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Dealing with a Premature Litter



I got a call from a breeder asking for my help. She had a litter of preemie puppies and only one was still alive. She had admitted that the pup had the best chance of survival with myself and my co-breeder and asked that we please help. We agreed and did everything we could to try and save this puppy.

Preemie puppies rarely survive. In this case, the first two were stillborn and a third of the average birth weight. The next two puppies had come out and faded very fast. They were also both a third of the normal birth weight, approximately 2 oz. They were about the size of your thumb with very little hair. Then this little mouse was born at 85 grams (3 oz.). Average pups for this breed are 160 to 180 grams (6 to 7 oz.). We named him Mousey.

My co-breeder and I were hopeful that we could likely save this puppy, so I flew over and picked up the preemie puppy and the dam. Preemie puppies are weak, chill easily, and usually do not know how to swallow as the sucking reflex is not ready.

Puppy Replacer Milk

He would not nurse and needed to be tube fed (canine milk replacer and a little bit of glucose—Karo, honey or Nutri-Cal). Make sure you add in some of the dam's colostrum, retrieved by hand.

A puppy needs 1 cc for every ounce of body weight every 2.5 to 4 hours.

He also needed to be kept at approximately 95-100° F, much warmer than newborn puppies. But be careful not to burn him. He will need to be hydrated more because of the heat. It is OK to leave the preemie puppy in a warm box with the dam, but ONLY if she tucks him in close; otherwise he should be in a separate incubator box. The reason you need to keep the puppy warmer is the puppy is supposed to be inside the dam for another week. The dam's temperature is 99° to 101° F. However, with the warmer temperature you risk the chance of dehydration.

It is best to keep a puppy warm in an incubator, however if you do not have one you can also use other warm draft-free spots, such as a heating pad wrapped around a soft-sided crate. Inside are warm bean bags to hold in the heat.

Taking care of a preemie puppy is a 24-hour job, feeding and pottying every two hours nonstop. Therefore my co-breeder and I were rotating our time with the puppy.

On the third night the caregiver reports: Still hanging in there. Didn't look good at 3 a.m.; sounded like it was hard for him to breathe. I have been giving Nutri-Cal. He has been in a very warm box by himself.

This is what I did for him:

• I assisted him with his pooping and peeing(massaging his voiding area till I got him to void)
• when it was time for him to eat, I took him to mom (she cleaned him up well)
• I tried him on a teat and he had attempted to nurse which told me he was hungry
• then I tube fed him the Nutri-Cal
•I massaged him and if he was acting "alert" (wiggling around), I tried putting him back with his mom again
•then back into his warm box.

He seemed better at 5 a.m.

Day 1 he was 87 grams (3 oz.) and very dehydrated.
Day 2 he was 97 grams
Day 3 he was 107 grams.

A very good scale that weighs to the gram, or to less than an ounce, is very important and a MUST.


Unfortunately this story does not have a happy ending. Mousey did not make it. He had a bad night and died in my hands. As breeders we do what we can to save the puppies. Sometimes things are beyond our and our vet's control. The vet feels this boy was 8 to 10 days preemie, and he had very low odds of survival.

All you can do is throw everything at him, and hope for the best. The lungs were not developed.
A pup up to five days early has a great chance at survival.

A pup 5 to 7 days early needs TLC and has a good chance at survival.

A pup 8 to 10 days early needs EVERYTHING done and more, and has a poor chance at survival.

A pup over 10 days early will not survive.


Courtesy of MistyTrails and Seantiago Havanese


In another case a litter was born on day 52-54. There were 8 puppies born and only 5 survived. Sadly the mother of the puppies passed away during the whelp. The pups that were born a week early were not expected to survive, but with 3 weeks of around the clock care 5 of the puppies were saved.



So You Want to Breed

Pros and Cons of Inbreeding

Stages of Puppy Development

Whelping Puppies: Breeding age

Reproduction: (The Heat Cycle): Signs of Heat

Breeding Tie

Dog Pregnancy Calendar

Pregnancy Guide Prenatal Care

Pregnant Dams

Pregnant Dam X-Ray Pictures

Full-Term Mucus Plug


Whelping Kit

First and Second Stage of Labor

Third Stage of Labor

Sometimes Things do not go as Planned

Dam Almost Dies on Day 6

Whelping Unfortunate Troubles

Whelping: A Green Mess

Water (Walrus) Puppies


C-Section Due to Large Dead Puppy

Emergency Cesarean Section Saves Lives

Whelping Puppies: C-section Pictures

Dam Day 62


Birth to 3 weeks

Puppy Nipple Guarding

Pups 3 Weeks: Time to start potty training

Pups Week 4

Pups Week 5

Pups Week 6

Pups 6 to 7.5 Weeks

Pups 8 Weeks

Pups 8 to 12 Weeks

Whelping Large Breed Dogs

Mastitis in Dogs

Mastitis In Dogs: A Toy Breed Case

Why are Toy Breeds are Harder to Train?

Crate Training

Showing, Genetics and Breeding

Trying to Save a Fading Dachshund Puppy

Whelping Stories: Three Puppies Born

Whelping: All puppies do not always survive

Whelping Puppies: A Midwoof Call

Whelping a Full Term Preemie

Whelping Small for Gestational Age Puppy

C-Section Due to Uterine Inertia

Eclampsia is Often Fatal

Hypocalcemia (low calcium)

SubQ hydrating a Puppy

Whelping a Singleton

Premature Litter

A Premature Puppy

Another Premature Puppy

Pregnant Dam Absorbing Fetus

CPR Needed to Save One Puppy

Whelping Puppies Congenital Defects

Puppy with Umbilical Cord Attached to Foot

Puppy Born with Intestines on the Outside

Gone Wrong, Vet Makes it Worse

Dam Loses Litter and Starts to Absorb Puppies

Whelping Puppies: Unexpected Early Delivery

Dam whelps 5 days early due to dead pups

Lost 1 Puppy, Saved 3

An Abscess on a Puppy

Dewclaw Removal Done Wrong

Whelping: Heat Pad Caution

Whelping a Large Litter

Whelping and Working

Whelping a Messy Litter of Pups

Whelping Puppies Picture Pages

How to Find a Good Breeder

Pros and Cons of Inbreeding

Hernias in Dogs

Cleft Palate Puppies

Saving Baby E, a Cleft Palate Puppy

Saving a Puppy: Tube Feeding: Cleft Palate


Although this section is based on a whelping of an English Mastiff, it also contains good general whelping information on large-breed dogs. You can find more whelping information in the links above. The links below tell the story of Sassy, an English Mastiff. Sassy has a wonderful temperament. She loves humans and adores children. An all-around mild mannered, wonderful Mastiff, Sassy, however, is not the best mother toward her puppies. She is not rejecting them; she will nurse them when a human places them on her to feed, however she will not clean the pups or pay any attention to them. It is as if they are not her puppies. This litter is getting mom’s milk with major human interaction, manually giving each and every pup what they need. In return, the pups will be super socialized and will make remarkable pets, however the work involved is astounding. It takes one dedicated breeder to keep this situation healthy. Thankfully this litter has just that. Read the links below to get the full story. The pages within include a wealth of information that everyone can appreciate and benefit from.

C-Section in a Large Breed Dog

Newborn Puppies... What you need

Whelping Mastiff Puppies One to Three Days Old

Things do not always go as planned (imperforate anus)

Orphaned Litter (not the plan)

10 Days Old Plus +

3 Week Old Puppies

Puppies 3 Weeks - time to start potty training

Puppies 4 weeks old

Puppies 5 weeks old

Puppies 6 weeks old

Puppies 7 weeks old

Socializing the Puppies

Mastitis in Dogs

Whelping Large Breed Dogs Main

Whelping, a new found respect


Whelping: Close-to-Textbook Case

Puppies' Progress Chart (.xls spreadsheet)

Cuban Mysti Puppies: Full Term Mucus Plug - 1

Cuban Mysti Puppies: Labor Story 2

Cuban Mysti Puppies: Labor Story 3

Cuban Mysti Puppies: One-Day-Old Pups 4

Easy Delivery a Day or Two Overdue


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