Tube Feeding

The Members Education Committee has been granted permission by John McGinnis, publisher of Doll McGinnis Magazines, to reprint this wonderful article. It is written by Lois Frank, and explores her methods of caring for newborn puppies, using a system other than bottle feeding. It is an invaluable tool for any breeder and makes for very interesting reading. Enjoy!

Tube-Feeding — How…when and why
By: Lois Frank

There are many reasons for supple­mental feeding of newborn puppies. I find that after C-Sections, especially in Toys, the puppies are dis­oriented because of the anesthesia and sometimes lack the sucking instinct. Also, the mother is hurting and groggy and can be unwilling to accept her new responsibilities. Occasionally, the bitch will develop an infection after giving birth and will be unable to nurse her pups. In any of these cases, you will have to take over the care and feeding of the pups at least temporarily. In some instances, the litter may be too large and there may not be enough room at the dinner table for everyone, in which case you may have to assist. But the saddest reason of all that necessitates tube feeding is that the mother dies and you are left with the orphan pups to raise. You may choose to bottle feed in any of these cases, but there are many dis­advantages to that method; if the pup ingests air with the formula it may bloat or develop colic; also, you cannot measure exactly the amount of food the pup actually consumes and he may be overeating, which also can cause colic or bloat. A big killer of newborn pups is overfeeding.

Prevention of the above problems is easy with tube feeding. When tubing, you can measure accurately at every feeding and always know that every bit of formula went into the stomach. A good rule of thumb for measuring formula is: 1 c.c. of formula per 1 ounce of body weight. A good ounce scale, then, is the first necessary piece of equipment for every breeder, for it enables you to weigh each pup DAILY and feed accordingly, increasing formula as the pup gains each ounce. (It is necessary to note here that even those who have had success with bottle feeding will have no luck with a pup who is too weak to suck, but this common future champion could be saved by tubing). As for the rest of the equipment needed, I prefer to use a #8 catheter, cut off the flared end and attach it to a clean 35cc syringe. You are now ready to measure – place the end of the catheter at the puppy’s last rib or the umbilicus, and run it the length of the body to the mouth. Mark it at that point with a twist tie from a bread wrapper. Fasten the tie tightly enough that it will not slip, but not tightly enough to stop up the feeding tube. DO NOT GUESS AT YOUR MARK – YOU MUST MEASURE AND MARK YOUR TUBE EACH DAY, FOR PUPPIES GROW QUICKLY.


Here is the formula that has worked so well for so many for so long­

13 oz. can evaporated milk
4 – egg yolks
4 oz. (1/2 cup) plain yogurt
1- tsp. (rounded) Best Foods (Hellmann’s) mayonnaise

Blend in a blender until mixed well (5-7 seconds). DO NOT OVERBLEND or it will be too frothy to use immediately. This formula can be stored in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to one week. ***Before I go any further it just occurred to me that many of you reading this are thinking “why mayonnaise?” – bitches’ milk is high in fat. Mayo adds additional fat to balance the formula and makes it as close to bitches milk as possible. “Why yogurt?” – It helps the digestive tract assimilate and utilize the nutrients better and keeps the intestinal flora in balance.

Now you are ready to begin feeding the babies. Begin by weighing the pups (remember – EVERY DAY) and record it on a weight chart; you should be keeping one on every pup. Next, take your measured catheter and syringe set-up and insert the tip of the catheter into the formula, drawing up the exact amount for the first puppy. Remove any air trapped in the syringe and then place the syringe ONLY in a bowl of hot tap water to warm the formula – if you put it into a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave it will turn to custard. If you have never tube fed before you will be more comfortable sit­ting at your kitchen table with the pup on a folded towel. With your left hand, hold the puppy’s head so that you have a straight line from mouth to stomach. With your right hand, insert the tip of the catheter into the puppy’s mouth and very GENTLY slide the catheter down the puppy’s throat. DO NOT FORCE THE TUBE DOWN – if it is in proper position it will slide down easily. If the tube should stop, back off an inch and try again. You should be holding your marker at this point, and when the marker reaches the mouth, stop inserting the tube and begin to slowly depress the plunger on the syringe and feed the necessary ounce(s) of formula to each puppy. Remember to feed only 1cc per ounce of body weight. (A 5 oz. pup gets 5cc. of formula; a 4 1/2 oz. pup only 4 1/2cc.). Once again, it is important to remind every­one not to overfeed. When you are through, withdraw the tube and go on to the next pup.

After tube feeding your whole litter, you will need to clean up both the instruments and the pups. Clean your syringe and tube thoroughly by rinsing with hot tap water. Push several syringe-fulls of hot water through the catheter and then follow up by pushing air through to get all the water out and dry the tube out. Leave to air dry until the next feeding. Do not use soap in the feeding tube or the syringe.

Because newborn pups do not eliminate on their own, you will need to provide the stimulation they need by gently rubbing them with a moistened cotton ball to stimulate their elimination. The pup will not have a bowel movement after every feeding, so PLEASE, absolutely DO NOT give newborn pups enemas or suppositories. Puppies are not born constipated. The first stool is firm and hard and will be eliminated shortly after birth. After nursing or being fed the stools will be yellow and softer. The puppy will eliminate when it is ready, with a little help from its mother or you and your cotton ball. I have heard of breeders doing the darndest things to newborns – please be very careful.

Now for the feeding schedule: Feed a healthy pup every 4 hours. A weak or sick pup needs to be fed more often, so cut the amount of formula in half and feed it every 2 hours, i.e. 2cc every 2 hours for a 4 oz. pup that is weak or sick. Remember to weigh every morning and feed accordingly. When your pups reach 13 oz. you may want to keep feeding 12cc for two or three days and then increase again. They will continue to gain weight at this point, but not at such a rapid pace, and they seem to need less food at this stage. For my own convenience I feed at 10, 2, and 6 around the clock. You won’t get much steep, but you will have healthy, con­tented puppies. At about 12 ounces or approximately 10 days of age, you can stop the 2:00 A.M. feeding.

Hopefully, most of you will not encounter situations where the above method is needed, but if you should, remember that proper nutrition is imperative to keep the newborn pups alive. Proper nutrition in the prenatal stage for the dam is equally important. Tube feeding is very simple after one gets over their fears. You will find that after the first feeding the pups will swallow the feeding tube and with a little practice you will be very comfortable with this life-saving procedure.


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