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Categories: Breeding

Q. I have some questions about our newborn lab puppies. Can you help?
Hi Ed,

My female lab gave birth to 11 puppies starting early (4:30)Tuesday morning. Nine were born within a 4 hours window. The last two were born about 4 hours later.

Sadly, the last two, a yellow and a black male, were the smallest.

Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, I noticed the yellow male was somewhat lethargic. Unlike all of the others, we could see his ribs. We immediately went and purchased commercial newborn pup formula and started giving it to him orally with a syringe. He seems to be doing better today. While he's still about 35% smaller than the others, he's holding his own. Upon finding your website this morning, I switched from the commercial formula to your recipe (goat's milk, yogurt, egg yolk and karo) and he really started to improve. While he's still seems to be having trouble attaching to the bitch's teat, he is trying.

Unfortunately, while the second to smallest male seemed to be healthier than the yellow, when my wife went to pick him up this morning, she noticed he was cold.

She tried feeding and warming him, but with no success. He died about 5 a.m. this morning. I called my vet and he said he likely died from hypothermia. We're trying even harder at keeping all of the pups even warmer tonight.

I write you with a comment and few brief questions:

First, I really think your formula is making a difference. This pup is eating better, looks healthier (albeit smaller) and seems to have more vigor. I don't feel that he's totally out of the woods yet, but I think he's on his way.

My questions are: when do we switch from administering the formula orally from a syringe to a baby bottle and/or is a tube a better option?

Also, do you think he'll ever gain the ability to suck from her teat. My wife, who's a critical care nurse, doesn't think he has a cleft palate, although she's guessing maybe a cleft lip.

In light of the hypothermia, when they're not eating, some of the remaining pups move on and off the heating pad. How long do we need to keep a heat source in there and should I try to confine them all to the pad?

Lastly, when the mother is feeding, she's often panting as she's laying there. Is this normal?

As you may be able to tell, this is our first litter. While I've done a ton a research leading up to this incredible event, I really think your website was the most informative.

Your solutions are really thoughful, backed by experience, well explained and just seem to make sense.

Thanks for all of your time. I look forward to hearing back from you shortly.


A. I’d make sure you give the puppy an option to nurse from the mother as often as possible or it may lose the sucking instinct. This is why we prefer a bottle over tube feeding if the pup will take the bottle. I’d get the pup on a bottle as soon as possible.

Never confine puppies to a heating pad, they may get too warm. They need to be able to move on and off freely. Puppies can regulate their body temperature by about 3 weeks old, so keep the pad in with them until that time.

It’s normal for mother dogs to pant, but make sure she’s not running a fever. We take our females temperatures twice daily for at least a week or ten days after they give birth. If she is running a temperature of 103 she needs to see a vet right away. She could have a retained placenta or infection that could be fatal to her and the puppies.

Learn to use the search function (located in the left hand corner of every page on our website). Simply type in your search terms or key words and you will be directed to articles, question & answers, free streaming videos and posts on our forum. We have extensive info on these topics on the website.

I hope this helps.

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