Raising Newborn Pups
Our family is excited about the coming birth of our Boxer’s puppies. This will be Fudge’s first litter and we want to be prepared. The neighbor’s dog rejected her puppies. Could this happen to us? How do we raise the pups on our own if we have to?
First of all, we recommend that you have Fudge on a regular examination schedule with your veterinarian at this time. Go over with your veterinarian any risk factors that are currently present, review hand raising of pups, and decide if you should have formula or bottles on hand before Fudge delivers. Determine where you may need to take Fudge if there is a problem in the middle of the night—your veterinarian’s office or an emergency clinic.
Mother Nature teaches a mother dog to provide her pups with moist heat, stimulation of elimination and circulation, mothering, security and milk. But it is not unusual for her to neglect one or all of these duties. She may, for example, reject the puppies or be unable to nurse.
When this happens, we must intervene with assistance, though we hope she can nurse at least once or twice right after birth. The first milk (colostrum) is very important because it provides antibodies helpful to the immune system. Without colostrum, a pup is more likely to get sick.
It is also important to keep the pups warm. The mother acts like a heating pad with a built-in thermostat. When she is not available, we must substitute a heat source. The newborns’ pen should be isolated from other pets and household traffic. It should have high sides to ward off drafts and include heated and unheated areas. Pups must be able to move to a cooler area if they become too warm since their internal temperature regulators are not developed. The smaller the pups, the higher the temperature should be.
If the mother does not do the job, you need to stimulate the pups to defecate after each meal by rubbing their abdomens with warm wet cotton wool. Use a gram or postal scale to monitor their weight gain.
Feeding the pups is the biggest task. We recommend a milk replacement called Esbilac, a powder which closely duplicates mothers’ milk. (Your veterinarian can provide the formula and an animal nurser bottle.) Mix one part Esbilac with 3 parts water. If the pups have nursed from the mother, wait 3-4 hours before feeding to clear the stomach and build an appetite. Pups that are hungry will cry.
As a general rule, the daily intake will be about 23 ml. per pound of body weight divided to provide a feeding every two hours. Be sure to increase the amount as the pups grow.
During the first two weeks, do not expect the same chubby looking pups as those fed by their mother. The best we can do is provide nourishment that will support a consistent pattern of growth and development until the digestive system can tolerate more solid foods.
After the pups’ eyes are open and they are on their feet, you can offer Esbilac in a bowl. Then gradually introduce solid foods such as watered-down puppy food into the bowl. By 3-4 weeks, the pups may not be using a bottle at all. Once you have reached this point, the hard part is over.