Tube Feeding Puppies: A Quick Guide for New Dog Owners

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Tube Feeding Puppies: A Quick Guide for New Dog Owners

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Tube feeding is not the most ideal way of administering food to a puppy but circumstances sometimes call for it. For instance, if a puppy has no strength to suckle or the mother went through a C-section, she will need help with feeding. While bottle feeding is a viable option, using a tube is the safest and efficient method. If you are interested in how to go about it, here’s a detailed guide that explains the ins and outs of tube feeding puppies.

Preparing The Tube

The first time you feed your puppy through a tube, you will be confused and frustrated. Don’t worry; everyone goes through the motions. The best way to get the technique right is to have your vet demonstrate it to you. Once you feel ready to do it, carry out the first trial under the watch of the vet, either at the clinic or home. If they are far away, you can have them talk you through it over the phone.

First things first,weigh the puppy to determine how much food they need. Next, measure the length between the puppy’s nostril and his last rib. This is how long the feeding tube will go into the puppy. Mark the tube with a marker. Follow this step every day because puppies grow rapidly.

How To Tube Feed

Draw formula into the syringe and catheter. Go slightly above what you need (one cc over the pup’s requirement is good). Next, place a towel on your lap and have the puppy sit with her chest and head on an incline. Hold her head gently and open her mouth with the same hand. Direct the feeding tube into the mouth (avoid inserting from the side) and wait for the puppy to swallow the tube. Avoid pushing it down the throat forcefully. Once the tube reaches the esophagus, the dog will swallow it through reflex action. Stop the tube at the marked point, attach the free end of the tube then press the syringe gently to dispense the milk. After the puppy takes half the amount of the meal, withdraw the tube and burp. After burping, reinsert the tube and feed the remaining meal. At the end of the feeding, the puppy’s tummy should be round and full. Encourage her to defecate and urinate.

You can also watch this amazing video by Dr. Greer from Revival Animal Health:

A Word Of Caution

Tube feeding can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Here are a few things to take care of when feeding the puppy.

  • Ensure the syringe has no air before inserting it into the puppy. Push the formula through the tube prior. You don’t want to feed the dog air rather than milk.
  • Direct the tube to the gut rather than the lungs. If the liquid finds its way to the trachea, it will cause suffocation and pneumonia.
  • If the puppy gags or coughs as you try to feed them, stop and start the process again. Chances are the tube ended up in the trachea rather than the gut.
  • If the puppy throws up the milk, stop feeding. Wait for the next meal to administer the formula.

How Much Should You Tube Feed A Puppy?

The weight of the puppy is what determines how much formula to consume. For every ounce, give 1 ml or cc of milk. This means that a 2 ounce puppy needs 2ml of a milk replacer and a 5 ounce requires 5ml.

How Long Can A Dog Have A Feeding Tube?

The length of time your puppy will be fed through a tube will depend on how long the puppy needs assisted feeding. Some puppies learn how to eat by themselves in a few weeks while others take longer. Puppies are typically weaned off breast milk at around 3-4 weeks. By then, they should begin eating solid foods without the help of tubes. If the puppy has an underlying problem, you might need to keep feeding them via a tube until they get better.

How Many mL Should A Newborn Puppy Drink?

This depends on the weight of the puppy at birth. Weight is a breed issue. For instance, you cannot expect a Lab’s puppy to weigh the same as a Pomeranian puppy. On average, a Labrador retriever puppy weighs 12-15 ounces at birth. This means they should drink up to 12-15 ml of milk at a time. A Chihuahua puppy, on the other hand, has a weight ranging from 2.5-5.5 ounces meaning she needs 2.5-5.5 lm of water during every meal. Please note that this is the amount to be given at birth. Puppies gain weight rapidly if they are well fed. It is not a surprise to have your tiny puppy double her size within the first two weeks of her. Develop the habit of weighing her every day to know how much food to give.

What Are The Best Times To Feed A Puppy?

According to PetMD, puppies should be fed three times a day. The first meal is to be taken at 7 AM, the second one at noon, and the last one at 5 PM. After the last meal, encourage the puppy to eliminate before going to bed. If possible, maintain this feeding routine until the puppy is 14-18 weeks old.

Speaking of routines, do you know that there is an easy way to keep your dog’s routine,schedules, records and other important information organized in one place? Well, the go-to tool you need is a Dog Printable Planner. With a planner, you can gather all information about your dog and put it in a binder. This way, you can reach out for it anytime you want. There are situations when you will need a sitter, a friend, a relative, or a neighbor to watch over your dog. When that happens, the person can use the information on the planner to best take care of the dog in your absence. Check out the printable here.

What Size Feeding Tube For A Newborn Puppy?

The tube to be used is determined by the distance between the puppy’s nostril and her last rib. Essentially, the end of the tube should be placed in level with the 9th rib. The rest of it should lie along the puppy’s lateral chest to the mouth. The easiest is to grab the tube and place it on the puppy’s mouth and measure it to the esophagus just next to the stomach. That is what should go into the puppy.

Tube Feeding Puppy With Cleft Palate

A puppy with a cleft palate is a dog whose tissues between the nose and the mouth don’t fuse properly causing an opening that can allow food to enter the nasal cavity. The said puppy also has a hard time latching to nurse. Sometimes they get very little or nothing despite nursing for a long time.  If you end up with such, you have no choice but to feed them through a tube for about three months or until they undergo correctional surgery. Here are a few tips to consider when feeding cleft palate puppies.

  • Feed the puppy every 2-4 hours until they turn three to four months old.
  • Be careful about inserting the tube into the puppy’s stomach. With the opening cleft palate, you can easily direct the milk to the nasal cavity. Let the vet administer the first few feedings to be safe.
  • Cleft palate puppies are likely to gain weight at a slower rate than their normal counterparts. As a result, parents tend to overfeed them in a bid to motivate weight gain. However, overfeeding the pup will cause gut issues and throat irritation.
  • Don’t worry if the puppy is not gaining weight as he should at first. He will catch up later in life.
  • After feeding, pull the tube quickly. If you go too slowly, the pup may regurgitate putting them at high risk for pneumonia. You can blow air at the face to distract the puppy from gagging.

Best Tube Feeding Puppies Kit (And Supplies)

1. LBH Market Puppy Feeding Tube Kit

The LBH Market Puppy Feeding Tube Kit is a simple package of one feeding tube and one syringe. It utilizes a 35cc syringe that connects to the funnel end of the tube. The other end is where liquids and food is dispensed to the puppy. It has a closed round tip and two openings on either side to make feeding effective and convenient. At room temperature, the tube is soft, flexible, and resilient perfect for tube feeding.

2. SEZONS Premium Puppy Tube Feeding Kit

With a score of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, the SEZONS Premium Puppy Tube Feeding Kit is a quality product in the market. It is easy to use and clean making it a convenient tool out there. The kit comes with three feeding tubes (16 inches long) which is the perfect size for puppies and kittens. Each of the tubes is extra soft and has a rounded tip to make feeding comfortable for your pet. The kit comes with three feeding tubes, one sterile bulb syringe, a sterile catheter tip syringe, and alcohol prep swab wipes.

3. Lifeline Pet Supplies Puppy Clear Tube Feeding Kit

This amazing clear tube feeding kit from Lifeline is a real lifesaver if you have a young dog that won’t feed naturally. With a simple package of a sterilized bag, a syringe, and a sturdy tube, it is a great choice for beginners. The tube comes in various sizes, so you can pick the right one for your pup. What we love about the tubes is that they can be sterilized and reused. Also, as long as you store them in lukewarm water, they will always remain soft and flexible.

4. Pet-Ag Nursing Kit  Bottle

The Pet-Ag Nursing Kit is a great accessory to have for a household with a newborn puppy that needs help feeding. The tubes are soft and comfortable to mimic the mother’s nipple and thus offer the puppy the feeling of natural suckling. With a cleaning brush, you can easily stay on top of cleaning with no hassle.

Parting Thoughts

Tube feeding a puppy is worrisome and stressful at first but when you get the hang of it, you will have an easier time. Stick with it until the puppy can stand on her own. Even then, gradually wean her off to avoid shocking her fragile system.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3

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Sable M. is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.