What To Feed Puppies Under 8 Weeks With No Mom

On May 29, I got a pair of 5 day old"bottle baby" puppies to foster from the Humane Society with no mom.  They had to be fed every 2 hours.  I had no clue what I was doing, but I was determined that they would live. Here is what I learned:

1. Feed on a schedule.  Puppies grow at an astronomical rate and missing even one feeding can impact their growth and slow down their growing process.  This, in turn, will affect the dog that the puppy will become.  The first week was hard, but the first few weeks are the most critical for the puppies' survival, so it was important to stick to the schedule, every 2 hours, even through the night.  If you have some helpers, now is the time to call on them! Here is a schedule for you to follow: 

Age in Weeks

How Often to Feed


Every 2 hours


Every 2.5-3.5 hours


Every 3.5-4.5 hours



Every 4.5-6 hours.  May introduce gruel


Every 5-7 hours.  


3-4 times daily, 6-8 hours.  Can still supplement with formula once or twice daily.


2.  Choose the right formula and food. When puppies are under eight weeks old, they need formula to help them grow, just like human babies.  As they grow, their bodies need additional food like hard and soft pet food.

There are a few formulas out there that might work.  I used PetLac because the Humane Society wanted the brand to say specifically "for puppies."  If you are open to other options, there is formula made for other animal babies that have most, if not all, of the same ingredients as the brands touting "for puppies."  For example, at the tractor supply store where I purchased my pet formula, I was also directed to some other animal baby formula by a store associate with at least 85% of the same ingredients as the "for puppy" brands.  These off brands of animal formulas cost significantly less than the brands and offer more product (20lbs vs 12 oz).  If you are on a budget or have a big litter to feed, off brands may be a good idea.

When puppies get teeth, you can reduce the amount of formula that they eat and introduce some puppy chow.  But, you do not want to damage puppies' teeth or digestive system by instantly offering adult dog food.

Gruel is the step between just milk and just puppy food and is quite easy to make. 

You make gruel by mixing: 4 tablespoons soft or hard puppy food and 3 tablespoons water or formula. Blend this until it is the consistency of oatmeal. 

*****Remember, your puppy is not yet an adult, and still needs milk.  Even if feeding gruel, make sure that he is getting at least two bottles of milk, either in the gruel, or at a separate feeding. *******

When your puppy's teeth are in and you he has been on gruel for one-three weeks, it's time to feed him regular puppy food most of the time.  This can be soft or hard food, but he will appreciate using his teeth on hard food.  Start out slowly, giving only a few tablespoons (no more than 3) of hard food at a time. 

My foster Queenie loved eating and when I introduced her to hard food, she ate so much WITHOUT CHEWING IT that she immediately threw up on several occasions.  To avoid this, make sure you introduce hard food in small increments until you are sure that the puppy is chewing and digesting the food. When doing this, supplement the puppy's feeding with soft dog food.  After a few days, you can feed your baby hard puppy food without restrictions.    


3. Get your bottles and cleaners.  You will need specific bottles for your fur babies.  You will need to get at least 2 bottle sizes, as the puppies may prefer one size over another.  These can usually be purchased where you bought the formula, but don't expect a wide variety.  There usually aren't.  The bottle cleaners sometimes come with the bottles or are sold alongside them.  Look online for other options.  

These are just a few of the things that I learned while fostering Delilah and Queenie until they were 9 weeks old. Support the pet foster care journey by making a purchase and joining our email list at https://www.pawses.com.