How to Syringe Feed a Dog [& Why You May Need To]

The best way to syringe feed a dog is to fill the syringe with a liquid dog or puppy formual. Make sure the dog is lying on their belly, not their back. Hold the bottom jaw open and slowly empty the syringe into the dog’s mouth. Don’t shoot the liquid down the throat. Allow the dog to swallow the liquid on their own. 

Just like people, when your dog is feeling ill, it may lose its appetite. 

Typically, dogs will eat almost anything that we put in front of them. But if they are suffering from some kind of illness, this desire goes out the window. 

Nevertheless, your dog still needs food in its system for its body to function, so you may need to turn to syringe feeding your dog to get them to eat. 

Unfortunately, this can be a bit difficult, depending on the dog.

Before the Syringe

Before you start your dog on a syringe-fed diet, it is important to consider what you are feeding them. 

You need to ensure that the solution you are feeding through the syringe has enough nutritional content to provide for your dog’s needs. 

Ideally, you will give your dog the same amount of food that they would consume under normal circumstances, just through a syringe instead of putting it in their bowl. 

Ask your veterinarian what the best ratio of dog food to water or other additives is for your dog’s breed. Depending on your dog’s typical diet, the vet may have some helpful tips and tricks. 

Gathering The Materials

To get ready to feed your dog through a syringe, you first need to gather the materials. Get whatever food you will feed them, any suggested liquid additives, a blender or food processor, a damp washcloth, and the syringe itself. It should be large enough to hold your mealtime concoction. 

Often, dog food is broken down in a blender or food processor and mixed with water, milk, or fish oil. 

Test the syringe with water beforehand to make sure that it will not leak or clog. If all is well, fill the syringe with your dog’s food. 

Feeding Your Dog With a Syringe

When feeding your dog, make sure you can access their mouth. They should be comfortable, but some dogs do not like to be syringe-fed. If this is the case (it likely will be), you may need another person to hold your dog while you feed them. 

Carefully put the end of the syringe into your dog’s mouth. Don’t stick it down their throat! They may choke. 

Empty the syringe into your dog’s mouth thoroughly, but slowly. Do not pump the food into their mouth. Instead, apply just enough pressure to keep it moving out of the syringe. 

When the syringe is empty, withdraw it from your dog’s mouth. If they need to chew before swallowing, allow them to do so. 

Your dog may need help swallowing. Lift their head to make the food slide down their throat. If necessary, gently stroke down their neck to move the food down their throat for them. 

Take the damp washcloth and clean any spillage that may have occurred around your dog’s mouth. 

Once you are done, clean the syringe and any other supplies that have gotten dirty. This will ensure no harmful bacteria grows on your equipment.

Congratulations! You have just fed your dog through a syringe.

When Do I Feed My Dog with a Syringe?

Dogs may need to be fed through a syringe for a number of reasons. If your dog has some kind of dental issue, your vet may suggest a syringe. Painful abscesses in the mouth can cause extreme discomfort when chewing, leading to your dog requiring a syringe to eat.

If your dog is on heavy medication, they may not be able to control their mouth enough to eat properly, in which case it falls to you to make sure they are still getting food. 

Other issues may include a broken jaw, muscle atrophy, or your dog may be recovering from a painful event like surgery.

Each dog will require a different amount of food in its system per day. Ask your vet how often you should feed your dog with a syringe. Younger dogs typically need to be fed more than older dogs, with puppies usually needing to be fed at least every two hours. 

Adult dogs that eat once or twice a day need around 3 to 5 syringe feeding a day to make up for the level of glucose needed in their blood. Always ask your vet for their opinion.

Smooth Sailing With Your Syringe

Syringe-feeding a dog can be a daunting task, especially if you have a dog who refuses to cooperate. 

Keep in mind that your dog is probably not feeling very well if you have to feed them this way, so it is no surprise that they may be a little irritable. 

Here are a few tips and tricks to make mealtime go smoothly- even if it is through a syringe.

Calmness is Key

Above all, be calm while you feed your dog. Dogs often take emotional cues from their owners, so if you become upset, your dog will match that energy. 

Your dog is having a foreign object pushed into its mouth- they do not know what this object is or why you are doing this to them. 

Dogs who trust their owners will have an easier time with syringe-feeding, but still may get a little nervous. 

Reassure your dog with frequent petting, and talk in a soft, loving voice. Be confident in what you are doing. It may help to take a deep breath and re-center yourself before you feed your dog.

Mouth Mapping

It will be easier to insert the syringe into certain areas of your dog’s mouth. There are gaps between some teeth in your dog’s mouth. 

Try aiming for these areas with the tip of the syringe to make sure that all the food will go into their mouth. 

If your dog is being syringe-fed because of a mouth issue such as an abscess or dental work, avoid these sensitive areas. 

Outside Help

If your dog is dead-set on not letting you feed it with a syringe, you may need some outside help. A friend or family member can hold your dog still while you feed them. 

You can also use a leash or a harness to make sure your dog doesn’t try to escape during feeding time. 

If your dog has a leash on, make sure it is not constricting the collar around their neck. This may make it more difficult for your dog to swallow. 

If you still need help, ask your vet for their ideas. They may have more experience with syringe-feeding animals and you will be able to draw on their experience.

Syringe Feeding is Easier Than You Think!

Dogs are scavengers and are not the pickiest of eaters under normal circumstances. But several issues can cause them to lose their appetite or be unable to eat normally. 

When this happens, it’s the duty of their owner to still feed them in a palatable way. Syringe feeding may be scary at first, but it’s much easier than people think! 

In addition to the steps described in this article, consult your veterinarian for their input on addressing syringe-feeding with your particular dog. 

Remember to take a breath and stay calm when syringe-feeding your dog. With your help, they will beat whatever is keeping them from eating!

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