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Through strange circumstances I have come upon an abandoned infant puppy. Eyes still closed.

Commercial dog milk / powder is not an option here. So I'll be giving it a mix of : Cow milk + water + egg yolk + multivitamin + enzymes. There are some formulae online for this.

On top of this, is it a good idea to give it bovine colostrum? There seem to be some resources that claim it is. Does anyone know any better/different or have first hand experience with this sort of thing?

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I have no practical experience with feeding infant puppies, so please understand this as a theoretical answer.

Colostrum is the first milk a mammalian mother (human or animal) produces for each baby. It contains all the proteins, minerals and antibodies of normal milk, but in higher concentrations. It provides the baby with the initial immunological defense after being born. But the mother's body usually only produces it for 2 - 5 days after birth and quickly switches to producing "normal" mother's milk after that time.

So if your puppy is older than 5 days and had a chance to suckle milk from it's mother in those first days, it doesn't really require colostrum in it's diet. That's especially true if your puppy received a booster shot for the immune system from a vet.

Since your puppy is still very young and colostrum also contains growth factors and nutrients in a very concentrated form, it will certainly be beneficial to feed some colostrum for as long as the puppy drinks milk, but it's not a requirement. And seeing that there are quality issues with colostrum, I would probably forgo it:

From Wikipedia:

There is also research suggesting that a large proportion of colostrum is not fit for human consumption "due to tremendous bacterial loads". Salmonella was also detected in 15% of unpasteurised samples.[51] Pasteurisation reduces the bioactive proteins many of the benefits rely upon, however.

However, colostrum has some additional health benefits, especially for the digestive tract. So if your puppy is suffering from any infectious disease or diarrhea caused by bacteria or any other problem with the digestive tract, feeding colostrum can have some benefits even later in life. Colostrum itself is a laxative, so feeding too much can actually cause diarrhea, but it can help with constipation.

Please be aware that the beneficial compounds in colostrum are destroyed if it's heated above 42°C.

To sum it up: it's complicated.

Colostrum does have beneficial effects for the immune system and gut health of newborn animals, but only if it's of good quality and not contaminated with bacteria itself.

From Wikipedia:

Bovine colostrum's components benefit the immune and digestive health of animals of all ages and species. Bovine colostrum's vast array of bioactive components collectively increase resistance to infection and disease caused by a wide range of pathogens including bacteria and viruses. The quality of the colostrum is essential in providing the essential benefits. Both contaminated early bovine colostrum at the farm level or late transition milk or milk are poor sources of the important colostral components necessary to maintain life and achieve and maintain healthy animal maturation and homoeostasis. Bovine colostrum also is beneficial in repairing or healing intestinal damage as well as increasing the absorption of nutrients from the GI tract. These properties and benefits are consistent among human and animal species.

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  • Great answer! +1. Sorry to repeat some of your advice, but I thought it was important to add how long a puppy can actually absorb the antibodies. Sep 7, 2023 at 13:04
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    I found a paper that states what you said about bovine colostrum contamination (the paper is from Ireland.) It is so contaminated that the calves given low temperature/long period heat treated colostrum fared better than those fed raw colostrum. Ugh. Sep 9, 2023 at 0:37
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There are several reasons colostrum is important to a newborn: it is nutrition dense, it is a laxative which helps the gut empty itself of meconium, and most importantly, it provides widespread immunity to bacteria and viruses in that animal's environment.

There's no need to feed colostrum to your puppy for a very basic reason: the absorption of colostrum is time sensitive, and for puppies, the antibodies in colostrum are only absorbed for the first 12 hours of life.

The intestinal barrier of puppies and kittens is immature at birth. In particular, the tight junctions between enterocytes are not well developed and macromolecules such as immunoglobulins can pass through the intestinal epithelium within the first 12–16 h of life. The loss of absorption efficiency is faster in puppies (12 h) than in kittens where it happens approximately at 16 h of life.

There are other methods the gut has that help acquire the immunoglobins in colostrum, but that ends at 24 hours.

If you don't know the exact hour of birth of your puppy, it's possible the pup had an opportunity to suckle from it's mother during the first few hours of birth. If so, that's great, and at this point, it won't benefit from colostrum immunologically. If you can give the puppy nuitritionally dense formula, that will help it. I haven't looked at your source, but it sounds like it meets the criteria.

Finally, the source of colostrum is a consideration: the environment of a cow is different from a dog's, unless they are both barn animals, so dog colostrum is better for a puppy (there's enough overlap, however, to provide immunity to many common bacteria and viruses.) How the colostrum is obtained is far more important; the mother must not have had repeated bouts of mastitis, the udders/teats must be meticulously cleaned before milking and the first squirt or two must be discarded. The colostrum should be stored in a sterile (or nearly sterile) container, and refrigerated/frozen until delivered. Otherwise it will need to be pasteurized, which destroys the antibodies. (In other words, you need to know the source of your colostrum and how meticulous that 'farmer' is. Unless you know the source personally, or the vet does, it should not be assumed to be non-infectious.)

So at this point, I don't think the puppy would benefit from the addition of colustrum to its diet.

I had a farmette which included milk goats, and goat colostrum is in demand by wildlife rehabilitators, e.g. for fawns and really almost any mammals. It must be taken extremely carefully and handled much more quickly than milk if it's for rehab purposes. For baby goats, they just suckle; fresh colostrum is sterile colostrum.

Nutritional and Functional Properties of Colostrum in Puppies and Kittens

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    Thanks for the great answer! It doesn't feel like you repeated much from my answer, but greatly improved the overall information. Some sources I found claimed that colostrum can have beneficial effects to humans of all ages, but that sounded like a blown-up "superfood alternative to antibiotics" trend to me.
    – Elmy
    Sep 7, 2023 at 14:36
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I have been raising puppies for around 45 years. Bovine colostrum is available in New Zealand, carefully pasteurised, and available in capsule and powder form.

I have had puppies who have had some from their mother, but still showed all the signs of 'fading puppy' syndrome, usually dying between 3-5 days. These, and other puppies who don't seem to have proper growth spurt, or have stomach probs etc, benefit from colostrum. I had two pups both had colostrum from Mum, but had probs with maintaining blood sugar and other minerals. 1 had to be on colostrum for 3 months, another 9mths, before they could manage alone. Without colostrum, one puppy would crash and have to be given immediate help when given just regular food, but at 9mths gradually began to survive without it. I do not believe, after my many years of puppies and colostrum that it is not bio-available after 3-5 days. I myself have taken it and found it enabled me to keep muscle on at times when crashing with my neuro-muscular med. condition. This crash I didn't take any, and my muscles have severely wasted. FYI a breeder I met also had problem - his pup couldn't make Vit C. I think it's possible, dried food could be responsible for new problems seen in animals.

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    Colostrum is more than antibodies; it's only the antibodies that stop being available to the pups at 24°. Other ingredients may continue being beneficial. If the pup is well otherwise, colostrum need not be given. I bred Border Collies, and most likely raised far fewer puppies than you did, because I never had a pup with fading puppy syndrome or any other illness. I know other breeders who had pups die, though. It sounds awful and I'm glad colostrum helps. Sep 8, 2023 at 20:22

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