Raising an orphaned litter is a time consuming although rewarding experience.
Neonates are very fragile and despite all the care and attention, losses can
be inevitable. It is worth bearing this in mind at the outset so that although
strong bonding is likely to occur, you are more prepared for sudden loss should
it unfortunately occur. Remember we are more than happy to help, assist and
guide as necessary.
What problems am I likely to encounter?
Several critical problems must be addressed in caring for orphaned puppies.
Among these are chilling, dehydration, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). These
problems are interrelated and may often exist at the same time. Close observation
and prompt attention if any of these problems develop are essential to survival.
Needless to say proper feeding of the orphaned puppy is extremely important.
Chilling in newborn puppies can lead to significant mortality. A puppy will
dissipate far more body heat per kilogram of body weight than an adult dog.
The normal newborn puppy depends upon radiant heat from its mother to help maintain
its body temperature. In the absence of the mother, various methods of providing
heat, such as incubators, heat lamps, or hot water bottles can be used.
Rectal temperatures in a normal newborn puppy range from 35-37.2°C
(95°-99°F ) for the
first week, 36.1-37.7°C (97°-100°
F) for the second and third weeks, and reach the normal temperature of an adult
by the fourth week.
When the rectal temperature drops below 34.4°C
(94°F), the accompanying metabolic alterations are
life-threatening. Therefore, immediate action is necessary to provide the warmth
the puppy needs to survive. A healthy newborn can usually survive chilling if
During the first four days of its life, the orphaned puppy should be maintained
in an environmental temperature of 29.4-32.2°C (85-90°F.)
The temperature may gradually be decreased to 26.7°
C (80° F) by the seventh to tenth day and to 22.2°C
(72° F) by the end of the fourth week. If the litter
is large, the temperature need not be as high. As puppies huddle together, their
body heat provides additional warmth.
Caution: Too rapid warming of a chilled puppy may result in its death.
The lack of regular liquid intake or the exposure of the puppy to a low humidity
environment can easily result in dehydration. The inefficiency of the digestion
and metabolism of a chilled puppy may also lead to dehydration and other changes
such as those discussed in this paper.
Experienced breeders can detect dehydration by the sense of touch. Two signs
of dehydration are the loss of elasticity in the skin and dry and sticky mucous
membranes (gums) in the mouth.
An environmental relative humidity of 55 to 65% is adequate to prevent drying
of the skin in a normal newborn puppy. However, a relative humidity of 85 to
90% is more effective in maintaining puppies if they are small and weak. One
method of maintaining the humidity is to put a damp towel or dampened cotton
wool near to the puppy in its container. Remember the bitch is continuously
licking the puppy and herself and creates a fairly humid, immediate environment.
Her breast area is also additionally naturally moist while she is suckling her
Caution: The environmental temperature should not exceed 90°
F (32.2°C) when high humidity is provided. A temperature
of 95°F (35°C) coupled
with relative humidity of 95% can lead to respiratory distress.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Signs of hypoglycemia (abnormal decrease of sugar in the blood) are severe
depression, muscle twitching and sometimes convulsions. If a puppy shows signs
of hypoglycemia, a few drops of sugar solution on the tongue can be life saving.
What do I feed my orphaned puppy?
Total nutrition for the newborn orphans must be supplied by a milk replacer
until the puppies are about three weeks of age. At this age, the puppies are
ready to start nibbling moistened solid food.
1. A commercial puppy milk replacer, e.g. Welpi, Lactol etc.
2. For short-term emergencies:
l cup of milk
l tablespoon corn oil
l pinch of salt
3 egg yolks (no whites)
Blend mixture uniformly
Evaporated milk made up double strength
Is the temperature of the food important?
Since the newborn may have trouble generating enough heat to maintain its
body temperature, the milk replacer should be warmed to 35-37.8°C
(95-100°F ) for the best results. The milk replacer
should be about the same temperature as the skin on your forearm or slightly
warmer. As the puppies grow older, the milk replacer can be fed at room temperature.
How do I feed my puppy?
1. Spoon feeding is slow, requires great patience and can be dangerous.
It is not to be recommended. Each spoonful must be slowly "poured" into the
puppy's mouth to prevent liquids from entering the lungs. The puppy's head must
not be elevated, or the lungs may fill with fluids. Newborn puppies usually
do not have a well-developed gag reflex to signal this.
2. Dropper feeding is marginally easier than spoon feeding but can
result in the puppy ingesting air which can cause colic.
3. Feeding bottles made for puppies can be used quite successfully
in most situations. There are two types, the open ended feeder with the flow
of milk controlled by the finger over the open opposite end. The size of the
hole in the nipple is critical . If it is too large and milk is dripping from
it, this could drown the puppy. If it is too small the puppy will be discouraged
from suckling. The apertures can be enlarged by using a hot needle and puncturing
the nipple several times or alternatively a slit can be made with a razor blade.
When the puppy stops suckling the small slit closes and thus drowning is prevented.
The other type of feeder is the closed ended feeder which has a nipple on
either end. The larger nipple is squeezed in order to force milk through the
teat at the other end which has the appropriate holes made in it. Again the
rate at which the food is delivered is critical and should be checked carefully.
4. Tube feeding (gavage) is the easiest, cleanest and most efficient
method of hand feeding. However, it requires proper equipment and skilled technique
to prevent putting milk replacer into the puppy's lungs.
When and how much do I feed?
Commercial milk replacers have directions on their labels for proper amounts
to feed. It is necessary for the puppy's weight to be obtained properly in ounces
or grams. Electronic kitchen scales or postal scales are useful for this purpose.
The amounts on the labels are based on the puppy being fed only the milk replacer.
The amounts given are also for a 24 hour period. That quantity should be divided
by the number of feedings per 24 hours. Four meals, equally spaced during a
24 hour period, are ample for feeding a puppy when adequate nutrients are provided.
Six or more feedings may be necessary if the puppy is small or weak. Hand feeding
can generally be ended by the third week and certainly by the fourth. By this
time the puppy should be able to eat from a dish.
How do I get the puppy to urinate and defecate?
The puppy's genital area must be stimulated after feeding to cause urination
and defecation. The genital area should be massaged with a moist cloth or cotton
wool to stimulate action. This cleaning should continue during the first two
weeks. If this procedure is not followed, the puppy may become constipated.
When does the puppy start to eat from a bowl?
As soon as the puppy's eyes have opened at 14-16 days , it is worthwhile starting
the weaning process. First place the milk replacer in a flat dish and either
dip the puppy's nose into it or smear some round its mouth with your finger.
By three weeks the puppy can start to eat food from the dish along with the
milk replacer. A gruel can be made by thoroughly mixing a puppy food (canned
or dry) with the milk replacer to reach the consistency of a thick milk shake.
The mixture should not be too thick at first or the puppy will not consume very
much. As the consumption of food increases, the amount of milk replacer can
be gradually decreased.
By four to four and a-half weeks, the orphaned puppy can consume enough moistened
solid food to meet its needs.
It is better to avoid starting a puppy on a baby food regimen. This creates
extra work and can also create a finicky eater. Many such foods will not meet
the nutritional needs of a growing puppy.
Should my puppy be treated for worms?
Weekly or fortnightly wormings should be carried out until the first vaccinations
at 6-8 weeks. It is then worth consulting the veterinary surgeon regarding future
When is the first vaccination given?
The first vaccination is normally given to puppies at 6-8 weeks of age. However,
if your puppy did not nurse from its mother during the first 2-3 days after
birth, there may be no protective immunity passed on to it. In that case, the
veterinary surgeon may advise earlier or more frequent vaccinations to complete
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