Caring for an Abandoned Puppy

Raising an orphaned puppy can be extremely time consuming but very rewarding. Mother’s may abandon their pups for many reasons, including failure to produce milk, an illness in the puppy, or an illness or problem with the mother herself.

What Problems Might I Encounter When Raising an Abandoned Pup?

Puppies lose heat far more quickly than an adult dog, as such, they rely on their mother for radiant heat to sustain a normal body temperature.

If the mother has abandoned the puppy, that puppy will need an alternate heat source such as an incubator, heat lamp, heating pads, or a warm water bottle. However, heating the pup too rapidly may cause stress on him, so it’s important to heat gradually.


Dehydration occurs when the puppy is not getting an adequate source of fluids or when he is in an environment with low humidity. In order to maintain a humid environment for the puppy, place a damp towel near it’s basket.

Two signs that a puppy is dehydrated is the loss of elasticity in the skin as well as dry and sticky gums in the mouth. Hypothermia can also lead to dehydration.

Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include severe depression (a “floppy” puppy), muscle twitching, or seizures. Hypoglycemia can be easily treated with a few drops of a sugar solution or honey on the tongue.

How Should I Feed an Abandoned Puppy?

Formula specifically made for puppies will provide all of the puppy’s nutritional requirements until they are 3-4 weeks old. Around this time the puppy will be ready to start eating moistened solid food. Follow the directions listed on the formula for how it should be prepared, the temperature, and how much the puppy should get. It is important not to feed the puppy regular milk because it can cause diarrhea, which can then lead to dehydration.

Bottle feeding will be the easiest way to feed the puppy most of the time, however, if you are having issues, contact your veterinarian. Bottles need to be marked so you know if the puppy is getting enough formula. They should also be sanitized in boiling water between each feeding.

The hole in the nipple of the bottle should allow formula to drip out slowly when you turn the bottle upside down and puppies should be eating every 2-3 hours, even through the night.

How to Get the Puppy to Urinate and Defecate

Puppies will need help to urinate and defecate for the first 2-3 weeks of their lives. To do this, rub a cotton ball or tissue moistened with warm water over the genitals and anus of the puppy after each feeding. This is important or else the puppy could become constipated.

When Does the Puppy Eat From a Bowl?

Around 14 to 16 days, the puppy will open it’s eyes and this is when the weaning process should take place. Place the formula in a flat dish and encourage the puppy to drink by either smearing some around its mouth, or by gently dipping their nose into a small amount. By 4 to 5 weeks, the puppy should be able to eat enough moistened solid food to meet its needs. If your puppy does not want to eat, consult your veterinarian.

When Should I Vaccinate?

It’s recommend that puppies be vaccinated at 8 weeks. However, your vet may recommend a different timeframe if your puppy missed out on colostrum, the first milk feed from the mother that is rich in antibiotics.


As always, consult your veterinarian if you find an abandoned puppy or have questions about caring for one.