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Colostrum for Dogs – the Importance of Puppies’ First Milk

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Colostrum is the first milk produced by a mother dog after giving birth and is rich in antibodies and growth factors.
  • Colostrum for dogs is necessary for the growth and development of newborn puppies, as it provides immune-boosting properties and protects against diseases.
  • Colostrum promotes gut health by sealing the lining of the gut and preventing inflammation and allergies.
  • Colostrum can aid in wound healing due to its insulin-like growth factors.
  • If colostrum is not available, there are colostrum substitutes that can be used to provide passive immunity to newborn puppies. Additionally, colostrum supplements can be given to adult dogs to boost their immune system.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Friday 28 June 2019
Last updated on
Tuesday 25 July 2023
colostrum for dogs (first-milk)
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Colostrum for dogs is a nutritious, balanced, and protective food. A newborn needs it after losing contact with the placenta. The placenta is a pouch that was providing them with nutrition for growth in the mother’s womb. Colostrum is not breast milk.

This article sheds light on canine colostrum, its benefits, and what colostrum supplement for dogs to pick. We will also cover the importance of puppies’ first milk after birth and how it helps them survive.

What is Colostrum for Dogs?

The first milk produced by a mother dog after giving birth to her puppies is called colostrum. Colostrum is a special substance that is present in the mother’s breasts before and after the puppies are born. The puppies are protected in a sterile environment inside the mother until they are born, but now they need something to protect them outside the womb.

Colostrum is a natural fluid that is rich in antibodies and is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a newborn puppy. The mother’s milk for puppies contains immunoglobulins, which are antibodies, as well as growth factors and other important compounds.

It’s important to note that colostrum for dogs cannot be artificially produced. However, it is crucial for providing essential nutrients and immune boosters to the newborn puppies. Colostrum acts as a health supplement for the puppies, providing a wide range of immune factors that help boost their immune system, support their oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract, musculoskeletal system, and even benefit their skin.

In summary, colostrum is a vital substance that nature provides to help newborn puppies stay healthy and strong. It’s like a special superfood that gives them the nutrients and immune support they need to thrive in their early days of life.

What Does Colostrum Contain?

The production of mothers’ milk for puppies (first milk) takes place in the last weeks of pregnancy. Colostrum comprises of several mammary gland secretions combined with proteins. These are transported to the blood under the effect of hormones. It results in a higher concentration of immunoglobulins in comparison to regular milk.

Colostrum for dogs embeds several important ingredients, such as:

  • Antibodies – Colostrum has a range of factors linked to the nonspecific immune system. It includes lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, and lactoferrin. These have a toxic effect on microbes such as viruses and/or bacteria.
  • Mediators – Colostrum has soluble mediators. Also known as cytokines, these include interferon or interleukins. These mediators assist in inflammation, immune cell recruitment, and immune regulation.
  • Sugars – oligosaccharides affect pathogen growth. They boost the growth of beneficial microflora in the large intestine. Colostrum, in particular, has a profound effect on gut health.
  • Growth Factors – Apart from the immune mediators, colostrum for dogs has a range of growth factors. It has insulin-like growth factors such as fibroblast, epithelial, endothelial, and platelet-derived growth factors. It promotes healthy activity in the gut and acts systematically.

These ingredients help in strengthening the dog’s intestinal tract. It can protect itself from harmful bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites. Life-threatening toxins entering the body stop too.

first milk for puppies (contents and benefits)
The benefits of colostrum (first milk) for puppies is trifold: nutrition, growth, and protection.

What Are The Benefits Of Colostrum For Dogs?

Colostrum for dogs is beneficial for their growth and development. Without first milk, newborn puppies would have no protection against bacteria, viruses, and parasites. They would most likely die within days.

There are many benefits of providing newborn puppies with colostrum; the topmost is initiating the immune system. However, it does not end here. Colostrum is a concentrated liquid that has many more benefits, including the following:

Jumpstarts the Immune System

As the mother’s first milk, dog colostrum helps in maintaining the health of a newborn puppy. First milk has immune-boosting properties. Immunoglobulin acts as an antibody and fights against infectious microbes. Lactoferrin, an iron-binding whey protein in colostrum, can bind to harmful pathogens that enter the body.

Besides, it has other biological roles to play. It is also a source of iron. It enables antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulatory, and antioxidant activities. Lactoperoxidase, an enzyme, with its antimicrobial activities, works against the gram-positive microbes. It also shows a bactericidal action against gram-negative organisms.

Disease Prevention


A dog mothers’ first milk helps in preventing plenty of diseases in littermates, including some chronic ones like cancer as well.

As it is a rich source of interleukins, interferons, and lymphokines, colostrum is useful in managing a few types of cancer. Interferons and interleukins stimulate the WBCs that look for and kill neoplastic cells.

The similar antiviral activity helps protect dogs against flu, and it is three times more effective than the dog flu vaccine, especially against H3N8 and H3N2. Besides, it prevents other diseases like leptospirosis, Lyme disease, bordetella, and canine parvovirus.

Promotes Gut Health

Ninety percent of immune system functions take place in the gastrointestinal tract. The primary role of colostrum is to maintain gut health. It seals the lining of the gut. It ensures no undigested food moves through and develops allergy and inflammation symptoms.

Several studies have put forward the beneficial effects of colostrum in canines. These reverse chronic health issues and irritation in the gut due to yeast or Candida albicans.

Colostrum for dogs has probiotics and an antibiotic activity to help restore gut flora. Further, it helps in healing a leaky gut.

Prevents Allergies

Colostrum has Proline-Rich-Polypeptides (PRP). This hormone can do two things:

  1. boost an under-active immune system, or
  2. regulate the hyperactive immune system in case of allergies.

Down-regulation is vital for controlling autoimmune diseases. Colostrum treats autoimmune diseases, including allergies and arthritis. When a highly active immune system is unable to identify its cells from the different molecules, it starts attacking its tissues. It is a hyper response to a harmless molecule.

Some researchers believe that PRP can lessen the allergic symptoms. It is possible due to the ability of dog colostrum to suppress the overproduction of T-cells and lymphocyte-related to allergies. A few studies show that PRP is anti-inflammatory.

Wound Healing

Colostrum is a rich source of insulin-like substance. We call this Growth Factor or IGF, primarily, IGF-1 and IGF-2. However, IGF is useful for tissue regeneration, and it helps in increasing the production of building blocks of protein. The latter initiates tissue healing and repair process. Once this starts, tissue regeneration continues.

IGF boosts healing in oral and skin health issues such as insect bites, ear infections, cysts, and wounds due to operational processes. Colostrum for dogs works due to the combination of antimicrobial activity of the immunoglobulins. The first milk improves the body repair and healing process.

When Do Puppies Drink The Colostrum?


It is vital for the newborn puppies to get first milk or colostrum. It should take place within 12 hours of their birth to build immunity as they have none. If they fail, they won’t be able to build passive immunity. The protein-rich special milk provides passive immunity in dogs. It can last several weeks and protect them from various infections and diseases.

Also, the digestive system of a puppy more than 12 hours old cannot soak the antibodies present in colostrum anymore. If they drink post this time, it won’t be as effective. It is sufficient as they start building theirs in the meantime.

So, what if the mother dog doesn’t produce colostrum? Is this the end? No need to panic. Since there are many substitutes available. Sometimes, when giving birth is difficult, a mother is too tired to feed the puppies.

A few other unfortunate incidents can happen. During labor, milk dams can die, or they may contact illness that forbids production or delivery of the first milk needed for the puppies. Sometimes even some newborns find it challenging to compete with their siblings. In such circumstances, they need colostrum substitutes.

When mother dog colostrum is not available, what is the option? The puppies need something to build their passive immunity.

Colostrum Substitutes for Puppies

Collecting plasma is the best option. Plasma is a key component of mammal blood, and it can provide newborn puppies’ with immunity they need. It can be collected from the mother before birth or a healthy adult dog.

A vet can collect plasma effectively by:

  • extracting blood from a healthy adult dog,
  • separating plasma from the blood, and
  • freezing it in different tubes.

Now, to feed a newborn puppy, bring plasma to room temperature, and use a medicine dropper to pour it into the mouth of the puppy. One must place the dropper at one corner of the mouth to ensure it the mouth is open. Here are some precautions:

  • Keep the dropper inside the mouth at an appropriate angle and not at the back of the throat. It prevents the plasma from entering the lungs of the puppies.
  • Injecting the plasma under the skin is another option, ask your vet about this.
  • The serum is another component of blood. It, too, can provide immunity. You can consult your vet for it. A healthy adult dog’s blood can provide serum too.

What is Fading Puppy syndrome?

The Fading Puppy Syndrome is a condition in which the puppies are normal when born but start to “fade”, and then die in the first two weeks of their life. It is the time when the puppies have not developed active immunity of their own and are more prone to environmental stress and falling ill. It happens as they cannot regulate their body temperature.

Normal pre-weaning deaths in dogs, including stillborn puppies and miscarriages, can be up to thirty percent (30%), with about half of these deaths occurring within the first week of life. It is rather unfortunate, but if colostrum is not available, then the puppy may even die.

Too small puppies with no (or poor) ability to maintain energy balance and fluid can fall prey to fading puppy syndrome. Their susceptibility to develop infections is high. These reasons are responsible for the death of these small puppies.

It is even more vital in the case of orphaned puppies. Ensure that they are warm and hydrated well. The body temperature of the newborn puppy should be between 29 to 32 degrees Celsius besides other hosts of precautions. These things make it necessary to remain in touch with a veterinarian and feed them with colostrum as soon as possible.

Is There a Colostrum Supplement For Puppies?

Yes! There are a few. And these are great for puppies that are struggling, underweight, or runts. Colostrum supplements for puppies have numerous benefits. Moreover, researchers are investigating its potential to treat conditions such as a leaky gut or heart disease.

These supplements do not replace the first milk that puppies receive in the first days of life. Instead, they act as immune defense boosters for older puppies.

These supplements are affordable and safe. Give them to your puppy to strengthen their immune system and help resolve the current issue. For example, they can help prevent the flu. By providing a colostrum supplement to an orphaned puppy, you can ensure they have a longer life. If you notice any issues, take the puppy to the vet immediately.

Alternatively, you can find a surrogate mother for the puppy or create a favorable environment for it. Establish a feeding schedule and use a bottle to feed them. You can also use a colostrum substitute or consider using a supplement for newborns.

Can Adult Dogs Have Colostrum?

Yes, adult dogs can have colostrum. Bovine colostrum has multi-systemic benefits. Irrespective of the age, all the dogs can reap benefits from BC supplements. Bovine colostrum has several bioactive components with varied and overlapping activities.

One of the variations lies in the amount of dose provided. It can start with a teaspoon (about 5 gm). The dose varies from 14 mg thrice to 60 mg daily. It depends on the size of the pet. Bovine colostrum is usually available in powdered form. It is hygroscopic and sticks to the pieces of dry food. Mix it with fresh or wet food or go for “top dressing.”

Although it has similar benefits as the milk colostrum, you need not soak it into the gut like the puppies. Veterinary science uses colostrum for many purposes for many illnesses to improve health.

Dog colostrum provides passive immunity and is also useful to lead a healthy life. Consult a veterinarian if a mother cannot give the puppy with it. If not, then it is essential to feed them with a colostrum alternative or supplement.

The newborn puppies who have ample colostrum from their mother’s milk do not respond to any vaccination as the antibodies received from their mother interfere. This is also the reason; the orphaned puppies need to be vaccinated every 3 to 4 weeks from the day they turn 16 weeks.

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