In some tragic situations, a mother dog may be unable to care for her newborn offspring. Whether the dam died from birthing complications, has no milk or is not interested in mothering her puppy, you'll need to step in and provide care for the litter. A surrogate mother can be used, but with caution, and you'll have to closely supervise the care and feeding of the pups.
Find a Suitable Surrogate
When the mother dog is not suitable or available for her puppies, another female dog may step in to nurse and care for the litter. To provide milk for the puppies, the surrogate dam must have recently given birth and still be lactating. Take great care when you introduce the surrogate to the puppies -- you must ensure that she has mothering instincts and won't harm them. For their safety, closely supervise the mother with the puppies.
Proper nutrition is crucial to newborn puppy health. Even if the surrogate dam is still lactating, you may need to supplement her milk supply with puppy formula. Puppies need nearly 'round the clock feedings, and you'll need to make sure every puppy is getting adequate nutrition. Consult a veterinarian if the puppies do not seem to be thriving on the surrogate mother's milk alone.
Keep Puppies Warm
In their first few weeks, newborn pups require a very warm environment in addition to quality nutrition. A surrogate mother can be the perfect heat source if she's able to stay with the puppies most of the time, but it's also a good idea to add an additional source of heat, such as a heat lamp or a pad. This is especially important if the surrogate mother is smaller than the biological dam and isn't able to keep all the puppies near her body.
If the newborn puppies did not receive colostrum (the first milk that a dam normally provides, which passes on vital nutrients and the mother's immunities), early vaccinations may be necessary. You veterinarian should be consulted in this case. Check the puppies' weights regularly to ensure that each is receiving the necessary nutrition.
Olivia Kight is an experienced online and print writer and editor. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2012, and has worked on education, family life and counseling publications. She also gained valuable knowledge shadowing a zoo veterinarian and grooming and socialize show dogs, and now spends her time writing and training her spunky young labradoodle, Booker.