How Do I Raise Puppies Without Their Mother?

Written by cece evans
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How Do I Raise Puppies Without Their Mother?
With proper care, you can raise orphaned puppies into healthy and happy dogs. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Caring for orphaned puppies is an arduous, but rewarding, task. Though time-consuming -- feedings, sanitation, temperature control, play time and so forth -- hand-raising a litter of puppies or a single puppy can be as effective as raising by a canine mother. Particularly for their first few weeks, puppies must be constantly monitored and cared for; you must monitor their every feeding and bowel movement, control the temperature of their environment and, of course, play with them often in order to produce healthy and happy puppies.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Baby bottle
  • Puppy milk formula
  • Dry puppy food
  • Soft towels
  • Thermometer
  • Blankets

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  1. 1

    Bottle-feed newborn puppies if their mother cannot wean them or is absent. Feed puppies while they are on their bellies, not their back. Use a puppy milk formula; there are several commercial brands which are nutritionally balanced to meet the needs of orphaned puppies. Make only enough formula for one day of feeding and keep it stored in a refrigerator. Before feeding, warm up the puppy milk replacer in a pan of water heated to 32.2 to 37.8 degrees Celsius. Clean out the milk bottles between feedings.

  2. 2

    Feed puppies every two hours for the first 48 to 72 hours of their lives. For the rest of their first week, feed them every three hours during the day and every four hours at night. During the second week, feed puppies every four hours during the day, and every six hours at night.

  3. 3

    Burp puppies during and after each feeding. Pat the puppies' backs while holding them either on your shoulder or upright.

  4. 4

    Keep bottle-feeding puppies during their third week of life, but begin giving them puppy mush three times a day. Prepare puppy mush by mixing 2 cups of dry puppy food in a blender with 369ml of puppy milk. Fill the rest of the blender with hot water (this will feed six to eight puppies of a medium-sized breed). Purée the mix until it is the consistency of human infant cereal. By their fourth week, feed your orphaned puppies mush four to five times a day and slowly reduce bottle-feeding. Reduce or eliminate midnight feedings; by their sixth week your puppies should eat only solid food. Consult your vet about the proper amount of food and feeding times for your puppy; these vary considerably based on dog size and breed.

  5. 5

    Stimulate newborn puppies to urinate and defecate. They are unable to do it themselves until they are about three weeks old. Take a small, clean, moist towel and gently rub the puppies' anuses and genital areas before and after each feeding. They should relieve themselves within a minute or two.

  6. 6

    Keep a record of each puppy's urination and defecation (particularly if you're tending to a whole litter). Note the consistency and colour of the urine or faeces. Puppy urine should be pale yellow to clear in colour; if it's dark yellow or orange the puppy is not getting enough food. If so, feed the puppy more often (not more food in a single feeding). Puppy faeces should be dark brown and partially formed. Green faeces indicates an infection (in which case, take the puppy to your vet as soon as possible). Hard faeces is a sign that the puppy is not getting enough formula. If so, increase the frequency but not the size of the puppy's feedings.

  1. 1

    Keep puppies warm -- they are not able to conserve body heat so early in life. Maintain air temperature at about 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit during their first week, and gradually reduce the temperature to 85 degrees during their second week. Reduce the temperature by another 0-15 degrees Cor their third week; for their fourth week keep the puppies at 23.9 degrees Celsius. Keep a thermometer in the puppy area and check it consistently. By their fifth week, you can keep the puppies at room temperature.

  2. 2

    Regulate temperature by providing an artificial heat source (such as an electric blanket, warm water pad or incubator); however, a 25-watt bulb hung above a small box usually does the trick. Don't burn the puppies if using an electric blanket -- infant puppies may be too weak to move away, even if they're getting burnt. Wrap electric blankets or heating pads in thick blankets to prevent puppies from getting hurt.

  3. 3

    Use common sense to judge whether or not the puppies are warm or cold. If they lay spread away from each other, they are too warm; if they are always piled atop each other they are too cold. They should be lying next to each other comfortably.

Tips and warnings

  • Consult your vet often about your puppies, and get vaccinations as early as possible.

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