Over the years, during every whelping season, I am confronted with requests from anxious pet owners whose mother dogs have deposited litters that they abandoned soon after birth.
We have already delineated, in a previous “Pet Care” column, the possible reasons why the dams reject their puppies. There are also regrettable situations in which the mother dies soon after giving birth.
The advice given below is to pet owners who are faced with the challenge of hand-rearing part or all of a litter of newborn puppies. The portions that are underlined are of special importance.
A high degree of success can be attained if careful attention is focused on the basic principles involved in the artificial rearing of motherless puppies. These are:
1) Providing a suitable hygienic environment
2) Offering a nutritionally adequate formula
3) Instituting a satisfactory feeding programme
4) Managing a daily routine.

It is of paramount importance that we provide a proper temperature, isolation, and freedom from disturbance. Adequate warmth, uniformly maintained, is basic to life – particularly during the first week of the puppy’s life. Studies at Cornell University in the USA indicate that a temperature maintained between 85°F and 90°F (29°C – 32°C) is most desirable during the period from birth to the fifth day. In our climate, it is not too difficult to maintain these temperatures. In case the temperature gets colder, an electric bulb could be hung over the boxes with the puppies in order to provide the needed warmth.
Orphan puppies placed together tend to suckle or otherwise disturb each other. For this reason, if deemed necessary, each puppy could be placed in a box of its own. In this way, the caregiver can also evaluate the quantity and quality of each puppy’s stool. Most of the time, newborn puppies tend to sleep, and you may place them together to give them comfort, while closely observing their behaviour.
So that the puppies are not disturbed by the natural inquisitiveness of the children in the home, or by other pets who would, from time to time, want to pay their respects to the new arrivals, I suggest that the puppies in their boxes be placed in a special room, away from the comings and goings and general hubbub that are found in any normal home. If no room is available then they can be placed under the bed, or in some other warm, draft-free, secluded place.

In mammalian milk within a species, one expects a prototype of a nutritive substance formulated to meet the optimal requirements of the young of that species. The milk of a bitch is considerably more concentrated than cow’s milk. It has twice the level of protein, almost double the caloric content, and more than twice the content of calcium and phosphorus of cow’s milk.
Evaporated milk reconstituted at 20 per cent solids more closely approximates the composition of a bitch’s milk. Research experience has shown that evaporated cow’s milk is comparable to any other formula tested. For those of us who do not have evaporated milk, cow’s milk may be substituted. It is possible for the owner to modify the cow’s milk to an acceptable homemade formula by adding fat and protein sources such as egg yolk (not the egg white). Indiscriminate addition of sugars, particularly sucrose or lactose, to increase the caloric content of cow’s milk is not recommended.
Of course, if the owner has access to any of the successful commercial formulations (eg. Esbilac or SPF-lac), that could be introduced to the feeding regimen.
Warmest wishes to all Guyanese as we commemorate fifty-eight years as an independent nation.