Tips on the Care & Feeding of Puppies Who Have Lost Their Mother

by Naomi Millburn
    "Just born" pups require feedings at least once every two hours.

    "Just born" pups require feedings at least once every two hours.

    Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

    Most mother dogs are equipped with natural and strong maternal instincts. However, not all newborn puppies are fortunate enough to have their nurturing dams in their lives. In these situations, puppy care duties are often turned over to the human beings in their lives. Feeding is a massive part of this.

    Puppies with mothers feed on breast milk. Orphaned puppies' mothers are unavailable and, as a result, the wee puppies have to consume something that is specially formulated to mimic the valuable nutritional content of that milk -- proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins galore. Puppy formula that is produced commercially is ideal for these purposes. Like a mother dog's milk, these types of milk replacer can provide puppies with all of the components they need to develop into healthy adult canines. If you're responsible for caring for newborn puppies, bottle feeding them milk replacer -- not cow's milk -- every couple of hours is a big portion of your job. You can start weaning the puppies when they're about 4 weeks old. By the time they're 8 weeks old, they should be eating only solid foods -- no more milk replacer. If you have any specific concerns regarding properly feeding orphaned puppies, speak to a veterinarian before you proceed.

    Mother dogs work hard to make sure their youngsters stay warm, as they lack command over their body temperatures. It's imperative to ensure the puppies always are warm, particularly in the first two to three weeks post-parturition. Since orphaned puppies don't have their mothers keeping them snug, heating pads generally work well -- if the living environment isn't a minimum of 85 degrees already. Place these pads on "low" and tuck them securely below their bedding. Never allow the heating pad to take up more than half of the puppies' living space, however. It's crucial to make sure the little ones have room and can easily get away from the heat source, if necessary.

    Tiny puppies are helpless in practically every single way, and this includes the elimination department. They simply cannot pass stools or urinate by themselves at first, and those are tasks that mother dogs handle through grooming -- inducing the natural functions with their tongues. Without mother dogs around, humans are in charge. Humans can generally encourage elimination in wee puppies by softly massaging their genital and anal regions using warm, damp cloths or cotton immediately after mealtime.

    Mama dogs are champs at keeping their pups squeaky clean. Replicate a mother dog's loving care by keeping them as tidy as possible. Use lightly wet and warm paper towels to keep them clean. If their fur holds any bits of dried milk or stool, you can diligently extract them with the use of a flea comb. This is beneficial not only for their hygiene, but also for getting them used to being close to people -- a socialization must.

    It is important to carefully monitor puppies for hints of possible problems. If you notice any unusual behaviors or signs in a puppy, contact a veterinarian immediately. Some things to look out for are insufficient weight gain and growth, labored breathing, absence of appetite, excessive crying, runny stools, throwing up, coughing and failure to eliminate. The quicker you get vet help for the ailing cutie, the better.

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    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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