Raising a litter of orphaned puppies takes quite a bit of work and plenty of dedication, but is well worth the effort. Puppies may become orphaned for many reasons. The mother may reject the litter or she may be unable to produce enough milk to keep her puppies healthy. In rare cases, puppies become orphans because their mother dies. Although the mother is no longer available to provide her litter with the nutrition and care they need, you can attempt to fill her role. Your job is to feed, toilet and socialize the pups and ideally, basic obedience training can be started from around 5-6 weeks of age.
Creating a Suitable Environment for Your Puppies
There are two very important things that every puppy needs: A warm environment and proper nutrition. Without these, dehydration, hypothermia and low blood sugar become cause for concern. In many cases, all of these problems will develop at the same time as they are closely related.
To prevent hypothermia, the puppies should be kept in an environment with a temperature of 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first 4 days of their life. Normally, their mother would supply more than enough heat to keep them warm. Heating pads, hot water bottles and heating lights are great tools and can provide them with adequate heat. The behavior of the puppies will be a good indication of whether or not they are warm enough. When puppies pile on top of each other, this is a sign that they are too cold. Puppies that are far apart from each other may be too warm. In an ideal environment, the puppies will be content just lying next to one another. It’s a good idea to put your heating pad or hot water bottle in one side of the puppy pen; this allows them to wiggle to the spot that is most comfortable for them.
How to Feed Your Puppies
Proper nutrition during the first few weeks of the puppies’ life will help them become strong and healthy. Puppies should nurse from their mother during the first 24 hours of life if at all possible; this is the only time they will be able to absorb the protective antibodies from colostrum, or first milk.
Bottle or tube feeding at regular intervals will help ensure that the puppy receives all of the nutrients it needs. Bottle feeding is recommended and there are puppy bottles readily available. Commercial puppy formulas will be nutritionally balanced to provide puppies with everything they need to grow healthy and strong. Avoid feeding the puppy cow’s milk as this can cause diarrhea.
Puppies should be fed while lying on their belly. This mimics their position when they are feeding from their mom. Start by feeding 2-3 hourly and as the pups grow, you can reduce the frequency of feeds by the fourth and fifth week of life. Start to offer a slurry of canned food and formula around 4 weeks of age, and be prepared for the mess as they learn to eat solids!
During the first few weeks, puppies are unable to urinate or defecate on their own. It is typically the job of the mother to lick the puppy’s anal region to stimulate this action. When hand-raising puppies, this can be achieved by stimulating the region with a moist towel or cotton ball. After two to three weeks, the puppy should be able to urinate and defecate on their own.
Worm your puppies fortnightly from the age of 2 weeks to keep intestinal parasites under control.
Raising a litter of orphans is hard work, but when your puppies grow into happy, sociable and well-mannered dogs and find their forever home, it is very rewarding. If you have the chance to raise some orphans, and you can fit it into your schedule, you won’t be sorry.