Caring for orphaned puppies is extremely rewarding but also very time-consuming.
These very young animals may require bottle- or syringe-feeding in order to survive. They must be kept separate from resident animals.
The duration of the foster period is typically eight to 10 weeks, if possible. We value your dedication and appreciate your willingness to make this lifesaving commitment to these animals.
Stock Up on Supplies
PAWS Chicago will provide:
- Formula/Milk replacer
- Collar and leash
- Any necessary medications
You will provide:
- Food bowls: You will need two bowls—one for wet food and one for dry food. Any relatively flat saucer will work. The larger the litter, the larger the saucer should be so that no one gets crowded out. It’s important that every dog has access to his food at all times.
- Water bowl: Use ceramic, porcelain or stainless steel bowls, which are heavy and impossible to tip. Do not use plastic; it is difficult to disinfect. It’s important that every dog has access to clean water at all times.
- Scale This may not always be necessary, but it can be helpful in tracking the puppies’ weight, which should increase approximately 4 oz. per week.
- Newspapers and pee pads (optional): Keep several layers of newspapers in the bottom of the box or area where the puppies will be located. These will come in handy as the puppies begin to roam around the room. Keeping pee pads next to the door can isolate unwanted elimination to one area.
- Bedding: Old towels make the best bedding and nest for your foster puppies.
- Heating pad: Unless the nursery is at least 85° and your puppies are two weeks or older, you need to supply extra heat.
- Toys: Disposable and easily sanitized toys are a must! Good choices include Kong-brand toys stuffed with treats and edible toys.
Set Up Your Foster Room
You will need to keep your foster family in one room. The foster room is where your foster family will eat, drink, eliminate, sleep and play.
Choose a room in your home that can be easily temperature controlled (no drafts or open windows). We highly recommend that this room have floors that are easy to wipe up and mop. Bathrooms are often the best choice—just don’t forget to put down the toilet seat!
The family should be kept in a large box or cat carrier lined with a towel for easy cleaning.
In the room, place the litter box as far away from the cats’ food as possible.
Disinfect the room before the new family is introduced to it. The most effective disinfectant is a fresh dilution of bleach at the following ratio: ¼ cup chlorine bleach and 2¼ cups warm water.
Make Sure It’s Safe
Kittens and cats are curious, playful and often mischievous. Don’t leave anything out that your foster pet can chew, swallow or break (electrical cords, hair ties, glassware, etc.). Look for places where your foster can hide and be sure to block access to those areas.
One tip: Lie down on the floor and look at your safe space from your new foster’s point of view to ensure it’s completely safe.
Caring for Your Foster Dog
Keep your foster puppies isolated from any other animals in the home unless otherwise discussed. Especially in the first two weeks of life, puppies are very vulnerable. Their hearing and vision is still not developed, and they are unable to properly control their body temperatures. Therefore, they should be contained to a nursery area. As they get older, you might be anxious to take the puppies out. But they must not walk on any surfaces (such as parks or sidewalks) where another dog may have urinated or defecated. Even if it appears clean, it may still be harboring contagious diseases. So it is imperative for puppies to stay in the home until they have been fully vaccinated. The most common symptoms of illness in a puppy are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and lack of appetite. If your puppy exhibits any of these symptoms, please contact our Emergency Line at 773-354-6520.
Young children should not handle the foster puppies. Everyone should wash their hands after handling animals, fecal waste or litter boxes.
- Health checks
It is crucial that you monitor your foster dog’s appetite, attitude, energy level and appearance every day. We encourage our foster parents to keep a log. If something seems off or different, it’s easy to go back and pinpoint when the problem began.
It is very important to keep the puppies warm. A heating pad is ideal for doing this. If you are using a crate, place the heating pad under half of the crate so they can move away from the heat if they need to. Set the heating pad to medium. The more puppies in your litter, the better able they will be to keep warm by sleeping together in a heap. Small litters and singletons need help keeping warm. Singletons should also be given a stuffed fluffy toy to cuddle.
We ask that you weigh your puppies at the same time each day and keep track of any gains or losses. Ideally, puppies gain 0.25-0.5 oz. per day. If your puppies are not eating or are losing weight, please contact our foster team right away. We will likely need you to bring your puppy in immediately for a medical check.
- Urinating and defecating
During the first two to three weeks of life, puppies do not urinate or defecate on their own. In nature, this process is stimulated when the mother is cleaning them. In the absence of the mom, you will need to do the job. Stimulation should be performed every few hours (often right after feeding) by gently rubbing a warm wet paper towel on the puppy’s anus and genital area. They will eliminate into the paper towel. It is important to do this prior to feeding. Otherwise, the puppies will not eat well.
Puppies need to be fed every two to four hours. We will provide the formula for feeding the puppies. It should be given at the puppies’ body temperature, about 100 degrees. Once the can is opened or the powder is reconstituted, unused formula should be kept refrigerated and discarded after 24 hours. Never give a puppy cow’s milk (or anything else besides the specified formula).
- Puppy cleaning
A mother dog works hard to keep her puppies clean. She will constantly be grooming them thoroughly to remove anything they get into. You can use a warm, damp washcloth to clean them a bit more thoroughly. Be sure to dry the puppies well so they don’t get chilled.
Put your puppy on the pee pads as soon as he wakes up, right after eating and at least once an hour until he starts to catch on. Reward him with enthusiastic praise every time he urinates or defecates on the pad. Change the pads frequently and encourage him to use it. Note stool consistency.
All foster dogs crave playtime. We recommend at least four 20-minute play sessions spread over the course of the day. Include fetch, hide and seek and scavenger hunts. Change your foster’s environment daily by adding new objects and toys.
Socialization starts the moment a puppy born. Even before his eyes and ears open, it’s important he gets used to new scents and understands that gentle handling is normal and pleasurable. Encourage affectionate behavior with food treats or play sessions. Puppies should meet new people as often as possible. Use the Socialization Checklist to ensure your puppy is being properly socialized.
Puppies will need routine visits with our veterinarians regardless of their health. They need to be vaccinated every two weeks. Please check with your foster coordinator to find out when they need to be brought in for their next vaccine.
The Feeding Process
It is best to feed the puppies one by one on a counter-top. This allows them to feed with all four feet on the counter and their heads level, much as they would if they were nursing from their mom. It is important to stimulate the puppies to eliminate prior to feeding to ensure they eat well.
Gently open a puppy's mouth with one finger and place the tip of the nipple on his tongue. If he won't eat, try stroking him. Pull lightly on the bottle to encourage vigorous sucking. Tilt the bottle up slightly to prevent the puppy from inhaling too much air. Do not force the puppy to nurse and do not allow him to nurse too fast. At this stage, he has no gag reflex.
Avoid feeding a puppy while he is cradled on his back. If the fluid goes down the wrong way, it may end up in his lungs and cause severe illness or death.
After each feeding, the puppy should be burped. Hold him against your shoulder and gently massage his back or pat it lightly.
How Much to Feed Them
The amount of formula you will feed your puppies depends on the breed and size of the puppy. The foster coordinator will let you know how much to give them during each feeding.
Your foster puppies generally will not regulate their own food intake. If they need more food, they may whine or suck on their littermates. But they will not stop eating. Overeating can cause nausea and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and loss of appetite.
A good indication that they are getting enough to eat is the size of their bellies. They should be filled out after a meal, but not bloated.
Keep an eye on your foster puppies at feeding time and monitor how much each is eating. If you see signs of diarrhea, separate them until you find out which one is sick. Call PAWS Chicago at XXX-XXX-XXXX right away for further instructions.