The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

Raising One to Three-Day-Old English Mastiff Newborn Puppies

Litter of puppies nursing

You just had a litter of puppies...sleep, SLEEP? What is that?

After your litter of puppies is born, be prepared for a lot of work and very little sleep! Before you ever think of breeding a large dog, make sure you know this is not the same as breeding most dogs. With giant breeds, THINK before you breed. They are just as much work, if not more, than a newborn human baby.

You CANNOT leave a dog of that size alone with the puppies, especially that size litter. There would never be an empty spot on the floor for her to find a safe empty spot to lie down, and she would kill (squish) some of the puppies trying. This does happen VERY often with very large-breed litters that are left unsupervised. I was warned by several breeders that when they had popped out of the room to pee, or answer the phone, they came back to a dead puppy.

Puppies at this age need to be fed every two hours. In most cases with very large litters (in this case 12 puppies), you need to supplement their diets to ensure they are all getting enough nutrients to thrive. So, by the time I get them all fed on boobs, then supplemented, over an hour has gone by, and I have less than an hour before I have to start all over.

AFTER all puppies nurse from the dam, for the first few days especially, and then again as they get a couple weeks old, and there is not enough milk to go around, you have to top off a large litter with a bottle.

Close Up - puppy being fed from a bottle

Use a baby bottle, newborn size, with NOT too big of a hole in the nipple, as you do not want to aspirate the puppies. If milk comes out of the nose, you are feeding too fast and they will get pneumonia.

A good scale is a must.

Let the pups feed, feed, feed, nurse, nurse, nurse, as you want the milk to come in, THEN, you can use the bottle, and not before. You want the dam’s body to know she has 12 puppies, not to think she has less.

Weigh the pups, and top them back up to their birth weight for the first couple days.

AGAIN, I stress and remind, do NOT bottle feed and then nurse, do NOT bottle feed half the litter and let the other half nurse, as then the dam’s body will think her litter is half the size it really is, and will not make enough milk.

For example, in a litter of 12, if you let six nurse and bottle feed six, then the dam’s body is going to think she only has six puppies. It is considered “old school" to supplement half a litter. The entire litter must nurse, then you top off their little bellies with a bottle. Do NOT over supplement, as too much of a good thing is not good. You must only supplement to a minimal amount—to keep the pups from dropping below their birth weights, and by weighing the pups daily, to pick up pups that haven't gained as much.

A dam will adjust. But she will need help.

Start giving calcium. For my 170 lb. Mastiff, I am giving 3three calcium tablets. This calms her and also helps with the milk supply.

Puppy being fed from a bottle

Notice there is no milk coming from this puppy’s nose. This is very important; you do not want to aspirate the puppies. If you see milk coming from the pup’s nose, the hole in the nipple of the bottle is too big. Replace it with a nipple with a smaller opening. Aspirating, or getting milk in the lungs, will cause pneumonia.

Newborn puppy keeping its head high to drink from a bottle Right Profile - Newborn Puppy keeping its head high to drink from a bottle

Hold the pup’s head high so milk goes directly down the throat and doesn't pool in the mouth.

Close up - Puppy being fed by its mother Close Up - Puppies nursing off of the dam

It is important to make sure your new puppies are going potty (pee and poo). The dam normally licks them to stimulate them to go. This keeps the box/den nice and clean. This can cause diarrhea in the dam after the second day. Treating with Pepto Bismol is best.

If your dam doesn't potty the pups, or if you have an orphan litter, you must potty them yourself. I like a soft rubber glove, as your finger, or paper towel, is too abrasive. You must gently massage the penis or vagina, and the pee will come. Then, massage the anus, and the poop will come.

A man helping the puppies go potty

Look at the box. YUCK. I cleaned all of the pee and poop and pottied all of the puppies at 2 a.m., and put them in the warm box and then at 5 a.m. (tried to catch an hour longer nap...NOT a good idea), WHAT a mess! Poop all over them all! All the puppies had to be cleaned one by one. Not only do you have to clean them as they soil each other, but you have to stimulate them to pee and poo. EACH puppy needs to be manually pottied and poop drained, if the dam doesn't do it. They cannot go potty on their own. Also the puppy box was too small, as they climb over each other too much and lose their bowels and bladder. Now I have two boxes and it is MUCH, MUCH better.

Man cleaning up the area were the puppies were pottied

Many breeds are not as maternal as others, and would not even think of cleaning/pottying, licking a puppy, while some dams do clean their pups on their own. When a dam does not clean her puppies, you have to clean them yourself every few hours.

Man picking up puppy and placing it on a papaer towel

Sassy the English Mastiff, and apparently many Mastiffs, would not think of licking a puppy. This means you have to clean the puppies yourself. It's a messy job, but someone has got to do it! There are many breeds that do not make good moms. Mastiffs are 50/50. Some breeds you just know they are not going to do it.

A mound of dog collars with dog poo all over them

They soiled all their collars between night feedings and had to be changed. I found this was the worst in the first couple days, as they can poo from climbing over each other. I haven't had to change the collars again since I gave them a bigger box.

English Mastiff nursing a big litter of puppies next to a child

Someone ALWAYS has to be with dam and pups for feedings, as with this giant breed, rolling over or standing up can break puppies’ backs and necks very quickly.

Close Up - Puppies feeding A Litter of Puppies in a box A boy feeding a puppy with a bottle

Any help is very, very welcome.

A boy looking over the basket of puppies

We have adjusted to the puppy mess and dam not cleaning and worked out a system to keep them clean. I must pee and poop them after EVERY feeding, not every second one. The dam usually cleans after every feeding, so I must too. I put in two bins, so they are not climbing over each other as much, causing them to lose their stool and pee...much, much better. I also must clean them and their area every two hours, not three. If I wait three hours, the mess will be back.

A person holding a puppy's head high while feeding it a bottle

Sassy the English Mastiff with her three-day-old puppies. She will still not lick the puppies. I tried even really good dog food on a pup, she only took one lick. Pups are all are gaining weight; see the ROLLS on the necks. Sassy's milk is in, so it is cutting feeding time down by half; pups are gulping her milk down now. Pups can drink more from Sassy and less from the bottle.

This litter of puppies will be extremely socialized with humans, because they have been mainly hand-reared, using the dam’s milk. The hands-on attention that these puppies are getting will make them exceptional pets. While this litter has been an extreme amount of work, they will be well worth the effort put into them.

Courtesy of MistyTrails Mastiffs

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