Few things are sweeter than a mommy doggy nursing her puppies. But because of irresponsible breeding and failure to spay and neuter, many pregnant and nursing dogs end up in shelters that don’t have the resources to care for them. In most cases, these dogs end up on the euthanasia list and puppies become sick from exposure to diseases in these shelters. For most, the only hope for survival is finding a foster home.
While it may seem cumbersome, fostering a pregnant or mommy dog and puppies is much easier than one might think. “The birth of pups is a miraculous process and the best part is there is no midwife or vet. The momma knows what to do and does everything herself,” says Beverly Ray, a foster with ample experience with these house guests.
“The pups are born blind and deaf so their noses guide them everywhere they need to go. They find a teat and nurse on their own. For about the first four weeks, momma feeds the pups and cleans them several times a day. No diapers either!”
After about two weeks the puppies open their eyes, and about four weeks they become more active, trying to stand on their wobbly legs. The mom still nurses them, but this is when the foster’s work begins by introducing the puppies to eating gruel (this is basically puppy kibble that has soaked in warm water or even puppy formula until it is soft). “The first few times the puppies don’t know why this watery mush has been put down for them,” says Ray. “They walk and roll in it and learn to lick it off of their fur and paws. In a few days they get the idea and are eating like champs. They grow rapidly and mom will start to wean them around six weeks of age.”
Fosters get to witness survival of the fittest, as stronger puppies often leave the runtier ones without food. “Dogs usually have large litters because some puppies may not survive,” says Ray. “But with a little human support with bottle feeding, a puppy will get strong enough to hold their own with all their other siblings racing to nurse.”
Ray points out another big plus of fostering moms: “Puppies like to sleep in piles, and there is nothing cuter than a pile of puppies!”
She also offers these tips to encourage people to foster a pregnant doggy:
- Set up a spare bedroom or bathroom, climate controlled garage or laundry room.
- Mom will start to look for a place to have her pups; a plastic kiddie pool is adequate.
- Line it up with old towels, newspaper, sheets, or blankets. Have plenty on hand – there will be laundry.
- No outside visitors for the pups until they get to be six weeks old. Mom will be protective of her pups with strangers and other dogs.
- Mom will have post-partum bloody discharge, so cover furniture you want to protect.
- Mom needs more calories than usual to provide enough milk for her pups. Have food and plenty of water available at all times.
Puppies get adopted fast, so by 8 weeks of age all your pups will be adopted and off to their new homes, and so will mommy doggy. You will have the satisfaction of having saved not just one, but many lives.