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A Dachshund Puppy Survives – Caring For A Runt Named "Itty Bitty"
There is nothing that will touch your heart more than watching the rut of a litter trying to survive with “the bigger kids”. Compassion for the small and weak seems to be a very real and innate human emotion in all of us. -But empathy alone will not warm and feed the puppy. If the puppy survives, your love, action and commitment can see it through. Don’t give up! Even when the vet recommends putting it down, tender loving care can often accomplish what modern, veterinary medicine cannot. Watch for signs if the mother rejects the puppy and take action. Provide round the clock support for the first few days. Provide comfort when the mother does not. Finally, provide food other than mother’s milk. Rest assured it can be done! we know Raising our dachshund was a blessing to us as we learned to care for the puppy we named Itty Bitty.
The first sign we had that Gwenny, our female Dachshund, was rejecting a puppy was when she completely ignored it after the other puppies were born. She knew there was something wrong with him and focused her attention on the healthy chicks. As soon as Gwenny was strong enough, she actually lifted Itty Bitty and placed him outside the birthing box. What an emotional thing it was, hearing him scream and then finding him alone and shivering on the cold tile floor. We took our curto to the vet that morning and the prognosis was not good. He had an irregular heartbeat and, the vet assumed, a liver problem. He gave him two days to live. That’s when we said a prayer and jumped into action using the following steps:
1. Provide round-the-clock support during the first few days: The night Itty Bitty was born, I pulled an old camping cot and my sleeping bag out of storage and set up a nursing station right next to the crib. When Gwenny took Itty out of the box, I would gently pick him up and put him back in the box next to Gwenny and the other chicks. The bonding that happens between the pups and the mother at this point is very, very critical, so you don’t want to get rid of the puppy completely if you can help it. You want the puppy to bond with the mother as well, despite her rejection.
a. Set your alarm to go off every two hours for the first night or two. Check the chicks. Doing this together as a family can be a very rewarding time that will provide a lasting memory.
b. If you need the sleep, have a helper or two; set a schedule so that everyone takes turns.
2. Provide comfort when the mother is not: Don’t miss opportunities to comfort the puppy. At those times when Gwenny took the puppy out of the litter box, I would wrap a soft, dry washcloth around Itty Bitty and comfort him. I would pet him and talk to him very softly. Amazingly, just like a human baby, he responded to the comfort and to my voice. This started a strong bond between the puppy and I that Itty Bitty and I have to this day.
a. During the day, I would find Itty Bitty alone in a corner of the nursery. Gwenny’s attention was fully on the healthy chicks. I would wrap the washcloth around him and hold him to my chest while I watched TV. Puppies love body heat! Your warmth warms and comforts them. It will not be unusual for the mother to be concerned and want the puppy right back in the box, even if she rejects it again. Her rejection doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about her puppy. She’s trying to tell you that she doesn’t know how to fix anything wrong with it.
3. Provide food in addition to mother’s milk: You will soon notice that your puppy is not getting its share of mother’s milk. The others are getting stronger and he is too weak to “fight” for his part. However, it is very, very important that you regularly move the other chicks away (like to the other end of the box, or even to another box) and let the little one fend for itself. Even if the mother tries to move away, gently hold her and tell her to stay in a soft voice (being loud or firm with her will not only upset her, but the runt will feel it too). The puppy MUST have access to some milk from its mother. There are life-protecting antibodies in her milk that will help the puppy fight off disease.
a. Next, buy some puppy milk replacer. I like the powder version that you mix with water. You will want to have an eye dropper or syringe to feed the newborn puppy, depending on the size of the puppies. For Itty Bitty, I found the puppy formula and a small, syringe like applicator at the local pet store.
b. Heat the milk by adding hot tap water to the mixture. Refrigerate the milk between feedings. Cold milk can be warmed by placing it in a small container and placing that container in a larger bowl or container that is full of hot tap water. DO NOT MICROWAVE the milk or the water! This will get the milk so hot that it burns the puppy.
c. Set two-hour feeding intervals at first, then increase to four as the runt gets stronger. When you can, move from the small applicator to a syringe, then to a puppy bottle (you can get these at the pet store too).
d. The puppy may not suck the syringe at first. Simply put a small amount at a time into his mouth. Be careful not to put so much that it gags. It will slowly drop the milk.
e. As the puppy gets the hang of it, after a day or two, you’ll notice that he’ll actually start sucking the milk right out of the syringe.
f. As the puppies get older and you move them to rice cereal, make sure the runt continues to get his share, including nursing from his mother.
Please know 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 he has become in our lives. The way he runs to say “good morning” to MaryAnn every day, the way he runs around the house with his “happy feet,” the way he runs up my leg when I’m on the couch and climbs on. my shoulder, and the way he loves us unconditionally; we missed that! Fortunately, tender care, commitment and love were the right prescriptions for Itty Bitty, the runt of the litter.
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