Well, that sucked. Penelope had a little colostrum at the clinic, so I came home sure that nursing wouldn’t be an issue for her.
Wrong. What little liquid she had dried up, and around four am I had some screaming mad, super hungry puppies to contend with, and no mommy milk to offer them. That’s when I remembered I had a walking dairy bar sitting upstairs. I packed up the kids, and took them up to Tula, who after an initial reaction that clearly said “Where the hell did all of these come from?”, calmly proceeded to clean them, nurse them, and nudge them into a tidy little pile, with Heart smack in the middle of it.
While this might seem like a solution to the problem, it’s really not. Newborn puppies don’t need milk – they need colostrum. Colostrum is the liquid gold that new moms produce in the first 24 to 48 hours after delivery. It’s a thin, watery consistency with an almost pale yellow color, unlike the rich white milk mom will eventually produce. It’s vitally important that puppies receive it, for several reasons.
Colostrum info on Wikipedia —
Colostrum is high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies and low in fat (as human newborns may find fat difficult to digest). Newborns have very small digestive systems, and colostrum delivers its nutrients in a very concentrated low-volume form. It has a mild laxative effect, encouraging the passing of the baby’s first stool, which is called meconium. This clears excess bilirubin, a waste product of dead red blood cells which is produced in large quantities at birth due to blood volume reduction, from the infant’s body and helps prevent jaundice. Colostrum contains all five immunoglobulins found in all mammals, IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG and IgM. There are many beneficial proteins in the colostrum, including a variety of growth factors (IGfs).
One of the most important aspects of colostrum ingestion is that it passes on maternal antibodies to the puppies. These are what protect the puppies from diseases and infections until they receive their first shots. So, even though Tula would have been happy to continue feeding the pups, I knew I had to get Penelope’s milk flowing.
First thing in the morning, I was on the phone to our vet’s office, hoping they could provide me with some shots of oxytocin so I could kick start Penelope’s colostrum production. Oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone that aids whelping by stimulating the uterus, and assists in the let down of milk. A subcutaneous injection of oxytocin can help to stimulate milk in bitches with sluggish production.
First shot, and nothing. I urged Penelope to drink, repeatedly urged the puppies to nurse, and crossed my fingers hard. Second shot, and this time the pups were much more interested in nursing. A check revealed that Penelope was finally producing colostrum, albeit not as much as I’d like, but a small amount goes a long way, so I was finally able to breathe again.
Here’s a short video of the pups enjoying their first real nurse on mom. Me, I’m off to have a nap, and explain to Tula that she can’t keep the extra puppies after all. Poor little Heart, no puppy pile to snuggle in…