This information is based on the experience of the author, is provided to breeders for informational purposes only. It should not be construed to be endorsement by HCA of any particular technique, method or recommendation. Always seek and follow the advice of your vet first.
So you’ve done all you can to produce a healthy litter of puppies but something went wrong with one or more of them. Perhaps the dam has more than puppies she can handle, didn’t go full term is overdue, the puppies are undersized or just didn’t form correctly. Almost anything can go wrong. An absolutely wonderful book to read before you have your litter is Puppy Intensive Care: A Breeder's Guide to Care of Newborn Puppies by Myra Savant-Harris, this book will tell you what to have on hand in an emergency and where to find it. There is The Whelping & Bearing of Puppies: A Complete & Practical Guide by Muriel P. Lee, The Complete Book of Dog Breeding by Dan Rice, and Breeding a Litter – The Complete Book of Prenatal & Postnatal Care by Beth J. Finder Harris. (Please refer to the References Section for more books about breeding dogs.) The resources are out there to help you, but do keep in mind that a Havanese mentor and your vet are your best resource.
Orphan pups and Premature pups
If something happens and Mom will not, or cannot, feed one or more of the puppies, you need to be prepared. Mom’s milk may not come in right away; she may not be ready for motherhood so you might have to become the, hopefully temporary, surrogate mother. You should have available some “Just Born” or “Esbilac” milk replacement and some small animal nursing bottles. You can find it in liquid or powdered form at many pet stores or from online suppliers. If you have read the book mentioned above and feel confident enough, you can try your hand at tube feeding. To do that, you will also want to have a catheter and syringe available for use. Sometimes tube feeding is the only way to get the puppy to take milk. It’s a good idea to have your vet show you how to do this ahead of time.
In making these decisions, it is best to enlist the help of your veterinarian as soon as possible after the birth.
There are some wonderful recipes for milk to feed the puppy, but if this is your first time, the store ones are just fine to get you started. A lot of puppies are born in the middle of the night when it is not easy to find a market open. You certainly do not want to leave mom and the pups to go find what you need, so it’s a good idea to be sure you are prepared ahead of time.
If mom is not cleaning the puppies for some reason; they will need to have assistance from you to stimulate them to potty. Please do not leave your litter until you are sure all are being cared for by the mother. I use soft Kleenex to help the new puppy go. Rub gently from the tummy to the rear across the genital area to help stimulate them to urniate, then you need to rub from genital area to the tail to help them poop. The stimulation is something you will need to do after you feed them, which should be done about every 2 hours to start with.
Try to keep the puppy with the mom and litter mates to keep it warm, if at all possible,. If mom is pushing the puppy away, you need to have a place to keep it warm by itself. One way to do this is to use a small plastic container lined with towels. You can purchase a “Snuggle Safe” that can be warmed in the microwave to place in a towel under the puppy. Or you can use a heating pad on low. Make sure that you monitor the temperature and that you don’t dehydrate the puppy in doing so. If the puppy gets chilled you will lose it quickly. All the puppies need to be kept warm as they are not capable of regulating their own body temperature in the first several days.
Each day you need to take the mother and puppy aside to try to get the puppy to nurse if at all possible. If you don’t try, you won’t know if the mom will accept the puppy or if the puppy now has enough suction to nurse the mother. If you can get mom to accept the puppy, it will be better for both of them, but this does not always happen.
For the first several days, you should weigh the entire litter to determine their progress on weight gain. A small basket or bread pan on postage scale works well for this. The first day you will often find that they have lost a small amount of their birth weight, but after that, they should make a steady gain. Havanese puppies at birth can weigh anywhere from 4 oz. to 7 oz. with some variation above and below those values. Their birth weigh depends on the bitch and how many puppies she has produced as well as other factors.
Weak or Fading pups
Underweight and very weak puppies are a little harder to deal with. As soon as you notice they are non-responsive to nursing you need to give them a drop in their mouth of Karo Syrup or you can use a product called Stat that you can get from your vet. This is a short term fix to give them a small amount of energy while you and your vet assess what is causing the weakness.
Hopefully you will have already established yourself and your bitch with a good vet (see Preparing for Delivery) who can help you make good decisions and can coach you through the following procedures or other appropriate ones.
You will need to keep the weak puppies hydrated. If you gently pinch their skin and the skin stays up in a pucker, you know you need to get fluids into them. You may not know how to give them fluid subcutaneously, but you can try using a the feeding tube or a bottle. With the easily dehydrated fading puppies, you have to keep a special balance between warmth so the puppy doesn’t get chilled and fluid intake because the warmth will speed up fluid loss from the puppy.
The puppy needs to have enough energy to take the bottle; a 3 oz. or smaller puppy sometimes does not have that strength. To help with this problem, you can try putting the small puppy nipple on a 3/10 cc syringe and then gently push the milk out as the puppy sucks. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to regulate the amount of milk that comes out of a syringe. Some breeders will hold the puppy with it’s head in a slight downward position to help keep excess formula from drowning the puppy.
The puppy’s stomach is small, so great care must be taken to not over feed the puppy. A general rule of thumb is to feed the puppy ½ it’s weight in cc’s…for example…if the puppy weighs 3 oz, feed 1-1/2 cc per feeding, every 2 hours. It is a good idea to weigh the puppy each time you feed so that after 3 or 4 feedings, you will know whether the puppy has maybe gained even a small amount of weight.
You also need to know that sometimes puppies are born in a dry sack and dead, and the mom may try to eat it so that it will not affect the remaining puppies,.This puppy should be removed from the mother as quickly as possible.