By Arliss Paddock, former managing editor of the AKC Gazette and an English Cocker Spaniel breeder and exhibitor
situations occur where newborn pups might
require supplemental feeding.
Conscientious breeders agree: Every pup they bring
into this world deserves a good beginning. Most
of the time, Mother Nature takes care of the recipe:
The canine dam provides the warmth, attentive nurturing
and diet that are nutritionally perfect for her
growing offspring #8212; plentiful mother#8217;s milk.
But sometimes situations occur where newborn pups
might benefit from or require supplemental feeding.
In the case of an extremely large litter, for example,
providing some of the pups with a quality milk substitute
in addition to letting them nurse can help ensure
that all receive optimum nutrition in those first
weeks #8212; and it can aid the dam in keeping
up with the litter#8217;s demands.
#8220;With an unusually large litter, I don#8217;t
hesitate to supplement,#8221; said veterinarian
and longtime Dalmatian breeder Dr. Sidney Remmele.
#8220;A breeder should watch out for poor doers,
puppies that look thin and undernourished. Play
it by ear #8230; supplement the smaller puppies,
and see how they do. Continue until they look like
the rest of the litter. It might be five days. It
might be three weeks.#8221;
Breeders find supplementing to be beneficial in
a variety of other situations as well. #8220;I
supplement every litter born here for at least a
day or two,#8221; explained Pembroke Welsh Corgi
breeder Anne Bowes. #8220;I feel that the human-puppy
bond formed through having the puppy nurse a bottle
from your hand is invaluable.#8221;
In some cases a bitch may have milk
that is temporarily toxic to the puppies, an inadequate
milk supply because of illness
or delayed let-down of milk because of
#8220;When a bitch has had a C-section, it is extremely
important that her puppies receive supplementation
as soon as possible after birth,#8221; Bowes said.
#8220;It often takes a day or two for C-sectioned
bitches to have enough milk for their puppies and
to be fully invested in the care of their litter.
During that time, puppies must be supplemented to
Martha Anderson, who breeds Rhodesian Ridgebacks
and Labrador Retrievers, emphasizes that the breeder
must continually assess the condition of each pup
to recognize when a pup needs supplementation.
#8220;It#8217;s important that breeders carefully
consider each puppy in each litter,#8221; Anderson
said. #8220;It may be that larger litters lend
themselves to more #8216;exceptional#8217; puppies
that could require extra monitoring or assistance.
However, some breeds regularly produce very large
litters, and some (as with toy breeds) may produce
smaller ones#8212;pups from either of these extremes
could require assistance.
It#8217;s a puppy-by-puppy decision, provided you
have the dam there to feed and care for them.
the dam provides the warmth, nurturing and
diet that are nutritionally perfect for her
#8220;We have supplemented once,#8221; Anderson noted, #8220;with one Ridgeback pup in a litter
of 12. She was developmentally behind the other
pups by a few days and could not compete successfully
for a teat. She would have died if not fed until
she grew enough to compete for her own food from
Momma. After about 10 days, as soon as she caught
up with the others in size and mobility and could
push them aside to get a nipple for herself, we
If a pup is able to suck, most breeders will choose
to bottle-feed it, rather than feeding it through
a tube. #8220;With tube-feeding,#8221; said Remmele,
#8220;you must be taught how to do it properly,
because you can kill a puppy in a minute by getting
the milk into the lungs rather than the stomach.#8221;
When tube-feeding is indicated, breeders should
take extreme care in placing the tube properly and
be certain not to overfeed the puppy or feed it
if it is chilled.
#8220;A chilled puppy cannot digest milk and should
be tube-fed a dextrose solution#8212;not formula!#8212;until
its body temperature goes up, explained Remmele.
It is critical to use the correct equipment for
the process. For bottle-feeding, many breeders favor
using a human baby bottle with a #8220;preemie#8221;
#8220;Even though my puppies weigh only 6 to 12
ounces at birth, they can use a preemie nipple with
no problem,#8221; Bowes said.
For tube feeding, your veterinarian should have
#8220;I use a 3 cc syringe with a clear, pliable,
plastic catheter attached, which is about 6-8 inches
long,#8221; said Bowes.
Also essential is a high-quality puppy-milk substitute,
such as a reputable commercial formula that has
been tested to ensure that it closely approximates
bitch#8217;s milk. Bowes recommends using the liquid
form of commercial formulas.
#8220;I can pour it straight from the can into
the bottle without having to mix it up or add anything,#8221;
she said. #8220;All I have to do is warm it up.
Powdered formula or other types that have to be
mixed often get stuck in the nipple. If a puppy
can#8217;t get anything out of the nipple, he may
get frustrated and stop trying to nurse.#8221;