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A Dachshund Puppy Survives – Caring For A Runt Named "Itty Bitty"
Nothing touches your heart more than watching a litter run around trying to keep up with the “bigger guys”. Compassion for the small and weak seems to be a very real and innate human feeling in all of us. -But empathy alone does not warm and nourish a puppy. If the puppy is going to survive, your love, action and commitment can see it through. Do not give up! Even if your vet recommends giving it up, tender and loving care can often achieve what modern veterinary medicine cannot. Watch for signs if the mother abandons the puppy and take action. Offer 24/7 support for the first few days. Offer comfort when mom doesn’t. Finally, give food in addition to breast milk. Rest assured it can be done! We know. Raising a dachshund puppy was a blessing for us as we learned how to care for a puppy we named Itty Bitty.
The first sign that Gwenny, our female dachshund, abandoned the puppy was when she completely ignored it after the other puppies were born. She knew something was wrong with him and focused her attention on the healthy puppies. As soon as Gwenny was strong enough, she actually picked Itty Bitty up and put him outside the delivery box. What an emotional thing it was to hear her scream and then find her alone and shivering on the cold tile floor. We took our pooch to the vet that morning and the prognosis was not good. He had an irregular heartbeat and the vet suspected liver problems. He gave him two days to live. That’s when we said a prayer and jumped into action with the following steps:
1. Provide round-the-clock support in the first few days: The night Ity Bitty was born, I pulled my old travel cot and sleeping bag out of storage and set up a nursing station right next to the birthing box. After Gwenny put Itty out of the crate, I gently picked him up and put him back in the crate next to Gwenny and the other puppies. The bond between pups and mother at this stage is very, very critical, so you don’t want to remove the pup entirely if you can help it. You want the puppy to bond with the mother as well, even if she rejects.
a. Set an alarm to go off every two hours for the first night or two. Check the puppies. Doing this together as a family can be a very rewarding time that leaves a lasting memory.
b. If you need sleep, take a helper or two; make a schedule so that everyone has a turn.
2. Offer comfort when the mother doesn’t: Don’t miss opportunities to comfort the puppy. During those times when Gwenny took the puppy out of the litter box, I wrapped a soft, dry washcloth around Itty Bitty and comforted her. I would pet him and talk to him very softly. Amazingly, just like a human baby, she responded to comfort and my voice. This was the beginning of a strong bond between the puppy and me that Ity Bitty and I have to this day.
a. During the day, I found Itty Bitty alone in the corner of the birth box. Gwenny’s attention was completely on the healthy puppies. I wrapped a washcloth around her and held her against my chest while I watched TV. Puppies love body heat! Your warmth warms and comforts them. It is not unusual for the mother to be concerned and want the puppy back in the crate, even if she rejects it again. Her rejection doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about her puppies. He’s trying to tell you that he doesn’t know how to fix whatever is wrong with it.
3. Offer food in addition to mother’s milk: You will immediately notice that the puppy is not getting its share of mother’s milk. The others get stronger and he is too weak to “fight” for his share. However, it is very, very important that you regularly move the other puppies away (such as to one end of the box or even another box) and let the little one nurse alone. Even if mom tries to move away, gently hold her down and tell her to stay in a gentle voice (being loud or firm with her will not only upset her, but the gossip will sense it). The puppy MUST get some of the mother’s milk. Its milk contains life-protecting antibodies that help the puppy fight off diseases.
a. Next, buy puppy formula. I like the powdered version that you mix with water. You will want to have eye drops or a syringe to feed your newborn puppy depending on the size of the puppies. For Itty Bitty, I found puppy formula and a small syringe-like applicator at a local pet store.
b. Heat the milk by adding warm tap water to the mixture. Refrigerate the milk between meals. Cold milk can be warmed by putting it in a small container and placing it in a larger bowl or container filled with hot water. DO NOT MICROWAVE milk or water! This makes the milk so hot that it burns the puppy.
c. At first, set feeding intervals of two hours, then increase to four when the feeding becomes stronger. When you can, move from the small applicator to the syringe, then to the puppy teat bottle (these are also available at the pet store).
d. The puppy may not suck the syringe at first. Just put a small amount in his mouth at a time. Be careful not to put so much that it gets angry. It slowly drains the milk down.
e. When the puppy gets the idea, you will notice in a day or two that he will start sucking milk directly from the syringe.
f. When the puppies get older and you move them to rice cereal, make sure the dog continues to get his share, including nursing from his mother.
Remember that sometimes puppies may not make it because they are actually too sick; but also know that as of this writing, Itty Bitty is now twenty months old and starring in her own children’s book (“Itty Bitty Saves the Day”)! If my wife and I had not tried to save our Itty Bitty, we would have denied ourselves the blessing that he has been in our lives. The way he runs in to say “good morning” to MaryAnn every day, the way he runs through the house on his “happy feet,” the way he runs up my leg when I’m on the couch and climbs up my shoulder, and the way he loves us unconditionally ; we would have missed it! Fortunately, tender care, commitment and love were the right recipes for Itty Bitty, the livestock of the litter.
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