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How to Identify When a Kitten or Puppy Needs Help Feeding

Whether you’re a breeder, a shelter volunteer, a pet owner, or just happened to stumble upon an orphaned litter, you’re a kitten/puppy caregiver. And your job is an important one. After all, you’re raising the next generation of puppies and kittens.

If you find orphaned kittens or puppies that have not opened their eyes yet or that weigh less than a pound, you’ll need to bottle feed them with a milk replacer. Even if the mother is present, your puppies or kittens still may need your help feeding. Here are some ways to identify when a puppy or kitten needs to be bottle fed.

  • The mother is neglecting the offspring.
  • The puppy or kitten weighs 20% less than its litter mates.
  • The mother has no milk or not enough milk to give.
  • The mother’s milk is contaminated, or the mother has a vaginal infection that is toxic to the babies.
  • The puppy or kitten is struggling to get a nursing position among its litter mates or is hanging out off to the side by itself.

Ultimately, if you notice a puppy or kitten isn’t nursing, regardless of the reason, it needs to be bottle fed. Puppies and kittens need to be fed frequently during their first few weeks of life and require stimulation to help them urinate and defecate. Understanding when and how to bottle feed properly is crucial to keeping your puppies and kittens alive and healthy.

Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation about how to feed puppies and kittens exists online. For instance, cow’s milk will dehydrate a newborn puppy or kitten and cause diarrhea due to the newborn’s delicate digestive system (most are lactose intolerant). Overfeeding can also cause diarrhea and even sudden death due to the newborn’s stomach bursting. For these reasons, PetAg has compiled the following verified caregiving resources to help you nurture the next generation of puppies and kittens into healthy adults.

If you need additional help caring for your newborn puppies/kittens, or if you suspect they may have health issues, don’t hesitate to contact your local vet.

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