If you find yourself caring for orphaned puppies, or if the dam is unable to care for her puppies, you may have to hand rear the puppies. Hand rearing involves feeding the litter every two to four hours, day and night, so it is a significant time commitment. Rearing puppies by hand will also mean taking care of the puppies sanitation, keeping them warm and ensuring they are protected from disease. Hand rearing puppies is a significant commitment, but it is not impossible with some careful planning.
What is involved with hand rearing?
Enlisting the help of friends and family to take shifts is the best way to ensure you can care for the puppies around the clock. The puppies will need to be fed every two to four hours and they also need to be burped, assisted going to the bathroom and cleaned. Their sleeping area will need to be regularly cleaned and the temperature and humidity will also need to be monitored. Setting regular alarms to keep track of feeding and cleaning times is the best way to ensure the puppies are well cared for.
What should I feed the puppies?
Cow’s milk isn’t suitable for puppies as it doesn’t contain the right nutritional balance. Your vet will be able to advise you on the correct puppy milk formula. Like baby milk, puppy milk should not made more than one day in advance. You will also need to clean and sterilise the bottles, teats and syringes before every feeding.
How should I feed the puppies?
In the first few days, a teat will be too big for the puppies so they will need to be fed using a syringe. For the first 48-72 hours of their life they will need to be fed every two hours to build up their strength. For the rest of their first week you can reduce the feeding to every three hours and then after one week they can be fed every four hours. Your vet will advise you on the amount of food your puppies will need. Keeping track of the puppies weight will be essential to ensuring they are getting the right amount of food and developing as they should.
What other factors do I need to take care of?
You will need to ensure the puppies are urinating and defecating, which the puppies mother would normally assist with. Keeping a close eye on the colour and consistency of their urine and feces will help you to determine if the puppies are getting enough food. If the urine is dark orange or brown, or if the stool is too firm you need to feed the puppies more often. Feeding the puppies more often is not the same as feeding them more at one time, as the latter can lead to bloating, gas and sometimes every aspiration into the lungs, which can lead to drowning.
How else can I care for the puppies?
Newborn puppies don’t have the ability to shiver to keep warm, so they will need to be kept in a warm and comfortable environment. A heating lamp should provide sufficient warmth, but you should also monitor the temperature with a thermometer. If the puppies are piled up, it means they are too cold, and if they spread out they are too warm.
While it might seem like a difficult task, hand rearing is easily manageable with some careful planning and expert advice. Having a vet on the other side of the phone will help to reassure you and keep everything ticking along.