There is nothing that touches your heart more than seeing the dwarf of a litter trying to survive with “the greatest”. Compassion for the little and the weak seems to be a very real and innate human emotion in all of us. -But empathy alone will not warm or nurture the puppy. If the puppy is going to survive, your love, action, and commitment can do it. Do not give up! Even when the vet recommends quitting, tender and loving care can often accomplish what modern veterinary medicine cannot. Watch for signs if the mother is rejecting the puppy and take action. Provide 24-hour support for the first few days. Provide comfort when the mother does not. Finally, provide food in addition to breast milk. Rest assured it can be done! We know. Raising our little dachshund was a blessing for us as we learned how to care for the puppy we call Itty Bitty.
The first sign we had that Gwenny, our female Dachshund, was rejecting a puppy was when she completely ignored him after the other puppies were born. She knew something was wrong with her and turned her attention to the healthy puppies. As soon as Gwenny was strong enough, she picked Itty Bitty up and put him out of the birthing box. What an emotional thing it was to hear him scream and then find him alone and shivering on the cold tile floor. We took our little one to the vet that morning and the prognosis was not good. He had an irregular heartbeat and, the vet guessed, a liver problem. He gave him two days to live. It was then that we said a prayer and took action by following these steps:
1. Provide 24-hour support for the first few days: The night Itty Bitty was born, I pulled an old camp crib and my sleeping bag from storage and set up a nursing station right next to the birthing box. When Gwenny took Itty out of the box, I would gently lift him up and put him back in the box with Gwenny and the other puppies. The bond that exists between the pups and the mother at this point is very, very critical, so you don’t want to completely eliminate the pup if you can help it. You also want the puppy to bond with the mother, despite her rejection.
For. Set your alarm to go off every two hours for the first night or two. Look at the puppies. Doing this together as a family can be a very rewarding time that will provide you with a lasting memory.
B. If you need to sleep, have one or two helpers; Set a time for everyone to take their turn.
2. Provide comfort when the mother does not: do not miss opportunities to comfort the puppy. In those moments when Gwenny took the puppy out of the birthing box, I would wrap Itty Bitty in a soft, dry towel and comfort him. He stroked him and spoke very softly to him. Amazingly, like a human baby, she responded to my comfort and my voice. This started a strong bond between the puppy and me that Itty Bitty and I have to this day.
For. During the day, I would find Itty Bitty alone in a corner of the birthing box. Gwenny’s attention was completely on the healthy puppies. I wrapped the towel around him and held him against my chest while watching television. Puppies love body heat! Your warmth warms and comforts them. It will not be unusual for the mother to worry and want the puppy to go back to the box, even if she rejects it again. Your rejection does not mean that you do not care about your puppy. She is trying to tell you that she doesn’t know how to fix what is wrong.
3. Provide food in addition to breast milk: You will notice immediately that your puppy is not getting his share of breast milk. The others are getting stronger and he is too weak to “fight” for his part. However, it is very, very important that you regularly move the other puppies away (such as to the other end of the box, or even another box) and let the little one feed itself. Even if the mother tries to walk away, gently hold her and order her to stay with a soft voice (being strong or firm with her will not only annoy her, but the dwarf will feel it too). The puppy MUST have access to some mother’s milk. Their milk contains life-protecting antibodies that will help the puppy fight disease.
For. Next, buy a puppy milk replacer. I like the powder version that is mixed with water. You will want to have a dropper or syringe to feed the newborn puppy, depending on the size of the puppy. For Itty Bitty, I found puppy formula and a small syringe-shaped applicator at the local pet store.
B. Heat the milk by adding warm tap water to the mixture. Refrigerate the milk between meals. Cold milk can be heated by placing it in a small container and placing that container in a larger container or container filled with hot tap water. DO NOT PLACE milk or water IN THE MICROWAVE! This will make the milk so hot that it burns the puppy.
vs. Set feeding intervals of two hours at first, then increase to four as the dwarf grows stronger. When you can, switch from the small applicator to a syringe and then to a puppy bottle (you can also get these at the pet store).
D. The puppy may not suck on the syringe at first. Just put a small amount at a time in your mouth. Be careful not to put in so much that you drown. It will slowly lick the milk.
me. As the puppy gets the idea, in a day or two, you will notice that he will actually start sucking the milk straight out of the syringe.
F. As the cubs grow and you switch them to a rice cereal, make sure the dwarf continues to receive his share, including nursing from his mother.
Be aware that sometimes puppies may not survive because they are in fact too sick; but also know that as of this writing, Itty Bitty is now twenty months old and stars in her own children’s book (“Itty Bitty Saves the Day”)! If my wife and I hadn’t made the effort to save our Itty Bitty, we would have denied ourselves the blessing that she has become in our lives. The way she runs in to say “good morning” to MaryAnn every day, the way she runs around the house on her “happy feet”, the way she runs up my leg when I’m on the couch and climbs on she. my shoulder, and the way he loves us unconditionally; We would have missed that! Fortunately, tenderness, commitment and love were the right recipes for Itty Bitty, the dwarf of the litter.