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Fostering: Orphaned Puppy Litters
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Responsibilities Of An Orphaned Puppy Litter Foster

Orphaned puppies are the most vulnerable creatures that we place in foster and REQUIRE labor intensive care.  At a minimum, you should be prepared for the following.

We recommend two types of feeding for orphaned infant puppies: bottle or syringe. Bottle-feeding takes the longest amount of time but provides more satisfaction for the puppy. Syringe feeding is somewhat faster, but can be messy. Proper instruction is necessary to avoid aspiration of liquid.

Foster parents who are interested in specializing in very young orphans need more free time since the puppies need to be fed more often.

The shelter will recommend a puppy formula to foster homes. Mix only enough to use within a 24-hour period. Discard any remaining formula after 24 hours. Open formula containers and mixed bottles must be refrigerated when not in use. Formula should feel warm when tested on your wrist. Because a dog’s body temperature is 3 to 4 degrees warmer than a human’s, milk from a mother dog would be warmer than what we are used to. The warm formula will encourage a puppy to nurse.

Puppies should not be laid on their backs to nurse but should nurse with their tummies facing down. This will help prevent aspiration of the formula into their lungs, a situation that could easily cause death or serious illness to a puppy.

Puppies that nurse from a mother dog will suckle 10 to 20 times a day. A foster parent hand-raising a litter of puppies may find this impractical. Infant puppies, between the ages of newborn and four weeks, should be fed every three hours during the hours you are awake. However, a feeding every six hours will allow them to get enough nourishment to live and grow. Feedings more than eight hours apart would make it very difficult for a puppy to properly grow and develop.

Puppies have a strong instinct to suckle and are generally not satisfied when nursing on a bottle or being tube fed. At times they may attempt to nurse off one another’s genitals, sometimes resulting in pain and discomfort. Some foster parents separate their puppies into several small boxes to eliminate this problem. Providing a fleece toy or towel may help.

After feeding, gently wipe the puppies face with a warm, damp cloth and then dry to imitate the mother’s grooming. Puppies can be given a bath with a very mild soap and water. It is important to ensure they are dried very well. You can use a hair dryer on a very low temperature to do so.

Make sure you mark on a feeding chart what time you fed them and the amount. It is important to keep track of how often the puppies are being fed and how much they are eating during each feeding. Consult the chart above to see when your next feeding should take place.

Infant puppies are unable to regulate their body temperature. They can quickly succumb to hypothermia, so it is extremely important that they be kept warm. During the first two weeks of life, foster parents should keep the puppies in an area with a temperature of 85°. A constant temperature can be kept by using a heating pad under half of the puppies bedding. It can be as dangerous for a puppy to be overheated as chilled so make certain that the heating pad is placed in such a manner that the puppy can move off the heat onto unheated bedding if necessary.  At two weeks of age the temperature can be dropped to 80° and at four weeks can be lowered to 75°.

Puppies need to be manually stimulated to eliminate urine and feces. Usually, the mother dog will lick the puppy’s belly and genitals to stimulate them to go, therefore, you will need to stimulate them after each meal. There are a few different ways you can do this. To begin you can use a wet, warm cotton ball or piece of cloth and gently stroke the puppy’s belly and anal area while it is on the towel. You can also hold the puppy over a sink and stimulate it the same way using warm water just over the private areas. Keep stimulating the puppy until it finishes eliminating (but know when to stop or you may make the delicate skin raw). Normal stools have a toothpaste-like consistency and are a yellow-mustard color. Don’t worry if the puppy isn’t having stool after every feeding, or even every day. Puppies will start to eliminate on their own by two to three weeks of age.

Beginning at three to four weeks of age, you can offer the puppies formula in a shallow bowl or saucer. When they learn to drink from the bowl, add puppy food in small amounts to the formula. Gradually increase the amount of puppy food and decrease the amount of formula. Canned food is also helpful in the weaning process. Adding formula to the canned food can be very enticing to a puppy.

Puppies that don’t understand the eating process can be encouraged if you place a small amount of food on a front paw where they will clean it off or by placing a small amount of food in their mouths. Soaking puppy kibble in water (or formula) will make it easier for the puppy to eat dry food.

By five weeks of age, the puppies will a full set of pin-sharp teeth and should be able to handle puppy food.