Watching a tiny puppy cry out in hunger is, in a word, heartbreaking. Fortunately, there are a number of puppy milk replacements that you can use to bottle feed a hungry little harrier or starving Shih Tzu.
But not all milk replacers are created equally, and you’ll want to select the best possible option to ensure your peckish pup gets the nutrition he needs.
Quick Picks: Best Puppy Milk Replacements
- PICK #1: Pet Ag Esbilac [Highly Palatable Puppy Milk]. A popular powdered puppy milk formula with dried skimmed milk and butterfat (among other ingredients).
- PICK #2: PetLac [A Great Cow Milk-Based Option]. A formula made from dried skim cow milk, soy, and vegetable oil. Also includes several probiotic strains.
- PICK #3: Goat’s Milk Esbilac [A Goat Milk-Based Option]. A good option for dogs who can digest cow’s milk, although goat’s milk is less nutritionally suitable for pups.
Continue reading for more in-depth reviews
Reasons You May Need Milk Replacers for Puppies
Most dog litters proceed from whelping to weaning without difficulty.
Mother Nature has gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that mammals can feed their offspring – she even built in a few redundancies to help cope with problems. For example, most mammals have twice as many nipples as the average number of offspring; and thankfully, litters containing more offspring than nipples are quite rare.
But bad things happen. Milk dams can die during labor or develop illnesses that prevent them from producing or delivering the milk required. Many litters contain a runt, who simply has trouble competing with his siblings.
In such cases, you’ll need to provide some alternative nourishment to keep your pups alive and give them the best chances for living a long, healthy life.
Why Not Just Give Puppies Cow Milk?
As you may expect, Mother Nature also put a lot of work into creating a good recipe for puppy milk.
In fact, the milk of every species is uniquely tailored to the needs of the growing young. People milk is good for growing people, cow milk is good for growing cows and almond milk – well, that’s a whole different thing, but you take my point.
The point is, cow milk is not very good at growing healthy puppies. Cow milk lacks the appropriate ratio of amino acids for puppies, and its basic composition is inappropriate for puppy maintenance. Cow milk only has about half of the fat and one-third of the protein that dog milk does, yet it has much more sugar. Additionally, cow milk is much thinner than dog milk. The composition of goat milk is even less suitable for dogs.
Additionally, in practice, cow and goat milk often cause digestive upset in puppies. Some puppies can be allergic to cow or goat milk, which can lead to even more serious complications.
The good news is that, most puppies appear to tolerate the dehydrated/powdered forms of these milks better. In fact, many powdered versions are used as the base for milk-replacement products.
Still, it’s best to get products designed specifically to serve as milk replacement for puppies. These uniquely tailored puppy milk replacements also include a number of supplemental ingredients, which will help to make up for the differences between puppy milk and cow milk.
If you’ve found yourself in a position where you’ll have to bottle feed a puppy DIY style, the video below can help provide some guidance on bottle feeding your pup:
Editor’s Note: This video features a small mistake. It indicates that the proper Esbilac : Water ratio is 2:1, when it is actually the opposite — you want to mix one part Esbilac with two cups of water.
The Best Milk Replacers for Puppies
If you find yourself in need of a high-quality puppy milk replacer, consider the following five products. Each has received high marks from dog owners who have tried them, and they are all designed to provide the nutrition your puppies need to grow up big and strong.
1. Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacement Powder
Highly palatable recipe
This easily digestible puppy milk is made with vegetable-oil and milk-based formula. Plus, it’s fortified with essential vitamins and minerals
About: Esbilac Powder is an easily digestible, highly palatable puppy milk replacement formula designed to deliver high-quality nutrition for your pre-weaned pups.
- The vegetable-oil- and milk-based formula is easy for puppies to digest
- Fortified with vitamins and minerals to provide the complete nutrition a growing puppy needs
- Can be refrigerated and stored for 24 hours after mixing
Most owners speak highly of Esbilac Milk Replacement Powder. It’s also used by a number of veterinarians, professional breeders, and animal shelters to feed young puppies in need of a bottle diet.
A few owners shared that this formulation did not work for their puppies, but this may not have been due to the formula, and any number of other factors could have been at work. This occurs with nearly all milk replacement formulas, as very young puppies are quite fragile and can fail to thrive for a number of reasons.
Vegetable oil, dried skimmed milk, casein, cream, DL-methionine...,
L-arginine, calcium carbonate, choline chloride, lecithin, magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, monopotassium phosphate, salt, tricalcium phosphate, carrageenan, dipotassium phosphate, taurine, ascorbic acid, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, vitamin A supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, calcium pantothenate, copper sulfate, thiamine hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, manganese sulfate, vitamin D3 supplement, potassium citrate, potassium iodide, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, biotin.
2. Nutri-Vet Milk Replacement for Puppies
Powdered milk for pups
A powdered mix formula that contains all nutrition, calories, vitamins, minerals and proteins your puppies need to grow and thrive.
About: Nutri-Vet Milk Replacement is a powdered mix that is designed to provide your young puppies with all of the nutrition and calories they need to grow and thrive.
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals and proteins containing key amino acids
- Can also be used for supporting elderly of convalescent dogs
- Mixed formula can be stored for up to 24 hours if refrigerated
Most owners who have used Nutri-Vet Milk Replacement have expressed extreme satisfaction with the product. Most remarked that it was easy to mix and administer, and that their puppies grew into healthy, happy adults after using this formula.
There aren’t many owners who have complained about Nutri-Vet Milk Replacement in any way, shape or form. It does contain artificial flavor though, which is not ideal.
Animal & Vegetable Fat (Preserved with BHA and BHT), Dried Whey Protein Concentrate...,
Dried Whey, Sodium Caseinate, Dicaclium Phosphate, Dried Corn Syrup, L-Arginine, DL-Methionine, Spray Dried Egg Product, Calcium Carbonate, Lecithin, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Chloride, Dried Colostrum, Choline Chloride, Magnesium Oxide, Iron Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Cobalt Sulfate, DL-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Vitamin A Acetate, D-Activated Animal Sterol (Source of Vitamin D3), Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin B1[/thrive_toggles_group]2 Supplement, Riboflavin, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, L-Lysine, Mono and Diglycerides of Edible Fats or Oils, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Artificial Flavor
3. Goat’s Milk Esbilac
Goat’s milk-based formula
This easy to mix recipe is made with natural, dried whole goats milk with no preservatives added.
About: Esbilac’s Goat’s Milk Formula is a goat’s-milk-based replacement product, made without cow’s milk. This type of recipe can be easier for some dogs with unique intolerance issues to digest, and therefore a superior option in such cases.
- Dried whole goat milk is the first listed ingredient
- Can be stored for 24 hours after mixing if refrigerated
- Fortified with vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development
- Can also be used for convalescent or post-operative dogs, as well as orphaned squirrels, rabbits or opossums
Most owners reported that their puppies digested the food very well and grew as they should when fed Goat’s Milk Esbilac. It’s also handy that you can also freeze the unmixed powder for up to 6 months, if need be.
Goat’s milk is actually less like dog’s milk than cow’s milk is, so nutritionally it’s not usually ideal. However, some dogs simply digest it better.
Dried whole goat milk, soybean oil, calcium sodium caseinate, calcium carbonate...,
choline chloride, monopotassium phosphate, salt, L-arginine, DL-methionine, lecithin, dipotassium phosphate, carrageenan, magnesium sulfate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, silicon dioxide, copper sulfate, vitamin E supplement, calcium pantothenate, ascorbic acid, niacinamide, maltodextrins, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, manganese sulfate, folic acid, riboflavin, vitamin B12 supplement, thiamine hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride, biotin.
4. PetLac Milk Powder for Puppies
Made with skim milk
This powdered formula is crafted with dry skimmed milk and vegetable oil, along with six different probiotic strains to support your pups digestive function.
About: PetLac Milk Powder is a vegetable-oil and cow’s-milk-based formula, designed to help your puppies survive when natural dog milk is unavailable.
- Made with dry skimmed milk and soy to provide the protein a growing puppy needs
- Fortified with vitamins and minerals to ensure complete nutrition
- Made with six different probiotic strains to support proper digestive function and the breakdown of lactose
Most owners spoke very highly of this puppy milk replacer. Several owners also appreciated the fact that the powder was very fine, as this makes it easier to mix the formula.
Like other cow’s milk formulations, PetLac Milk Powder proved difficult for some puppies to digest. However, this occasionally occurs with almost all puppy milk replacement products.
Vegetable oil, dried skimmed milk, soy protein isolate, casein, dicalcium phosphate...,
maltodextrins, choline chloride, sucrose, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried L. fermentum fermentation product, dried L. acidophilus fermentation product, dried L. plantarum fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium bifidum fermentation product, dried Pediococcus acidilactici fermentation product, monopotassium phosphate, L-arginine, DL-methionine, fructooligosaccharide, magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, taurine, ferrous sulfate, natural and artificial flavor, salt, dipotassium phosphate, calcium pantothenate, ascorbic acid, niacin supplement, copper gluconate, zinc sulfate, folic acid, silicon dioxide, vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin, vitamin B12 supplement, thiamine hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, ethylenediamine dihyrdoiodide, biotin.[/thrive_toggles]
5. Manna Pro Nurse All Non-Medicated Milk Replacer
Great for many baby animals
This easy-to-mix powdered formula is compatible for 9 different baby animals. It features milk as the only protein source and is made without soy.
About: Manna Pro Milk Replacer is actually formulated for 9 different baby animals (calves, foals, goat kids, baby pigs, fawns, alpacas and elk calves), but some dog owners have used it to support pre-weaned puppies.
This may be a good choice for your puppies – just be sure to check with your vet first, as this formula is a bit different.
- Protein is derived solely from milk products
- Supplemented with vitamins and minerals to ensure your baby animals get the nutrition they need
- Easy to mix powdered formula is quite convenient
- Supplemented with two different probiotics to support proper digestive health
Manna Pro Nurse has proven very helpful for pet owners and farmers who are trying to take care of a wide variety of animals. All of the protein in this product is derived from milk, and it is made without soy, which occasionally serves as an allergen for dogs.
The biggest downside to Manna Pro Nurse is that it isn’t formulated specifically for dogs. Nevertheless, some owners have reported success with the product, so it bears consideration. Just be sure to consult with your vet any time you use a product for “off-label” purposes.
Dried whey protein concentrate, animal fat (preserved with BHA and BHT)...,
dried whey product, dried skimmed milk, dried whey, dried milk protein, coconut oil, lecithin, potassium sorbate (a preservative), citric acid (a preservative), dicalcium phosphate, hydrolyzed yeast, brewer’s dried yeast, l-lysine, calcium carbonate, calcium silicate, maltodextrin, artificial flavor, dl-methionine, sodium silico aluminate, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, ferrous sulfate, vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, dextrose, zinc sulfate, selenium yeast, vitamin A supplement, manganese sulfate, ascorbic acid, niacin supplement, biotin, vitamin D3 supplement, calcium pantothenate, vitamin B12 supplement, copper sulfate, folic acid, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, cobalt sulfate, mineral oil, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), and pyridoxine hydrochloride.
It is wise to have puppy milk replacers on hand before you need them, so you don’t have to make your choice in haste as you look down on a hungry puppy, who’s looking to you for help.
Professional breeders, rescue organizations, and plain-old pet parents with a pregnant dog should go ahead and keep a few days’ worth of milk replacer, should you need it. They aren’t terribly expensive, but the cost you’ll pay for not having one can be tragically high.
Have you ever used a milk replacement formula to raise a puppy or two? How did it go? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!
Need more info on caring for pups? Make sure to also check out our guides on: