Raising orphan puppies, to the true lover of dogs as many of us are, may be the most heartbreaking, most challenging, or the most rewarding experience we have with dogs.
When the need does arise, there is usually more than just one puppy.
Orphans can occur for a myriad of reasons.
The mother may have died, the mother may be unable to attend to the puppies because she has an inadequate milk supply, or the mother may have some type of a behavior problem.
In some cases, the mother may be taking care of the puppies for several weeks before she is unable to properly take care of them.
With raising orphan puppies, there is one thing for certain, it will be a lot of work, but if you are successful, there is nothing more rewarding.
There are certain things that you must realize from the very start.
Healthy puppies will require liquid vitamins with their food for proper nutrition; they sleep a lot, and are usually firm, quiet, and warm.
That is their natural state if healthy.
On the other hand, unhealthy puppies are just the opposite.
They are not firm and may not have a strong muscle tone, they will cry and wine a lot, and have very high energy levels.
If not cared for properly, they will be weak, very quite, and almost non-moving to the extent that they may become comatose.
From the very onset with raising orphans, the most critical factors will be a very detailed and regimented schedule, adequate warmth for the puppies, and most importantly, the adequate nutritional intake.
It is extremely important, if it is possible, to get these orphan puppies “colostrum” from their mother for at least the first 12 hours.
Colostrum is the almost perfect nutrition for these orphan puppies, and has large amounts of living cells which will defend these puppies against an army of foreign agents from the beginning.
The immune factors are much higher in colostrum than in mature milk and it acts as a vaccine almost immediately.
It contains large quantities of an antibody, referred to as secretory, which will be not only be a new substance to the puppies, but also a vital one.
Puppies are only able to absorb this colostrum in their first 24 hours of their lives, and again, if at possible, this may be a critical step for orphan puppies.
After you have made the arrangements for your orphan puppies to stay warm, the next critical stage is going to be how you will nourish them and help them stay hydrated.
You also need to know how to keep them sanitized and free from disease and infections, how you will than eventually wean them, and finally how you will socialize them.
If you are going to undertake this task, make sure you have heating pads or hot water bottles.
They will require in the first couple of weeks of their life, a very safe and secure, as well as a warm resting place that is between 85-90 degrees to emulate the missing mother.
The temperatures can be reduced with each week by about 8 to 10 degrees, until you hit the magical 30 days, or forth week, at which the temperature can settle in on about 70 degrees.
For the orphan puppies to stay healthy, you must remember that these young puppies cannot conserve their own body’s heat nor can they actually shiver.
Shivering is the bodies defense mechanism to keep itself warm.
Chilling in puppies is one of the leading, if not the leading, causes of death.
It is extremely important to understand that your orphan puppies will lose body heat a lot more rapidly than an adult dog. If your puppies do get chilled, you must raise their temperature slowly.
Other steps you can take to keep them warm will be a simple low wattage light bulb, no higher than 60 watts, hung above their resting place along with the heating pads or hot water bottles.
But keep a thermometer on hand at all times to monitor the heat, as it is just as dangerous to over heat them as not heating them properly.
In low humidity environments, the next important step you need to take is to keep them properly hydrated.
The introduction of colostrum will aid this process, but your orphans will have a very inefficient digestive system.
They will also have inadequate metabolism in most cases, which can lead to dehydration.
You must ensure that these puppies get an adequate amount of liquid.
Signs to watch for in dehydration are a loss of the elasticity of their skin, and dry and sticky gums.
Hypoglycemia, which is a decrease of sugar in your puppy’s blood, is something else you need to watch for.
With this, they may show signs of deep depression or muscle twitching.
Just a few drops of regular corn syrup into their food can save their lives.
For food options for your puppies, it is best to contact your veterinarian immediately, but there are several very good puppy milk re-placer options available.
If you are in an emergency situation, there are some alternatives, but keep in mind it should just be short term.
Most sources will have as an emergency replacement for one cup of raw milk (cow milk, but goat milk will also do), one-fourth tablespoon of liquid vitamins (children’s formula), a dash of salt, one tablespoon of corn oil, and three egg yolks.
Do not feed your orphan puppy eggs whites, as they carry an enzyme that may cause a biotin deficiency in these tender bodies and by no means feed them honey.
Some home remedies may suggest it as honey may contain a bacteria that does not affect young or adult dogs, but can be fatal to your puppies.
When feeding your puppies, remember that they do not have a built in gag-reflex just yet.
It is very important that you tilt their heads, and use a doll baby bottle or a feeding tube. Do not feed them on their back, but rather in a position like nursing mothers would.
The frequency of the feeding is well defined on the labels of the re-placer puppy milk formulas, but four meals, equally paced is more than adequate, unless the orphan puppy is very weak, than it may take six feeding, equally paced.
The next test you face is getting your puppies to both urinate and defecate.
By using a moist, warm cloth or cotton ball and rubbing over the puppy’s genital area should stimulate them. This should continue for at least two weeks.
Orphan puppies by the third week should be able to start bowel feeding.
You can easily make a mixture of the milk re-placer and canned or dry puppy food into a milkshake like liquid that they can easily eat.
As the days go by, decrease the milk replacer, and add more solids. By five weeks they should be able to eat puppy food on their own.
Now it is time to take your puppies back to the veterinarian for roundworm treatment to prevent parasites getting into their systems, and start vaccinations.
You should also pat yourself on the back for a job well done, as you have just made several lifelong friends.