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Can Newborn Puppies Drink Cow Milk?

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Can Newborn Puppies Drink Cow Milk?

Can newborn puppies drink cow milk? Can newborn puppies drink regular milk or can newborn puppies drink people milk? These are common questions that many individuals especially dog owners are curious about. Newborn puppies really require lots of milk to grow strong and healthy but certainly, the milk should not be coming from a cow. Feeding newborn puppies is not the same as feeding adult dogs. Newborn puppies, just like babies, have different dietary needs and care must be taken especially when it comes to feeding them. Whether your puppy is orphaned or your mother dog is refusing to nurse, learning more about what milk is appropriate for your puppy is very important from a health and nutritional standpoint.

Are puppies on the way?

Are puppies on the way?

Can Newborn Puppies Drink Cow Milk?

Can newborn puppies drink cow milk? Feeding newborn puppies the wrong type of foods or milk can lead to digestive problems and other health issues.

Feeding them with regular cow’s milk is definitely a big no because cow’s milk is different from dog’s milk and therefore cow milk can harm newborn puppies. Therefore, dog owners are not advised to feed newborn puppies with cow milk. Why is that though? Why can't puppies be given cow milk?

Cow milk is quite different from mother dog's milk as the constituents of milk vary from one species to another. Cows are not dogs and dogs are not cows, and the main difference among the two is the amount of lactose.

According to Dr. Foster and Smith, cow milk contains around 5 percent lactose while dog milk milk contains just 3.7 percent. Cow milk also contains lower percentages of protein and fat which makes it unsuitable as a puppy milk replacer. Using cow’s milk to nurture a newborn born puppy can therefore lead to diarrhea in newborn puppies, painful abdomen and soft stools.

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"Cow’s and goat’s milk do not contain as much fat, protein, or calories as milk from queens and bitches and therefore should be avoided." ~Wills and Morris, 1996

Do not Use Cow’s Milk for Newborn Puppies

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There are instances where feeding newborn puppies milk becomes necessary. This is probably because of loss of mother dog or abandonment. The reasons might also be the inability of mother to produce sufficient amount of milk or the newborn may not be strong enough to receive such nutrition.

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Some mother dogs may develop mastitis, an infection of the nipples which makes nursing painful and the milk produced may even harmful to the puppies (toxic milk syndrome). Feeding newborn puppies can be best accomplished through bottle feeding which is especially designed for newborn puppies. Newborn puppies who are weak and not able to suckle well may benefit from being dropper fed for a few days.

Instead of using cow’s milk, it would be best to use a formulated milk replacer made just for puppies instead. If you’re using milk replacer, make sure to follow the instructions carefully. You will find canned liquid and powdered formulas. If powdered replacer is used, it is highly essential to follow instruction for reconstruction of the manufacturers. Powdered milk replacer for puppies must be reconstituted with water.

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Are puppies on the way?

Are puppies on the way?

The Bottom Line 

So can newborn puppies drink cow milk? As seen, cow's milk is not a safe alternative to mother dog's milk. Choose a commercial milk replacer instead. Esbilac is a popular brand that is purposely made to closely match mother's dog milk. The right type of milk can really make a difference in helping a puppy thrive at difficult times.

Also, remember to keep the puppy warm as puppies cannot process food if their internal body temperatures are too low. You must help the puppy to eliminate by using a warm damp cotton ball to mimic mother dog's tongue. On top of fulfilling a newborn's puppy nutritional needs, newborn puppies also deserve the best love and care. You can do your part by ensuring that the milk you feed them is healthy and safe.

Did you know? It's very important puppies that puppies have an opportunity to nurse during the first 24-48 hours which is when mother dog produces "colostrum," a special milk that is rich in antibodies.


This golden colored "milk" is provides the vulnerable pups with enough passive immunity to survive that window of time when they're most vulnerable to infectious diseases. If you are using a puppy milk replacer, it might be wise to use one that has colostrum added.

Photo credit:

  • Flickr, creative commons, Kate Brady, Smooshy, CCBY2.0

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