Nutritional Care for Orphaned Puppies and Kittens

Orphaned Pets Overview

Should you end up taking care of an abandoned puppy or kitten, our handout on nutritional care for orpahned puppies and kittens will give you tips on preparing feeding equipment, preparing milk replacer, and feeding the orphaned pet.

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Download our Care For Orphaned Pets Handout for an in-depth look at this pet health article and how you can partner with your veterinarian to prevent against it.


Nutritional Care for Orphaned Puppies And Kittens Handout Summary

If you find yourself in a position to rescue an orphaned pet, know that we’re on your side and can help you keep the dog or cat healthy. First, take your new furry family member to a local Banfield Pet Hospital to visit a veterinarian and make sure the animal doesn’t need any additional attention.

Feeding an orphaned puppy or kitten

The biggest challenge with taking care of an orphaned puppy or kitten will be feeding the pet. It will require the use of special equipment and a very specific milk replacer (similar to baby formula made specifically for the puppy or kitten).

Preparing the Feeding Equipment

Hygiene is of the utmost importance when feeding an orphaned pet. His or her immune system is barely developed and dirty equipment could lead to an infection.

  • Wash your hands and equipment. You will need a soft detergent to wash the milk bottles and teats.
  • Sterilize the feeding equipment. You will want to rinse the equipment after washing. Then use boiling water to sterilize each piece. This should be done before each feeding.
  • Do not keep reconstituted milk. Even if it’s kept in a refrigerator, the milk replacer is only good for about an hour. If kept, this type of milk makes a perfect place for bacteria to grow.

 

Preparing the Milk Replacer

You shouldn’t use cow’s milk to care for an orphaned puppy or kitten. Store bought cow’s milk is diluted and doesn’t have the proper levels of calcium and phosphorus. When preparing milk replacer for the abandoned pet, you need to use powdered milk.

  • Boil water and then allow it to cool to 158°F
  • Add the powdered milk replacer, following any manufacturers recommendations for reconstitution.
  • You should homogenize the milk replacer in two phases.
    • First, create a whirlpool in the bottle by rotating it several times.
    • Then shake the bottle up and down.
  • Allow the milk replacer to cool to 98F before feeding it to the puppy or kitten. You can speed up the cooling process by placing it under running water.


How much should I feed the kitten or puppy?

A well fed puppy will be content and restful and does not typically cry until just before feeding time. A puppy that cries consistently is not doing well and should be taken to the Veterinarian for an examination. Typically a puppy or kitten will eat about 1 oz (30 mls) of commercial puppy formula for every 8 oz of body weight (1/2 pound) in a 24 hour period. So using the table below, divide total amount of formula needed for 24 hours into the number of feeding listed based on age.

For example a 1 week old puppy that weighs ½ pound (8 oz) will eat 30 mls of formula in 24 hours. 30 mls of formula ÷ 8 feedings = about 4 mls of formula per feeding

Feeding an orphaned puppy or kitten

The biggest challenge with taking care of an orphaned puppy or kitten will be feeding the pet. It will require the use of special equipment and a very specific milk replacer (similar to baby formula made specifically for the puppy or kitten).

How often should I feed the kitten or puppy?
As the weeks go on, you will need to feed the abandoned pet less frequently.

Age of Pet
(Weeks)
Kittens
Feedings per day
Puppies
Feedings per day
1 7 8
2 6 5
3 5 4
4 5 4


Additional Tips

  • Weigh the puppy or kitten before each feeding to monitor weight gain.
    • Kittens should gain about 10-15 grams each day.
    • Puppies should gain about 10% body weight each day.
    • Failure of weight gain is often the first sign of illness in young animals.
  • Don’t use starch to formulate dog or cat milk replacers.
    • Don’t overfeed a puppy or kitten. It will likely give them diarrhea.
    • This is a guideline only and it is better to feed lesser amounts more often than large amounts at one time.
    • If the puppies are not gaining weight, they need more food.
    • If the puppies develop diarrhea, they may be overfed.

Learn More

You can always contact a veterinarian at your local Banfield Pet Hospital. A pet health specialist will be happy to help start feeding an abandoned kitten or puppy. You can also read more about the health needs of your new best friend by reading in the Nutrition section of our site, banfield.com.