it properly.

When mixing, follow label directions carefully. Improperly diluted formula can cause diarrhea or malnutrition.

Can you make homemade puppy formula?

Homemade puppy formulas based on ingredients like goat’s milk, egg yolk, yogurt, etc can be used if no commercial replacers are available. However, it’s tricky to get the nutrition ratios right. Consult your veterinarian before attempting homemade formula, as improper nutrition can harm puppies.

Some simple homemade puppy formula recipes include:

  • 1 can evaporated milk, 1 raw egg yolk, 1 tablespoon yogurt or strained cottage cheese, 1 drop corn syrup
  • 2 ounces goat’s milk, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon bone meal
  • 1 can evaporated milk, 1/4 cup whole yogurt, 2 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Dilute by half with warm water. Blend well and strain before feeding. Discard any leftovers after 24 hours.

While less ideal than commercial milk, these can work for emergency orphan situations. Monitor weight daily and adjust as needed.

What equipment is needed?

The basic supplies needed for proper newborn puppy syringe feeding include:

  • Slip-tip syringes in small 3-12mL sizes
  • High-quality puppy milk replacer or formula
  • Kitchen scale to weigh puppies
  • Thermometer to check milk temperature
  • Small cloth for burping/stimulation
  • Heating pad or enclosure to provide warmth
  • Bottle for warming and storing milk
  • Whelping box, crate or enclosure
  • Paper towels for cleanup

Ensure all equipment is sterilized before first use. Bottles, syringes, and other supplies should be cleaned thoroughly after each feeding. Proper sanitation prevents bacterial or viral illness.

What are the steps for syringe feeding?

Follow these steps when syringe feeding newborn puppies:

  1. Warm puppy milk replacer or formula to 100°F/37°C.
  2. Fill the slip-tip syringe with the appropriate amount of milk based on puppy size and age.
  3. Sit the puppy in an upright position on your lap, tummy down.
  4. Insert the syringe tip into the puppy’s mouth, aiming for the pocket between the tongue and roof of mouth.
  5. Slowly depress the plunger in small drops, allowing the puppy time to swallow.
  6. Alternate sides of the mouth for subsequent syringe refills.
  7. After feeding, gently rub/burp the puppy to encourage digestion.
  8. Stimulate for urination/defecation using warm cloth if the mother is not available.
  9. Keep puppies warm with heating pad, whelping box, etc.
  10. Disinfect all feeding supplies immediately after use.

Go slowly, pausing to let the puppy swallow. Stop if milk bubbles out of the nose or mouth. Small feedings are key to reducing aspiration risk.

What are the signs of aspiration during syringe feeding?

Aspiration pneumonia is a serious risk when syringe feeding puppies. Milk can accidentally get into the lungs instead of the stomach. Signs of aspiration include:

  • Milk/formula bubbling from the puppy’s nose or mouth
  • Puppy coughing, sneezing or gagging during or after feeding
  • Pale or bluish gums indicating oxygen loss
  • Labored breathing after feeding
  • Wheezing, crackling or whistling sounds from chest
  • Fever, lethargy, loss of appetite

If aspiration is suspected, stop oral feeding immediately and seek veterinary care. Aspiration can lead to pneumonia within hours. Supportive care includes oxygen therapy, bronchodilators, and antibiotics in severe cases. Avoid syringe feeding until the puppy has recovered.

What are signs of overfeeding with a syringe?

Overfeeding can also be a problem when syringe feeding puppies. Signs of overfeeding include:

  • Milk leaking from puppy’s mouth or nose
  • Swollen abdomen from overfilled stomach
  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing, gagging or respiratory distress
  • Failure to gain weight normally
  • Puppy refusing feedings

If these occur, the volume of milk per feeding is too much. Reduce to smaller amounts and increase frequency. Weigh daily – excessive gain over 15% indicates overfeeding. Adjust volumes down if puppy is gaining weight too rapidly.

What are signs of underfeeding with a syringe?

Underfeeding can happen if the puppy needs more milk than is being provided. Signs include:

  • Weakness, lethargy
  • Whining, crying frequently
  • Weight loss or failure to gain weight
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Hypothermia from inadequate calorie intake

Increase the volume per feeding if these occur but avoid overfeeding. Frequent weighing helps determine if adjustments are needed to the feeding schedule.

How can syringe feeding difficulties be prevented?

Proper technique helps prevent problems when syringe feeding newborn puppies:

  • Use slow, small drops instead of large volumes.
  • Keep head tilted up to encourage swallowing.
  • Give the puppy time to breathe and swallow between syringe depressions.
  • Feel the puppy’s belly during feeding – stop if it feels bloated.
  • Stimulate to “burp” the puppy half-way through longer feeds.
  • Ensure proper heating pad temperature and enclosure to avoid chilling.
  • Disinfect all supplies thoroughly between feedings.
  • Transition gradually from every 2 hour to 3-4 hour feedings as puppy matures.

With patience and proper technique, most puppies take readily to syringe feeding. Seek advice from a veterinarian if any concerns arise.

When is syringe feeding no longer needed?

As puppies grow, syringe feeding should be gradually transitioned to lap feeding from a bottle, then to weaning from solid food after 3-4 weeks of age. Here are some general guidelines on when to stop syringe feeding:

  • Healthy puppies should begin lapping milk from a bowl by 3 weeks old.
  • Reduce syringe feeding frequency as interest increases in solid food after 3-4 weeks.
  • Puppies are typically ready for complete weaning between 6-8 weeks of age.
  • Monitor puppy weight and eliminate syringe feeds if weight gain is adequate from other food sources.
  • Discontinue syringe feeding anytime refusal, distress or aspiration occurs.

When bottle feeding takes over, aim for a feeding schedule of every 4-6 hours. Fully weaned puppies only need 3-4 feedings per day. Let the puppy’s appetite and weight gain guide the transition process.


Syringe feeding is a lifesaving technique for newborn puppies who are unable to nurse. With a proper feeding schedule, adequate formula volumes, and good technique, most puppies tolerate syringe feeding well. Pay close attention to the puppy’s cues and adjust the feeding plan as they mature. Consult a veterinarian for any concerns, and discontinue syringe feeding if complications develop. With patience and care, syringe feeding can give orphaned or compromised newborn puppies the nutrition they need to survive and thrive.

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