If your Chihuahua has just delivered a litter of puppies, you will notice that she is exhausted and perhaps a bit confused. She should lick them clean, but you may dry each puppy or clean each one if necessary, placing each at the mother's breast. This should be the beginning of a natural activity between mom and babies, but breeders should be prepared to lend support for a mom whose milk has dried up.
A breeder must monitor newborn puppies closely to determine whether they are thriving. This is especially true with Chihuahuas, because they are tiny and can go downhill quickly. If the pups seem frustrated or cry while trying to nurse, check the mom's milk supply. Squeeze each breast just below each nipple, and you should see beads of milk appear. If you notice that your mother dog is dry, feed her, stimulate the nipples and check again in three hours. If you see no change, consult your veterinarian. The new mom may have an infection, need medication or require additional nutrition.
Spotting a Problem
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Failure to nurse can also point to a sick puppy, even if the mom is healthy. Gayle Kaye writes on the Chelsea Collies website, "Spotting a sick puppy in the early stages is very important since time is critical and can mean the difference between life and death. Classic warning signs of trouble in neonatal puppies are weakness, failure to nurse, insufficient weight gain, temperature drop, dehydration, continuous crying, diarrhea and/or vomiting and rejection by the dam." Her advice is true for all breeds. If your puppies show any signs of trouble, check with your veterinarian and be prepared to supplement or taking over feeding from mom.
Supplementing Mother's Milk
Inexperienced Chi breeders can benefit from a mentor, a breeder who is willing to teach and be available for questions. These relationships usually form between members of a breed club, and they are invaluable. "Sometimes a bitch will have plenty of milk on the day of whelping, but by the second day, it will disappear … only to return on the next day," Kaye writes. Sometimes milk comes late, especially in cases of Caesarian sections, where the bitch's hormones may be off schedule. If your bitch's milk drys completely, your breeder/friends may know of another litter in the area, whose mother might be accepting of your puppies as foster children. This might be the best solution, because the puppies will get immunities from mother's milk and they will benefit from the socialization during nursing.
When mom cannot provide enough milk, very young puppies need tube-feeding, administered according to specific guidelines that your veterinarian can provide. After two weeks, the puppies should be strong enough to bottle-feed, using a commercially prepared puppy formula or a recipe provided by your vet or experienced breeder. "The babies will need to be fed a commercial canine milk replacer," the ASPCA website recommends. "Be sure to use one specifically formulated for puppies, as cow’s milk and other milk replacer can cause diarrhea."
Connie Jankowski began writing in 1987. She has published articles in "Dog Fancy" and "The Orange County Register," among others. Areas of expertise include education, health care and pets. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Pittsburgh.