What is Orphaned Puppy?
Puppies can become orphaned or require human intervention during early puppyhood for a number of reasons. Whether the mother dog is deceased, unable to produce milk, or just unwilling to care for a litter, the puppies will need someone to care for them during this critical period. This requires frequent feedings, careful monitoring of the environment, and specialized sanitation considerations, as well as proper socialization. Raising puppies is a time-consuming and exhausting process, but a rewarding one.
Puppies that are orphaned or abandoned early in life require special care to grow into happy and healthy dogs. Raising young animals can be challenging but is ultimately rewarding.
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Symptoms of Orphaned Puppy in Dogs
Signs that the orphaned or abandoned puppy is ill or is in distress can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Inconsolable crying
- Lack of appetite
- Nasal discharge
- Pale gums
- Swollen eyes
Puppies should double their weight in the first 8 to 10 days. If weight gain is slower than this, your veterinarian should be contacted right away.
Puppies have very specific nutrition needs, and a commercially formulated diet should be used. Recipes are available to fabricate a homemade substitute, however, these are not nutritionally complete and are only appropriate as a temporary emergency measure. This is most frequently achieved by either bottle feeding or tube feeding.
Along with keeping the nursery box clean and dry, puppies require assistance with urinating and defecating after each meal until they are around three weeks of age.
Until they are around five or so weeks old, puppies are not able to regulate their temperature. The ideal temperatures for the youngest puppies, up until they are five days old, is 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. From 5-20 days old this can be reduced to around 80 degrees, and at 20-34 days old 75 degrees is adequate for them to maintain a consistent temperature.
Causes of Orphaned Puppy in Dogs
Most common causes of mortality in orphaned pups:
Puppies are prone to hypoglycemia, or a drop in blood sugar. You should contact your veterinarian right away if your puppy shows the following signs:
- Abnormal muscle twitching
- Severe depression
Dehydration is a serious concern, particularly for the ill, elderly, and very young. Neonatal pups should be kept in an environment that is adequately humid to help prevent dehydration. Signs of dehydration include:
- Loss of elasticity in the skin
- Sticky mucous membranes, most notably the gums
Very young puppies are especially susceptible to changes in temperature and can easily succumb to hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include:
- Muscle tremors
Diagnosis of Orphaned Puppy in Dogs
It is generally advised to take orphaned or abandoned puppies into the veterinarian for evaluation as well to get precise instructions for early care. Special considerations should be made before transporting the puppy or litter of puppies to the clinic, however, particularly with the very young. The temperature must remain consistently warm on the trip to prevent hypothermia or overheating, and eyes should be shielded from harsh light.
A short physical examination will be performed on the puppies, evaluating their weight, temperature, pulse rate, and respiration. Blood glucose tests will determine if there are any blood sugar imbalances present. You and your veterinarian will discuss not only feeding techniques and schedules, but also disease prevention. This is particularly important if the pups were orphaned or abandoned within the first 24 hours of life as they would have been denied their mother’s colostrum, a type of breast milk that contains specific antibodies to give them immunity against certain diseases.
Treatment of Orphaned Puppy in Dogs
Puppies are usually either bottle fed or fed by a tube. A bottle is usually the easiest choice if the pups have strong enough suckling power, but it is important to ensure that the proper sized nipple and nipple hole are used. Too large a hole or nipple can lead to drooling of milk out of the corners of the mouth and gagging, as well as increasing the risk of aspiration. Tube feeding is particularly useful for puppies with weakened suckling power and uses a soft rubber tube which is inserted into the mouth and down into the stomach. For both types of feeding, the canine formula should be warmed to approximately 100 degrees before feeding as cold formula can lead to regurgitation and diarrhea or even cause the pup’s body temperature to drop.
It is important that the environment that orphaned animals are brought up in is as clean as possible, particularly with young dogs who were unable to consume the antibody-rich colostrum in the first 24 hours of life. They are unable to regulate their body temperature in the first few weeks of life and can be prone to dehydration in drier conditions, so it is critical that the environment that they are raised in is suitably warm and not too arid.
Canines require help with urination and defecation for the first 3-4 weeks of age. This is usually handled by the mother dog, however with orphaned puppies that task falls to the caregiver. To assist the infant dog with these processes, the caregiver can gently massage the anal and urinary areas with a wet washcloth or cotton ball after each meal.
Recovery of Orphaned Puppy in Dogs
Along with the physical care that is required to successfully raise puppies, it is also vital that their emotional and social needs are met if they are to grow into happy and healthy adult animals. There are three stages that early puppyhood can be broken down into.
The neonatal stage covers the first two weeks of life. Puppies in the neonatal stage of development get plenty of socialization during the lengthy processes of care and feeding, and further handling should be kept to a minimum.
The transitionary period of growth covers the second through the fourth week of life. This is when the eyes open, the senses of smell and hearing are developing, and the puppy starts becoming more mobile. More cuddling or playful contact is appropriate during this stage, but only in small doses of a few minutes at a time.
The critical socialization of puppies can span from three weeks all the way to twelve weeks of age and is the time in which the puppy is learning what it is to be a dog. During this period the puppy will be learning about social skills, play behaviors, and physical coordination. They should be exposed to as many safe but novel interactions with people, dogs, and even other animals as possible, without overwhelming the puppy.