A true premature puppy is not only born before the due date but is basically under-developed. There are many signs to indicate a true premature puppy. Apart from being born smaller, they are usually born with less hair coverage, lack of suckling reflex, sometimes even breathing difficulties. The hairless parts of their skin feels rubbery and often it will get stuck to things like the rubber teat, plastic, and even cotton wool balls. Their skin is a lot more delicate and often very bright pink to almost red in colour. They are weaker and lose body temperature much easier than normal newborns. See pictures below of premature pups and notice what I have described
The ones pictured above are at least a week old; however, you can still see their premature features, especially in the last picture where the head of the puppy appears to be more of a fetal shape rather than a fully matured newborn puppy. If you look closely at the two lighter pups in the humidity crib, you can see where the hair still has not grown back on their legs or heads.
These puppies must be kept warm all the time and provided with enough humidity to stop their skin from drying out and also to aide in breathing. Keep them in the humidity crib of which you lightly spray the sides with clean water from a spray bottle once or twice a day lightly. A pet heating pad must be placed in the bottom covered by a comforter and on top of this a Neonatal Puppy Bag must be placed where the puppy will be placed inside this. The lid must be kept on at all times. They must be stomach tube fed for at least a few days, sometimes even longer, at least until their suckling reflex develops.
For the first few days to a week, they must be fed formula of only 50% and 50% boiled, cooled water. Their digestive track is also under-developed and they will not tolerate full strength. To the formula made up to 250 ml add three drops of Evening Primrose Oil and two drops Vitamin E.
I have used Pets Own Long Life Milk to 50% boiled cooled water or No Lactose Formula to 50% boiled cooled water, or Goats Milk to 50% boiled cooled water. To 250 ml I add the vitamin E and Evening Primrose Oil, also 1 teaspoon glucose Powder and 1 ml Nutrigel multi vitamin and mineral paste. See elsewhere on this site for other formula.
I keep the formula refrigerated, and use portions per feed, warming it to body heat beforehand, and disposing of any left over formula per feed.
Although the task of saving a preemie pup vastly depends on how preemie the pup is born, it also takes special care and skill to determine survival. Having said this, I can safely say, it is possible and the pups pictured above all survived and grew to maturity.
Follow my tips on hand raising babies and add to this the special suggestions I have offered here. Good luck.
Written by Anne Roditis-Muscat (c) copyright 2005