How do I get my puppy to latch and nurse?

One of the most important things once you have new puppies born is getting them to nurse. If you are struggling to get your babies to nurse you can read this article but most of all, watch the video, where I show you how to manually latch a puppy to nurse on the momma dog.

Why is it so important?

Puppies get the much-needed first milk, or colostrum from the mother after being born. I have had many litters where a puppy is half-born and already nursing. There is nothing better than having a brand new litter of puppies born and they are already all nursing.

Sometimes you get what I call a gaspy puppy looking like they are trying to breathe. Sometimes that can be normal as they work their lungs and start breathing. Sometimes they have gotten fluid down into their lungs, throat or nasal cavity. 

  I like to use an electronic nose sucker because that clears the nasal passage so well. The big blue nose sucker that looks like a big bulb, can easily be used to clear my puppy’s throat. Fluid in the lungs can clear on its own if its not to much. If one of my puppies has gotten a ton of fluid in their lungs that is a poor prognosis and they will typically be very poor at latching. 

Sometimes if I can’t get a pup to latch, I will let them have a 30 minute break from trying and then go back again. I am always careful never to express a bunch of milk from mom and put it in their nose or pool in the throat because they can aspirate like that. 

I originally made this video because at the time, a friend of mine in nevada had a litter via C-section and the baby pup was not latching. I hurried to take this video for her after she text me, and realized I should load it onto youtube. She called me back after she got the video, and said she didn’t realize that she really needed to get that nipple all the way in. When she called me, the pup was nursing!! YAY!!! No better feeling than watch a newborn puppy nurse their mama.

Why do they need to nurse within 4 hours of birth?

The intestinal wall of newborn puppies undergoes a significant change after birth, particularly in its ability to absorb antibodies from the mother’s milk. This process is known as “gut closure.” During the first few hours of life, a puppy’s intestinal wall is uniquely permeable, allowing the large antibody molecules found in the mother’s first milk, or colostrum, to pass through and enter the puppy’s bloodstream. These antibodies are crucial for providing passive immunity to the puppies, helping to protect them against infectious diseases during their early weeks of life.

The window of time during which the puppy’s gut is able to absorb these antibodies is limited. Typically, this ability significantly decreases within the first 12-24 hours after birth and is minimal to nonexistent after about 24 hours. The exact timing of gut closure can vary somewhat among individual puppies, but the most critical period for colostrum intake is generally within the first few hours after birth.

By the time 4 hours have passed, the efficiency with which puppies can absorb antibodies through the gut has already begun to decline. However, it’s not accurate to say that the intestinal wall “closes” in a literal sense at exactly 4 hours post-birth. Instead, the process is gradual, with the highest efficiency of antibody absorption being in the very early hours after birth and significantly decreasing thereafter. It’s essential for puppies to receive colostrum as soon as possible after birth to maximize their intake of maternal antibodies.

I take the sharing of this information about newborn pups very seriously, here are the links to studies and practical research to that support the information about “Gut Closure” in newborn puppies:

Early Colostrum Intake:

The role of colostrum for the early days of puppy survival:

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