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How to Hand-Raise Puppies

 This information is given out to people who need this information to help with the raising of a Chihuahua litter. There are many reasons why one may need to hand-raise puppies, such as losing the dam, or the dam having difficulties accepting the puppies or not having the milk come in right after a c-section.  This is not meant to replace a veterinarian's advice, so please consult your veterinarian.

Feel free to contact us at any time if you have any questions. We get back to e-mail questions about hand-raising puppies as soon as we see them.

    When the puppies are born it is best to try and get them the colostrum from the dam. If necessary, the vet can spin down a small amount of blood from the dam and give the plasma to the puppies. This will help keep them from getting contagious diseases such as Parvo, until they are older (5 weeks or more), when they can safely have their first vaccinations. A tip: if you breed dogs, you can freeze some of a female's colostrum in your freezer, and it is good for 1 year, so if you have a bitch that needs to have her pups hand-raised you have some colostrum on hand (be sure to warm it up first!). Also, I give one cc (1 millilitre) to each puppy if the mother is slow to get in her colostrum, as puppies can no longer absorb the antibodies in the colostrum after 4 to 72 hours.

    When I hand-raised a litter after a dam needed a c-section and was put on medication, I was given a bottle, formula, a nipple and a tube for tube-feeding. I found that the puppies had difficulty drinking from the bottle, and the formula didn't agree with them and gave them very bad diarrhea. For strong puppies, I found a syringe (without the needle!) and nipple was the best way to feed them. I had a 3 cc (3 ml) syringe without the needle, and I used the small nipple which I attached to the barrel of the syringe. I made sure the syringe worked properly and freely before adding the formula, and the nipple.
    The formula that I used and seemed to work the best for my puppies was dry Esbilac formula, mixed with goat milk (instead of water), with a capful of pedialyte and part of a capsule of acidophilus. The goat milk is easier to digest then regular cow's milk, as well as having more nutrition than water. The pedialyte kept them hydrated, and from getting diarrhea, and the acidophilus put the good bacteria in the puppies' gut so that they can digest the food. My puppies gained steadily on this formula and had nice, full round tummies, were quiet except during feeding time, and were very happy. Another formula (homemade) which I have been using recently with great success is:

If you can't find the carton of goat milk, then use canned goat milk, but you HAVE to add an extra can of water...puppies need the fluids, and canned milk is too concentrated. I mix all of this together, and then I strain it to remove any large pieces/globs. I have used this on puppies that need supplementing, and find it to be a very good formula. The puppies gain weight on it well, and have nice stool consistency. Be sure to ALWAYS mix the formula well (especially with the powdered formula) and heat it up to body temperature before you feed the puppies (and you might have to re-heat it after you feed several puppies, as the formula does cool quickly). I heat up the formula in the microwave, by putting a small amount in, and heating it up for 20 to 30 seconds. I don't like it to be hot when I take it out as it kills the acidophilus (you would have to add more then) and reduces the effectiveness of some nutrients. If it is hot, allow it to cool to "warm" before feeding the puppies. Alternatively, without a microwave, you can heat the formula by putting a small container of it in a very warm "bath."

    When I fed the puppies, I used the 3 cc syringe that didn't have an attachment for a needle, just the little spout where the liquid comes out. I filled the syringe with the formula, put the nipple on, and then I held it on while I fed the puppy (making sure the pup's tongue was beneath the nipple) to make sure the nipple didn't pop off with all of the pressure from the formula. I fed at approx. one tenth of a cc every 2 seconds to make sure the puppy was sucking and so that it would not choke, but the larger puppies often got more than that every 2 seconds. You usually can tell, by how hard and eagerly the puppy sucks. For the first week I fed them approx. 3 cc's per feeding, which was a feeding every 2-2.5 hours, twenty four hours a day. After that, the feedings can be extended to every 3 to 4 hours.
    When they were first born, they got approx 1 to 2 ccs. The amount to feed is dependent on their current weight, and weighing a puppy each day is very important to monitor how they are doing. A 2.5 ounce puppy will get about 1.5cc, a 4 ounce puppy will get about 2.5cc, a 6 ounce puppy will get 4 to 5cc, etc. They gradually want more as they grew, and at one point I was feeding up to 9 or 12 cc's per feeding, making sure to watch the stools for any sign of diarrhea (which could mean that you are giving them to much). I make sure to ALWAYS have Ovol drops (human infant anti-colic medicine) on hand, in case a puppy gets colic. Colic can be caused by too much food and is life threatening.

    If a puppy is too weak to nurse, or doesn't know how to (as is the case with premature puppies), tube-feeding is the ideal method to feed them. Tube-feeding is VERY safe, if done properly, and is very quick and easy. I recommend that you get a vet or breeder to show you how to insert the feeding tube. I use a #5 french feeding tube when they are born. A #8 feeding tube is good for older puppies. To measure how far to put the feeding tube, measure from the last rib on the ribcage to the mouth, and mark with a piece of tape (this WILL change as the puppy gets older). Fill up the syringe with formula, and attach to the feeding tube. Push formula from the syringe to the tip of the feeding tube (a little drips out) so that the tube does not have any air in it. Lubricate the tube with a little milk or water and insert the feeding tube into the puppy's mouth and up to the part that you marked with tape. Slowly put the recommended amount of milk into the puppies stomach, and take out the feeding tube. Here is a good site with more information on how to tube-feed: http://pcoc.net/tube-feeding.htm
Here is an EXCELLENT video on how to tube-feed puppies: http://www.naturalholistic.com/tubefeeding.html

    Because puppies need a mother to clean up after them, you will have to clean up after them and act as their mother. You will have to make sure they defecate before and after each feeding, and you can promote this by wiping their bottoms with a soft wet cloth, to stimulate the feel of a mother dog who licks the pup's behind. To get them to urinate, you wipe where they urinate, and down towards the belly (if the urine is yellow instead of clear then it means it could be dehydrated). To get them to pass any feces, you wipe from above the anus to the base of the tail. Normal puppy poop is not white or curdled-looking as that could mean the puppy is not digesting its food. Pup poop is often a yellow or brown color.
    I keep the puppies warm by keeping the room at a constant temperature of about 75 to 85 degrees F. I also kept them in a plastic crate, with a heating pad on medium (under the entire bottom of the crate, not inside the crate...it takes more heat to go through the crate, but you don't have to worry about the puppy getting to the heating pad and burning itself, unless you keep the heating pad at a very high temperature), and I had a nice, soft towel that I duct-taped (the reason for duct-taping the towel flat is so the pups will not be covered up or asphyxiated by it) to the bottom of the crate.  Then I added another towel over the top and sides of the entire crate to trap and keep the heat inside the crate where the puppies are.

 Make sure you never feed a chilled pup as they CAN NOT digest any food and it will just sit in their stomach and ferment. Slowly warm up the puppy if it does get chilled. Be sure to keep the puppy warm as he can not regulate his own body temperature until he is 5 or 6 weeks old!!

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