Feeding Orphan Puppies
Most female dogs are excellent mothers. But occasionally, when the momma dog is very young or is one of the temperamental toy breeds, it may neglect its offspring. Some older dogs suffer milk failure and have no milk to give their puppies. Other mothers produce contaminated milk or vaginal exudates that are toxic to the puppies. At other times, a litters contains a star-crossed runt that will not survive unless we hand raise it ourselves. Any pup that weighs twenty or more percent less than its littermates is best raised by hand.
Supplies You Will Need:
You will need to have a nest box for the baby or babies. Since the infants often soil their container, I usually find a small cardboard box that I can readily replace to keep the baby in. You will need a heating pad. I usually pick up a heavy-duty model at WalMart. Then I go to their aquarium section and purchase an aquarium thermometer. In the same section you will find pet nursing bottles and Hartz Advanced Care Puppy Milk Replacement powder. You can also purchase Esbilac powdered puppy milk by Pet Ag (Bordenâs) at veterinary offices and pet stores. A small food scale is also nice to have to weigh the infant(s). If the pup is weak you may want to tube feed it. If so, pick up a 3-milliliter syringe and an 18Guage butterfly infusion set from a veterinary hospital or human medical supply center.
Delivering The Puppy:
When puppies are born they are wrapped in a clear sac called the amniotic membrane. This membrane must be removed from the puppyâs face in order for it to breathe. I tear this membrane with my fingers and slide the whole pup out. Then I snip off the umbilical cord which connects the puppy’s belly button to the afterbirth with a scissors. I leave about a half inch of cord attached to the puppy and tie it off with a piece of thread so it will not bleed. Then I use a rubber bulb to clean mucus away from the puppy’s mouth, throat and nose.
The nest box does not need to be elaborate. It needs to be just big enough for the puppy to turn around but not much bigger. Be sure the sides are tall enough so that the puppy can not fall out. Line the box with crumpled Kleenex tissue, diapers or paper towels. To maintain temperature, keep a heating pad set at its lowest setting under one side of the box. Wrap the pad with sufficient bath towels so that the inside of the box stays at 97 degrees Fahrenheit but no higher. With only one side of the box heated the puppy will be able to crawl away from the heat source if it gets too warm. Place the box in a draft free location. As the baby matures the temperature in the box can be gradually lowered.
Newborn puppies can not generate enough heat to keep their bodies warm and have not yet developed a shivering reflex. They will rely on you to regulate temperature during the first 14 days of their life. Normal rectal temperature for a newborn puppy is 94-98F. By their second week of life, rectal temperature should be 97-100F. By the fourth week normal rectal temperature is 100-102F. The first thing to do with chilled puppies is to warm them up very slowly to ninety-five degrees. Orphan pups need an environmental temperature of about 97°F (36°C) the first week, in the mid 80's the second week, and then in the 70's. When the mother is there to keep the pups warm, additional temperature is unnecessary.. When the pup reaches the end of its first month of life it can tolerate room air temperature of 70-75F.
Be very cautious using the heating pad since the puppy can be easily hurt by too high a temperature while it is still too young to move away from the heat source.
The First Milk Or Colostrum:
Colostrum is the first milk that the mother produces after giving birth. It is very thick, yellowish-cream in color, and rich in antibodies that protect the puppy against disease. Puppies that do not ingest colostrum during their first twelve hours of life can not fight diseases they encounter as well as pups that do. Giving the puppy oral doses of blood plasma from a healthy dog is one way to compensate for the lack of colostrum. When this is not done (and it is usually not done) one needs to be especially sanitary when handling and feeding the puppy.
What To Feed:
I prefer to feed puppies a powdered infant formula that I prepares just before use. Two excellent ones that are available are Esbilac marketed by Pet Ag, which is available at veterinary offices and pet stores and Hartz Advanced Care Puppy Milk Replacement powder available at WalMart Stores. Mix both according to the directions on the label (two parts boiled water to one part powder). Store the opened canister in the freezer. Allow some time after mixing a batch for bubbles to leave the formula. Keep reconstituted formula in the refrigerator between uses and discard any remaining formula at the end of the day.
If for some reason you can not obtain puppy milk replacement you can mix a formula. It consists of one-half cup evaporated whole milk, one half cup boiled water, one teaspoon full of corn oil, one drop of pediatric multivitamin (Visorbin or equivalent), two raw egg yolks and a tablespoon full of plain whole yogurt. For some reason, formulas based on evaporated milk cause less diarrhea and indigestion than those based on fresh cow’s milk. Adding a quarter of a lactase tablet to each batch of formula helps the puppy digest the large amount of lactose present in cow’s milk.
I mix my milk formula just before I use it. A good puppy-nursing bottle holds 2-4 ounces of formula. They are generally sold without holes punched in the nipple. I use a flame-heated needle to melt two small holes in the latex cap. The holes should only be big enough for a few drops of milk drip out when the bottle is vigorously shaken. If too many holes are punched in the cap the puppies tend to inhale the formula rather than ingest it. If too few or too small a hole is made the puppy will ingest too much air. Mix the formula well so there are no clumps. Let it cool until it is slightly above room temperature. Always feed pups while they are resting on their stomachs. Never feed them upright or upside down as you would a human infant. Gently insert the nipple into the pup’s mouth using a prying motion while you apply pressure to the sides of the bottle to release a drop or two of milk. From then on the pup should suck on its own.
We all have a tendency to over feed puppies. It is much safer to give them a little less than they desire. Over-feeding can lead to pneumonia when milk is inhaled into the lungs rather then swallowed into the stomach. It can also cause diarrhea. It is much safer to feed smaller amounts more frequently than larger amounts less frequently. If milk bubbles out of the pup’s nose it is flowing too rapidly from the bottle. This is usually due to too large a hole(s) in the nipple or over feeding. I microwave a bowl of water and set the bottle in it to heat the formula to 99-100 degrees Fahrenheit before use.
Some owners find it easier to feed very small newborn pups from a one or three milliliter syringe and switch to a bottle when the pup is two weeks old.
Boil nursing bottles and syringes between every use.
How Much To Feed:
The two powdered formulas I suggested contain about one calorie per milliliter when reconstituted at one part formula to two parts water. With either of these products, each day the average puppy needs 25-35 milliliters of formula for every 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of body weight. Divide this number by the number of feedings per day to obtain the amount for each feeding. During week two, give 15-20 ml for every 100 grams body weight. During weeks three and four give 20 ml for every 100 grams body weight. These amounts are always only a rough estimate. Feed the puppy until its belly is gently rounded or pear-shaped.
How Often To Feed:
Feed very young puppies every three or four hours or six to eight feeding a day. Some people get up to give their puppy a midnight feeding but this is not necessary. By the time the puppy is three weeks old, four feedings per day are quite sufficient. At five weeks of age the puppy should be eating some solid foods. At this age feed it two to three times a day if at all. Puppies that are hungry and need feeding will cry continuously, move their heads from side to side and suckle on each other and on objects in the nest box.
Burping The Puppy:
After each feeding hold the puppy upright with its tummy against your shoulder and pat it gently until it burps releasing trapped air. Nursing bottles that do not release enough milk lead to more air being trapped. If the puppy should bloat or become colicky add a few drops of infant anticolic medicine (simethicone, Equate Infants’ Gas Relief, WalMart Stores Inc.) to the formula.
Helping Your Puppy Eliminate:
Normal puppy stools are yellowish brown with a jam-like consistency. After every feeding, gently massage the anus and urinary orifice with a cotton ball or Kleenex moistened with warm water until they urinate and defecate. Be very gentle when you do this and don’t worry if no urine or stool is produced after every feeding. By the time the pup is three weeks old it should be able to go without your help.
Problems That Can Arise:
If diarrhea occurs add more water to the formula to make up for the fluid that is lost. If this does not rapidly cure the problem the pup may need to be placed on antibiotics and receive subcutaneous fluids. Watery yellowish or greenish stools are sometimes associated with feeding too much. If they occur, try diluting the formula 50-50 with Pedialyte until the stools return to normal consistency. You can also give the pup 2-3 drops of kaopectate just prior to each feeding.
Newborn puppies quickly become dehydrated if they are not nursing. They can also become dehydrated if their environment is too hot and dry. Two indicators of dehydration are loss of elasticity of the skin (the skin stays tented when gently pinched up) and decreased saliva production (the gums and tongue feel tacky or dry).
Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar can develop rapidly in a puppy that is not nursing. These puppies are limp, depressed and weak. Their gums are often bluish and their muscles may twitch. Dextrose solution or corn syrup placed on their tongue is sometimes helpful but it is better if these pups are left in an intensive care setting at a veterinary center where dextrose can be administered intravenously or intralingually (in the tongue).
Because newborn puppies can not regulate their temperature well they are quite susceptible to chilling. If this should occur the best way to warm them is to place them on a hot water bottle and gently blow them with a hair drier.
Stools that are clumped and cheese-like can be due to feeding the formula too concentrated. When puppies strain to defecate and pass overly hard stools, increase the frequency of feeding and dilute the formula. Impacted pups also have bloated abdomens. You can give them a few drops of mineral oil or cat hairball ointment to help them evacuate the stool. If they still remain bound up they may need a warm water enema. This is best done at a veterinary hospital.
It is prudent to worm your puppies with pyrantel pamoate when they are six weeks of age. You can purchase this worming medicine at all WalMart Stores.
If the puppies are kept isolated from other dogs their first vaccinations can be given at 12 weeks of age. If other unvaccinated dogs come in contact with the pup, the first vaccine should be administered at 6-8 weeks. The vaccine should immunize against canine distemper, canine hepatitis (adeno-2 virus) and parvovirus. Some include leptospirosis. At 12 weeks it should receive a rabies vaccination and at 12 and 18 weeks the pup should receive a booster of its first vaccination.
I discourage tube feeding of puppies that will nurse a bottle because puppies need the companionship they get when we slowly feed them from a bottle. But puppies that are too weak to nurse need to be tube fed. It is difficult to explain this process in writing. The best way to learn how to tube feed is to have someone experienced in the technique do it with you the first time. To tube feed, I fill a three or six-milliliter syringe with heated formula being careful that no air bubbles are present. Then I attach an eighteen-gauge infusion (butterfly) set to the syringe. I snip off the needle and fill the remaining tubing with milk. Then I lay the tube along side the puppy and make a mark with an indelible pen on the tube when the tip is alongside the puppy’s last rib. Then I gently open the puppy’s mouth and begin to thread the tubing over the puppy’s tongue very slowly. This gives the pup time to swallow the tubing rather than have it go into the windpipe. If you are accidentally in the windpipe the pup will squirm and fuss. When I think the tube is correctly placed, with my thumb and index finger I carefully palpate the puppy’s neck to feel two tube-like structures. One, in the center of the neck, will be the windpipe (trachea). The other will be the catheter tube. If I only feel one structure I remove the tube and reinsert it again until I am certain I am in the esophagus and not in the trachea. Then I slowly inject the contents of the syringe. When tube feeding feed no more than 75% of what the puppy would have taken orally so it does not regurgitate the formula.
During their first week of life it is best to just clean puppies with a damp pledget of cotton. When the puppy is one week old its body can be submersed in warm water. When the bath is finished carefully blow dry the puppy. Be careful to keep the dryer far away from the puppy so as not to overheat it.
Weaning – You Are Almost There!
Between 3 and 4 weeks, puppies should begin accepting fine textured solid foods. By four and a half to five and a half weeks the puppy should be weaned. Purchase some cans of gourmet cat or dog food in chicken and beef flavors and smear a bit on the roof of the puppy’s mouth. It will soon get the idea. Do not feed it fish flavored foods or it will become a fussy eater. This is the same time you should begin to offer formula in a bowel. The earlier puppies eat on their own the better. I do not suggest baby foods because they are too low in calcium and vitamins. Although many puppies will eat as early as four weeks, some take an additional two or three weeks before they express interest in solid food. As soon as puppy chow is offered, keep a dish of water available. By the time the pup is 10 weeks old it should be receiving puppy chow dry.