The next crisis is feeding the ravenous mother. Every time she wakes up, she wants food and she wants it NOW! She runs to the kitchen to search for food, gobbles it down, and rushes back to protect her brood. She needs enough food for herself and her pups. Give her plenty of extra protein—meat, egg yolks, chicken, liver, fish, etc. You will need to cook it in advance and keep it in the fridge so that you are ready to feed her in a flash. Remove all bones because her galloping gobble will swallow them whole and they may get stuck in her throat, or tear her innards.
Have feeding bottles ready in case of emergency. Most pups can get their mouths around a normal baby’s teat. If not, smaller bottles can be bought from a pharmacy. You can make a substitute for dog’s milk if you feel a puppy needs to be bottle fed.
A substitute for mother's milk
A substitute for mother's milk
200ml cows’ milk, one egg yolk, and 1 teaspoon glucose. This can be mixed and kept in the fridge. A newborn pup does not drink big quantities, so put just a desert spoonful in the bottle and leave it to get to room temperature, or slightly warm it before feeding. You can warm milk by standing the bottle in a bowl of hot water. Left over milk should be thrown out as it will breed bacteria.
Don’t allow visitors to go near the litter, or this will upset the mum and she’ll try to hide her young somewhere inaccessible, like under the bed. A normally docile dog may bite to defend her brood. We can’t blame her for doing what her ancient instincts tell her to do. Children are especially vulnerable as they will want to pick the pups up, and the mother knows they might drop them or hurt them accidentally. Teach children that a growl is to be taken seriously!
The father of the puppies should be kept away as he will upset the mother, who may attack him. There will be plenty of time for him to see them once they are running about. Do take him for walks and tell him he's a good boy!
The pups are born blind, deaf, and toothless. Yet they can wriggle around and find their way to the teats. They pummel the teats with their front paws, which stimulates the milk flow. They push and shove their way in which gives them exercise. In nature, it’s the fittest that survive. Weaklings are pushed aside and left to die. Sometimes a pup is born with a defect and is unable to suckle. The mother can sense there is something wrong with it, and will leave it to die. We humans feel we must save life at all costs, but in some cases it’s better if the pup dies than be a sick dog all its life. The first three days is critical. Pups who survive for three days have a good chance of making it to maturity.
The mother keeps the pups clean by licking them. She also eats their poos and wees, which returns nutrients to her own body.
After the birth, the mother will continue to loose blood. The discharge is sometimes black or greenish. This is old blood. Eventually it will look more like normal blood and will gradually stop. Keep changing the newspaper to give the litter a dry bed to lie on.
By three weeks of age, the pups are starting to look more like dogs. They can stand up in a wobbly way, walk a few steps and fall down. Their eyes are open though they may not see very distinctly yet. Sometimes pups’ eyes are blue at first, and turn a darker colour by the age of seven weeks. At three weeks, they have some sense of direction, and will start trying to walk away from their bed to do the toilet. They usually manage to find their way back, but if one gets lost and is separated from the litter for a long time, he will be cold and distressed. A big playpen is a good idea to keep them together, or a big box. If the litter is born in a certain corner of the room - that is the corner to which they will return. They become imprinted. They take in their first impressions of the world, and the people around them, from birth, but especially from three to six weeks. This is a good time to bond with them.
The mother now has to feed both herself and probably her own weight again in pups. She will be ravenously hungry, so make sure she has plenty of high protein food, and feed her several times a day.