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Newborn puppies that refuse to nurse

Updated April 17, 2017

Newborn puppies need to nurse every three to four hours, around the clock. When a puppy does not nurse regularly, it can quickly become hypoglycaemic or dehydrated. Both of these conditions can prove fatal if not treated promptly. Knowing how to recognise these conditions and how to feed your puppy can save you an emergency trip tho the veterinarian.

Hypoglycaemia in Newborn Puppies

When a newborn puppy has not nursed for a considerable time, it will suffer from low blood sugar, or hypoglycaemia. Due to their low body mass, maintaining a stable blood glucose level is difficult for a puppy. One of the first symptoms of hypoglycaemia in a puppy is shivering. Rubbing honey or syrup on their gums can remedy these shivering episodes. If not treated quickly, the puppy is at risk of having convulsions, seizures, becoming comatose and, in the worst-case scenario, it can lead to its death. Always consult a veterinarian if your puppy suffers from hypoglycaemia.

Dehydration in Newborn Puppies

Puppies take on liquids through their mother's milk. When a puppy refuses to nurse it won't be taking the nutrients it needs and it won't be taking in any liquids. Eventually, the puppy will become dehydrated. To test if your newborn puppy is dehydrated, gently pinch the skin at the back of its neck. The puppy will be normally hydrated if the skin returns quickly back to its natural place. On the contrary, if the skin remains standing up, you need to take some action. Use a syringe and feed it some milk substitute for puppies.

Bottle-Feeding a Newborn Puppy

Always seek the advice of a professional veterinarian before attempting to bottle-feed your puppy. Newborn puppies haven't fully developed their gag reflex, and extra care needs to be taken to not to drown your puppy's lungs with milk replacement. The size of the nipple has to be small enough so milk does not drip out of it when holding the bottle vertically. Ideally, you will need to squeeze the bottle before any liquid comes out. Do not feed your puppy cow's milk because this will cause diarrhoea. Puppy milk replacement is available from a veterinarian or a pet supply store.

Tube-Feeding a Newborn Puppy

Feeding a newborn puppy with a tube-feeder is the easiest and most efficient way to feed a puppy. You can buy your supplies from your veterinarian, who will also be able to show you how to use the tube-feeder. This feeding technique is used to prevent the puppy milk replacement from getting into the puppy's lungs. Hand-feeding can normally be ended during the third week; consult a veterinarian if you are not sure.

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About the Author

Cristina Garcia has been a freelance writer since 2009 when she published her first travel ebook. She is a zoologist and has several years of wildlife research experience studying wild canid ecology and behavior. She holds a master's degree in geographical information science from the University of Edinburgh in the U.K., specializing in satellite remote sensing techniques for ecology.