For the love of your pet: How to care for newborn puppies

By Shana Bohac
March 6, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 10, 2014 at 10:11 p.m.

Shana Bohac

Shana Bohac

During the first few weeks of life, newborn puppies spend the majority of their time eating and staying warm. Our job is to simply watch over the mother and her puppies to ensure all puppies are receiving enough milk and that none of the puppies are rejected.

Newborn puppies generally nurse at least every two hours during the first few days. The intervals between feeding gradually increase as the puppies begin to develop. At the age of 4 weeks, solid food may be introduced into their diet. It is best to use a high-quality dry kibble soaked in warm milk replacer or water. The puppies need a commercial canine milk replacer.

Other formulations of milk replacer for cattle can be harmful. This can be presented to the puppies multiple times throughout the day. By 7 or 8 weeks, puppies can be fully transitioned to dry kibble alone.

During the first few weeks of life, the puppies' body weight should double, if not triple. A consistent weight gain of 10 to 15 percent daily is healthy. Puppies that are not gaining weight need to be evaluated by your veterinarian. Inadequate weight gain may be because of rejection by the mother, a developmental deformity or some other health condition.

It is best not to over handle puppies during the first few weeks of life. You will also want to be careful not to upset the mother when handling the puppies.

If the puppies are healthy and not having any issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, constant crying, coughing, swollen eyes, nasal discharge or inability to urinate or defecate, then the first visit to your veterinarian will be at 6 weeks for a physical exam, vaccinations and deworming. Your veterinarian will set up a vaccination and deworming plan with you for subsequent dates.

For owners caring for orphaned puppies, there are a few issues to consider. The puppies will need to be fed every few hours throughout both the day and night. It is best to consult with a veterinarian about the proper way to feed the puppies. You do not want to feed the puppies milk replacer too quickly and cause a serious health condition known as aspiration pneumonia.

Puppies are unable to urinate and defecate on their own. They rely on their mothers to lick them in the anal and urinary regions to stimulate their bodies to excrete waste.

You will have to manually do this with a wet washcloth to encourage elimination. By the age of 3 or 4 weeks, they will begin to relieve themselves on their own. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

By Shana BohacHow to deal with choking in horses

Choking happens when partially chewed food, treats or hay gets stuck in the esophagus. The horse will typically cough and salivate. Particles of food may come out of the mouth or nostrils.

The most common causes of choke include gorging on feed, not chewing feed completely, not producing enough saliva to wet the food properly and partial obstruction of the esophagus.

Dental problems such as missing or painful teeth and sharp points can cause your horse to not completely chew its feed. Obstructions of the esophagus can be caused by tumors or scarring from previous injuries.

If you think your horse is choking, you will want to remove all hay and feed from the area and then call your local veterinarian. While waiting for the veterinarian to show up, it is best to keep your horse calm with its head down to prevent aspiration of any feed material.

If your horse aspirates feed material, this can lead to a life-threatening lung infection called aspiration pneumonia. Once your veterinarian arrives, he or she will attempt to clear the obstruction by passing a tube through the horse's nostril and down into the esophagus.

If the vet has access to an endoscope - a small tube with a camera at the end - then this may be passed to confirm what is causing the blockage. The vet will flush water down the tube and draw it out to help soften the obstruction. Gentle movement of the tube will also help loosen the feed material.

There are several ways to prevent this from happening to your horse. You can place very large rocks (at least the size of your fist) into your horse's feed tub. This will force it to eat around the rock and slow down its feed intake. You can also switch feed buckets to one that is large and shallow. This will spread the grain out into a thin layer, thus forcing your horse to eat slower.

You can also feed your horse smaller amounts of food frequently throughout the day. This is actually better for your horse's gastrointestinal tract. Offering free choice hay can also provide something for it to munch on so your horse won't be so hungry come feeding time.

If you are feeding your horses in a herd, then it can be helpful to separate them. Dominant horses may push other horses away from their meal, making them eat very fast so that they can finish their grain. If you separate all the horses, then they can eat at their own pace.

If you have any questions about choking in horses, please feel free to contact me.

Dr. Shana Bohac has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. She works on both small animals and equine patients. Submit questions to



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