How to Get Newborn Pups to Nurse

by Naomi Millburn
Colostrum is rich in vitamins, protein and calories.

Colostrum is rich in vitamins, protein and calories.

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When a female dog gives birth to a litter of puppies, she has to start feeding them without delay -- no time to dillydally. Newborn pups tend to be able to find their mothers' nipples easily and quickly, although exceptions can indeed occur. This is why it's so important for human caretakers to always supervise whelping sessions.

How Puppies Start Nursing

Newborn pups in good condition usually have no problems tracking down their mothers' nipples and beginning feeding. When they go toward their mama dogs' teats, they employ their legs in a manner that's reminiscent of swimming, according to authors Debra Eldredge and Liz Palika. At this tender age, their front limbs contain the bulk of their power. Their hind legs are much more delicate in comparison.

A Little Guidance

If it seems like a newborn puppy is having a difficult time locating his mother's nipples, it's up to you to gently guide the little guy. Put his mouth on a nipple to get him started. By doing this, the rest might come naturally to him. You never want to risk a puppy not nursing soon after birth. If you ever have a puppy who simply won't nurse in a span of two hours post-birth, notify your veterinarian immediately. The initial milk that mother dogs feed their babies is called "colostrum." Colostrum offers puppies vital antibodies that help defend them against illnesses. Puppies must consume colostrum quickly after birth, as their bodies are only capable of absorbing it for roughly a day or so.

Scent of Saliva

Mother dogs usually clean their little ones immediately after birth via diligently licking their bodies. The licking also helps the puppies eliminate, through the tongue's pushing. By doing this, mother dogs leave behind the distinctive smell of their saliva, which actually serves a useful purpose for their puppies. When young puppies are familiar with their mothers' saliva, it functions as an identifying signal to them, and female dogs frequently lick their nipples during lactation. Since newborn puppies quickly become familiar with the smell of Mom's saliva, it gives them a handy scent "target" for tracking down the nipples and nursing. If you want to make it easier for your pups to find Mama's nipples, refrain from washing her with water and soap beforehand. Water and soap get rid of the identifying scent of the saliva. The smell of motherly saliva attracts hungry newborn pups to nipples, pure and simple.

Mother Dog Hair Loss

You can help newborn pups nurse by guiding them to the nipples and not bathing Mom in soap prior to whelping, but nature often prepares in advance, too. As your dog's gestation comes to an end, you might notice that some of the fur in her breast area is coming out. This is no cause for concern. The missing hair conveniently makes it much less complicated for the newborns to place the nipples -- and begin nursing and growing into strong, lively puppies.

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