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Puppy Hand rearing

It is a relatively common problem for a bitch to reject her puppies or to not have enough milk to feed her puppies. If this happens, it falls to you as owners to rear the puppies until weaning age. Below are a few useful tips to help you with the process:

  • Keep the puppies warm – the environmental and floor temperature needs to be kept very warm. The most common cause for fading puppy death is due to the pups getting a chill. Provide plenty of bedding and covered heat pads or hot water bottles. Also puppies love to snuggle and burrow under bits of fleece blankets or towels.
  • New born puppies require feeding approximately every 2 hours day and night for the first 7-10 days, following this they will be able to go longer between feeds. It is important to use proprietary puppy milk such as welpi or lactol, NOT cow’s milk. You can purchase special puppy rearing bottles which are good for the first few days as they have small teats. However, as the puppies grow you may find it easier to use a new born anti-colic baby bottle. Feeding position during bottle feeding is important, puppies like to have their front feet up near their face when feeding. This mimics the kneading of mammary tissue during feeding from their mother.
  • Up until 3-4 weeks of age puppies are unable to toilet themselves, so after each feed you will need to stimulate them to toilet. This is done by using a damp piece of cotton wool or tissue paper and gently rubbing around the anus and genital region. This mimics the mothers licking action which would normally stimulate toileting.
  • It is important to keep a close eye on all the puppies weights on a daily basis because a drop of even 1-2 grams is significant in young puppies.
  • Weaning – this is the fun if not messy part! Hand rear puppies are generally ready to wean from about 3-3 ½ weeks of age. Initially start using the puppy milk mixed with soft puppy meat or scrambled eggs, and mixed to a thick gravy consistency. Use a flat plate or dish initially, allowing the pups to walk through it whilst sniffing and lapping at the food. By allowing them to walk into it they will learn to feed by licking the food off their feet. Once they are used to lapping you can increase the consistency of the food and by 4-4 ½ weeks they should be capable of eating puppy biscuits. It is tempting to use lots of different feeds to wean puppies however it is better to stick to one food type and add in small bits of scrambled egg, boiled chicken or cheese.
  • Puppies should be wormed with a veterinary wormer every 2 weeks from 2 weeks of age, as round worms in puppies are very common.
  • Hand reared puppies as they grow up are quite often the dogs that develop behavioural problems. This is thought to be due to missing out on crucial behaviour and social skills learnt from the mother. It is therefore important to ensure the puppies are well handled and socialised safely from 4 weeks of age.

If you have any more concerns or questions please do not hesitate to contact the surgery and speak to one of our veterinary surgeons or qualified nurses.