Milk replacers are commonly used in the dairy industry for newborn calves for three main reasons: economics, biosecurity and calf performance issues. But for newborn pets such as cats and dogs the reasons are somewhat different.

Milk replacers are important to have around with new litters and newborns. Sometimes the newborn dogs or cats cannot get enough nutrition from their mothers, or the supply of milk is inadequate.  Perhaps the mother dies in birth, leaving orphan animals. This is when milk replacers are essential.

Milk replacers are a simple way to keep the newborn healthy.  However, there are differences in milk replacers for pets that are the result of variance of ingredients, manufacturing technology and nutritional quality.

There are a number of adequate milk replacers on the market for pets.  These include Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer and Petlac Milk Replacers from PetAg, and KMR Milk Replacer.  These come in either a ready to use liquid format or in a powder format (which requires the addition of water).  These are formulated to provide a caloric pattern similar to mother’s milk in protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Milk replacers can be classified by protein source, protein/fat levels and inclusion of medication or additives. Protein levels in milk replacer powders typically range from 18% to 33% and fat levels from 10% to 40%.  Protein sources are generally classified as either all milk or a portion coming from alternative proteins.  These alternative proteins can include various soy sources. Protein provides essential amino acids for tissue synthesis in animals.

Crude Fat provides a concentrated energy source (2.25 times the energy of carbohydrates) and provides essential fatty acids.  Vitamin A, D and E found in milk replacers are necessary for normal growth and health of animals. However, when possible puppies and kittens should receive colostrum (mother’s first milk) for the first 2 days, since this supplies antibodies essential to disease resistance in early life. In addition, if the milk replacer is in powder form, always follow label directions when mixing and remember to warm the milk solution to body temperature before feeding.

Dr. Dan DuBourdieu