The best puppy milk replacers offer all the macronutrients and micronutrients to help a young puppy grow healthily.
Powdered and liquid dog milk replacers for puppies are formulated to be used as a supplement when the mother's milk production is insufficient or as a sole ration for orphan puppies that are hand-fed and nursed by their breeder.
Pregnant dogs going through gestation, along with those nursing their litter of whelps, often need an energy-dense supplementation. Milk replacers for puppies also help female dogs coping with the sudden requirements that are inherent to pregnancy, delivery and nursing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Puppy Milk Replacers
As a dog breeder, whether occasional or professional, it is crucial to be prepared to the eventuality of having to nurse newborn puppies yourself. A whelping kit is compulsory. The mother may be unable to do it herself for various reasons (eclampsia, lactation failure, etc), therefore you must have everything required to keep these whelps alive and healthy.
However, especially for inexperienced dog breeders, it is totally normal if you have a few interrogations. Here are some very common questions on puppy milk replacers, followed by their answer.
What nutrients do young puppies need to grow?
During a newborn puppy's first weeks of life, his body tries to grow as much as possible while building a strong immune system. In the very first days, the immune defense only exists thanks to the first milk, also called colostrum. Even if the mother has a tiny bit of this first milk, make sure the puppy drinks it.
The growth is fast-paced over the first weeks so the diet must be calorie-dense and high in proteins. Newborn dogs don't have teeth yet so solid or moist dog foods should be avoided. Always use a milk replacer specifically formulated for puppies of less than 6 or 8 weeks.
At least 30% of proteins should be contained which helps with the fast growth of muscle tissues and organs. Fatty acids will also be present in high quantities to act as messengers, supporting proteins in performing their tasks. Carbs are the primary source of energy to keep these puppies alert and active.
Micronutrients are also vital for newborn puppies — these are vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. They reinforce the body's organs, processes, immune system, cognitive functions, and more. They are essential and often forgotten!
A puppy milk replacement formula is generally conceived to respond to all that a newborn or young puppy requires throughout its first weeks of life.
What ingredients are in puppy milk replacement formulas?
Reading the labels of most canine neonatal diet substitutes you will often find the below as first ingredients:
- Skimmed milk
- Protein isolates (whey and casein)
- Vegetable oil or animal fat
- Egg products
Generally, the focus of puppy milk replacers is in the micro and macro nutrients rather where they come from. It's more about making sure there is the right percentage of each, rather than sourcing them from the absolute best plant or animal milk.
For a more nature-friendly approach, dehydrated goat's milk is often mentioned as the best all-natural substitute for young puppies.
Are there differences between powder and liquid formulas?
The main differences between powdered and liquid milk replacers for puppies are on their long-term storage. Indeed, powder puppy milk replacers don't have any moisture that would encourage the spread of any bacterial contamination. On the other hand, liquid milk replacers can very quickly spoil if there is even a tiny pinpoint hole in the bottle.
Convenience can be discussed since with a liquid milk replacement formula for puppies, you just have to shake and serve. Whereas with a powder alternative, you have to spend few minute preparing the formula before serving it.
Other than long-term shelf life and convenience, there is not much of a difference between both. Most manufacturers will sell powder milk replacers for puppies simply because people generally choose to buy this way.
Are puppy milk formulas age-appropriate?
Yes, most puppy milk formulas found online are very much conceived so they can be safely given to newborn puppies all the way to 6 or 8 weeks of age. At this age, puppies should already be moved to solid or moist puppy food.
Therefore, you can buy one product in bulk since it will work perfectly from the time the puppies are born to when they are weaned off.
Can adult dogs safely drink some puppy milk formula?
Yes! And it's even recommended for pregnant and nursing female dogs! What puppy milk replacers are, essentially, is a calorie-dense food that will provide a lot of all the nutrients a dog needs to cope with growth.
A female dog that is gestating or nursing has a lot of her calories and energy literally transferred to the puppies. This process occurs through the amniotic liquid in the womb, or the milk production when the whelps are born.
Because of these processes, a female needs a lot of food and calories in her diet, and giving her a puppy milk replacer will give her that boost she required so much!
Can goat's milk replace dog milk to nurse puppies?
Dehydrated goat's milk is often cited as the absolute best puppy milk replacer. It is a lot more natural and a lot less processed than its bovine counterpart. Where other milk replacers for pups are formulated using vegetable oils, egg products and added nutrients, powdered goat's milk is simply dehydrated milk from goats.
Now, it's also a more premium product that is sometimes ten times more expensive. It all depends whether you are on a shoestring budget, or can afford a more qualitative milk replacement for your dog. If you can afford it, go ahead with a dehydrated goat's milk replacer (see our list below for the one we recommend!)
What equipment do I need to bottle-feed young puppies?
A nursing kit is generally made of a feeding bottle with a selection of soft nipples of different sizes and suppleness. Ideally, a nursing kit should be delivered with a cleaning brush that allows you to keep the feeding bottle clean at all times. See this illustrated how-to article on WikiHow to understand each step of the entire bottle feeding process of an orphaned puppy.
Puppy feeding bottles are very cheap, and quality ones on Amazon rarely go above the $5-mark. Some dog breeders prefer feeding syringes that are also very cheap. I would recommend you to buy a couple of different brands to see which one works best with your breed.
Top 5 Best Puppy Milk Replacers
Pet Ag is the leading brand for puppy milk substitutes; and there are not that many solid competitors.
Let's review the top 5 best milk replacers for puppies — feel free to ask your veterinarian for his opinion, too! As explained in the above section, dehydrated goat's milk would be the best buy but it's on the pricey side.
1. Esbilac Goat's Milk
Nutrient-wise, the very popular Esbilac Goat's Milk offers a very close puppy milk replacer to the one coming from a nursing dog's teats. It is very high in the much-needed nutrients that are quality proteins (over 30%) and fats (over 40%). More than macronutrients, this dehydrated goat's milk formula for puppies is supplying all the vitamins a growing puppy needs, including vitamins A, B12, E, D3, and plenty more minerals too!
Thanks to its premium composition, the Esbilac Goat's Milk is very palatable and highly digestible. Upon opening, make sure the expiration date is at least a couple of months later. If there has been in error in shipping, just return it explaining that you have been sent a wrong product expiring too soon.
To us, this is the best puppy milk replacer available on the market today, but it's also a little pricier than other regular products.
2. Esbilac Powder Milk Replacer
Bestselling milk replacer for puppies, Esbilac by Pet Ag is the go-to product for most dog breeders. It's not as good as dehydrated goat's milk, but it nonetheless does the job very well. It is recommended by the manufacturer for newborn pups up until they are 6 weeks old.
Balanced and complete product thanks to a smart fortification in minerals and vitamins, the Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer is made in the United States without any preservatives or artificial colorants. It is a very much trusted and complete source of nutrients for rejected whelps and orphans. It contains over 33% of crude proteins and over 40% of crude fat.
As per many customers, once opened they recommend you to use it within a few months, maximum six. There is an expiry date as well printed on the box so always check it upon reception.
3. Nutri-Vet Milk Replacement for Puppies
Veterinary-formulated, this puppy milk replacement by Nutri-Vet offers a perfect ratio of crude proteins for crude fat, as good as the Esbilac range. Also fortified in minerals, vitamins and essential amino acids, Nutri-Vet Milk Replacement is offering a product trusted by an enormous number of dog breeders in the United States.
As a proof of trust, Nutri-Vet is a member of the National Animal Supplement Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of dogs, pets and horses. They complete rigorous audits of their members to ensure the highest quality of manufacturing.
4. PetLac Milk Powder for Puppies
Gaining in popularity, the PetLac Milk Replacer For Puppies offers over 28% of crude fat and over 29% of high-quality proteins. It's very well rated and customers are raving over its seemingly high palatability with young picky puppies. It is mainly made from vegetable oil, skimmed milk, and soy protein isolate. The composition is relatively similar to the bestselling Esbilac powdered formula. I have seen many reviews also mentioning how easy it is to mix.
Price-wise, it is very comparable to Esbilac so go with the one you feel the most.
5. Esbilac Liquid Milk Replacer For Puppies
Sold by cases of 6, 12 or 24 cans, the Esbilac Liquid Puppy Milk Replacer is the ideal product for busy breeders. Just stir, open and serve. It saves you a lot of time and is generally purchased by dog breeders who have a whole litter to feed, several times every day!
Some buyers are mentioning how their puppies weren't very keen on powder formula yet devoured the liquid alternative. Clearly, there seems to be some sort of enhanced taste and texture with this liquid milk replacer for young puppies.
The composition is slightly different and it may well be the cause of why puppies seem to love it more. Indeed, Esbilac Liquid has as first ingredients condensed skimmed milk, soybean oil, cream, and sodium caseinate. Note how skimmed milk here is in first position in comparison to second in powder form.
Here as well, Esbilac has enriched and fortified the milk formula to pack it with essential vitamins, trace elements, and minerals. It's one of the most complete puppy milk replacers out there!