What To Do If You Find An Abandoned Puppy Litter
First: Don’t panic 🐶 ❤️
Finding a litter of abandoned puppies can be pretty scary. But don’t panic!
The Dodo spoke with Laura Labelle, founder of The Labelle Foundation rescue in Los Angeles, to find out what to do in an emergency situation like this.
The absolute first thing you should do — before you even call anyone — is make sure they’re in a safe spot.
“Puppies can be left in many scary situations and places,” Labelle told The Dodo. “The first thing to do is to make sure that they are safe — not in the street, blazing sun or under a car.”
Once you’re confident the pups are out of harm’s way, that’s when you can start to find someone who will take care of them and find them a good home.
(But you’ll probably have to bring them home in the meantime, since you might not be able to get them to their new caretakers right away.)
Who to contact if you find abandoned puppies
Helping abandoned puppies and finding them a safe place to live is not something you can — or should — do on your own.
“Do not be afraid to ask for help,” Labelle said. “Young puppies are fragile, and things can go wrong fast if you don’t know what signs to look for.”
Here’s who you should call if you stumble upon an abandoned puppy litter.
Call a reputable rescue
You might think calling animal control is the way to go, but that’s not always the case.
Depending on where you are and what shelters your local animal control works with, you run the risk of landing those puppies somewhere they could be euthanized.
This isn’t because shelters don’t care about puppies, but they often have very limited resources, and sometimes there just aren’t enough free hands to care for young dogs, who need a lot of time and specialized care.
“Very few [shelters] have the resources to care for very young puppies,” Labelle explained. “Many times, as a rescue, we get calls saying puppies need to leave [a] shelter before closing or they will be humanely put to sleep, due to the fact that no one can feed them overnight.”
That doesn’t mean you can only call a rescue and not a shelter.
It just means you should try to ask whoever you call a bunch of questions about their policies and their resources, so you can make sure the puppies will be somewhere they’ll be safe and their needs will be met.
“Contact local rescues and confirm they have volunteers to aid in the intensive care puppies will need,” Labelle said.
Finding a rescue with enough volunteers and space is ideal, since you won’t have to worry about the puppies being put down at a rescue with enough space.
Call a vet
This can be really helpful if you come across abandoned puppies.
Since the puppies’ health and safety is the number one priority, a vet can help you determine whether or not the puppies need immediate medical attention.
Plus, a vet could help you figure out how old the puppies are, which is important to know in case you have to take care of them temporarily.
(A puppy’s age will determine what care he needs, including what he can and can’t eat.)
How to take care of abandoned puppies
You’re always going to want to coordinate for a rescue to take in the abandoned puppies, but you might find yourself in a situation where volunteers can’t take them right away.
That means — until rescue workers pick them up or give you the go-ahead to drop them off — you should know how to look after the little babies in the meantime.
Depending on the puppies’ ages, they might even need to be kept in a specific environment.
“Young puppies (1 to 4 weeks) should be put into a clean and climate-controlled container, especially since they are not yet capable of generating their own body heat,” Labelle explained.
In an ideal situation, this would mean putting the pups in an incubator. But if you don’t have an incubator, you can just DIY it!
According to Labelle, you can keep the puppies in a box with a heating pad or a hot water bottle that’s covered by a blanket (so they don’t get too warm by touching it directly).
That should keep the puppies warm while they can’t keep themselves warm.
If they’re really young, you might also have to help them do their business.
“Young puppies under the age of 3 weeks must be stimulated to potty,” Labelle said. “It’s as important to make sure they potty as it is to feed them.”
The puppies’ mom would usually do this by licking them between their back legs, but you can replicate it by lightly wetting a cotton ball and rubbing it in that spot.
“Patience and persistence are key [when] taking care of young puppies,” Labelle explained. “Remember, you are caring for very young babies who are not yet accustomed to a bottle or human touch.”
How to feed abandoned puppies
“Depending on their age and size, puppies need to be fed every two to four hours, round the clock,” Labelle explained. “It’s important to keep a journal of each puppy’s weight and how much they consume at each feeding to be sure they are all getting sustenance.”
If the puppies are younger than 4 weeks, they need to be exclusively bottle-fed.
But you can’t just take any old milk out of the fridge and stick it in a bottle for the puppies. It’s super important to get them a specific puppy milk replacement.
And when it comes to the bottle itself, here’s what you need.
“We use mostly human bottles,” Labelle said. “Most puppies can drink out of a slow-flow preemie nipple.”
The reason preemie nipples are good for feeding puppies is because you don’t want to give them a ton of milk at once.
“Do not cross-cut [the] nipples,” Labelle explained. “You can easily aspirate puppies by giving [them] too much milk at a time.”
According to Labelle, you can also feed abandoned puppies milk by letting them suck it off a nontoxic sponge.
If the puppies are a little bit older, you could try giving them puppy food — just check with a vet first to make sure the puppies are ready for solid food.
What you need to take care of abandoned puppies
If you have to take care of abandoned puppies while you’re coordinating drop-off or pick-up with a rescue, you’re going to need a few things:
- Puppy milk replacement formula
- A baby bottle and preemie nipple (if the puppies are young enough for bottle feeding)
- Puppy food (if the puppies are old enough for solid food)
- A soft blanket
- A heating pad (if the puppies are too young to keep themselves warm)
“We like to use Snuggle Puppies too,” Labelle said. “The heartbeat really helps them settle.”
“Lots of love and snuggles will help these babies thrive,” Labelle said.
Now that you know what to do and who to call, you’re prepared to help abandoned puppies live happy, healthy lives.
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