Please read the story of Sky, a very special little puppy, our miracle girl! If you have any questions about how to raise a preemie puppy, please feel free to email me. I do not claim to be an expert, but maybe I can help you save a puppy, too.
A number of years ago, my black&tan girl, Eulenburg Queen of Clubs ("Holly"), started to have labor. This was much too early, as the expected birth date of her litter was to be December 5th. Holly had whelped easily before, but having puppies, which were to be born 10 days early, scared me. Her labor was not very strong. I hoped that it was only a false alarm, but no, she proceeded to have one dead puppy after about 2 hours of labor. Holly seemingly knew that this puppy was born dead and showed no interest at all in the black&tan female puppy. Within the next 2 hours she had three more dead puppies, two black&tan females and one black&tan male. Then she delivered a live puppy, a little ruby girl, which was tiny - weighed all but 4 oz. - and which had no fur anywhere on her body, nor did this puppy have any nails on her feet. Within a short time after the birth of this puppy, Holly had two more live puppies, a black&tan girl and a ruby girl. Holly knew that her puppies were in trouble, not having any fur, because of being so very small and born so very much too early. Also their lungs were not fully developed. All three tried to nurse from Holly, but were unable to get any milk. They were just not strong enough to suckle.
One of the main reasons why a breeder can lose puppies, not only prematurely born ones, is that puppies are unable to generate their own heat. This, of course, is particularly true of preemie puppies. I decided to take the three remaining puppies away from Holly and put them in a home-made incubator, which I kept at a constant 89 F. From the day of their birth, I tube fed all three puppies around the clock, every two hours. At first, it appeared that the three puppies were doing well enough to have a chance of survival, but after three days, the black&tan puppy died. She was the one, which had the least developed lungs. Two days later, the next little puppy died, one of the two rubies. That meant, after 5 days of hard fighting on the puppies' and my part, I had one tiny little ruby girl puppy left, which by now had grown some fur and started to grow nails.
From when I took the puppies away from Holly, whenever I was going to tube-feed them, I would hold the puppies onto a nipple and tried to make them at least suckle a bit, so that they would not forget how to suckle (puppies do forget if not suckling from their mother). Holly was very patient and trusting and washed her babies for me after I tube-fed them. She seemingly did not mind me keeping her babies in the incubator either.
I named the remaining puppy Eulenburg Island In the Sky and called her “Sky.” She was fighting for her life, and that name seemed to fit her best. I continued tube-feeding her for a total of 8 days, by which time she had managed to gain a little bit of weight. She was now weighing 6.2 oz. and had started to suckle from her mother whenever I put her onto a nipple. That was an important achievement on the part of this little puppy. It also meant that by day 9, I could start to bottle feed her, with a human preemie baby bottle. Sky took to that way of feeding really well. I still fed her every two hours - and kept that up for 10 days.
Sky had to stay in her incubator until she was 14 days old and then I made a big incubator-type box, which would be big enough for Holly and Sky. It worked, and Holly was delighted to have her daughter back. Sky started to search around for Holly's milk and managed to drink on her own. I still supplemented her food intake every 4 hours with the baby bottle though. When she was two weeks old, she looked like a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had fur and nails, but still had her eyes closed. She was making progress, got stronger and had a very good chance of survival.
Because she was handled from such an early age, she was never nervous and snuggled up to anyone holding her. She still does that.
And finally, she decided to open her eyes! Now she really looked like a puppy! She was still being bottle fed about every 6 hours additionally to feeding of Holly. Holly was a great mother, she kept a very close eye on Sky, as if she knew that this little puppy was very special and needed more attention than full-term puppies.
As of Sky opening her eyes, she started to develop faster than before. She soon learned how to walk and follow fingers and Holly around. I also stopped bottle feeding her. As of three weeks old she only nursed from Holly.
She looked more and more like a Cavalier puppy, the older she got. At five weeks of age, she also started to eat canned dog food. Of course, she continued to nurse from her mother, despite her having grown some pretty sharp little teeth, which she used on anyone to practice biting and chewing. She was a very playful little girl, not afraid of anything, or any other dog. I let her play with the older Cavaliers, but not with any Shih Tzu puppies, because these were playing too rough for her. After all, Sky at 5 weeks old only weighed a bit over one pound. Not that her size stopped her from getting into things!
Today, Sky is just like any other Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which I have raised -- very affectionate, very sweet, very bright, and always in the mood to play and have fun. She is a bit smaller still than she should be, but in time, will most likely catch up to the size she would have been if she had been a full-term puppy. I am still careful with her as far as letting her run around with the other dogs, simply because she is small. She can run very fast and as when she was much younger, she is not afraid of anything. She loves my German Shepherd girl, Senta, who weighs 89 lbs!!! Now Sky can hold her own in any company.
I took her to a dog show for the first time when she was 11 weeks old, and she enjoyed all the visitors making a big fuss of her. Nervousness is not a word she knows. Not that she was exhibited at that show, but I wanted to see how she would react to the noise and strangers and other dogs. She did wonderfully, and was a true representative of the personality of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Sky joined her new family in San Francisco, CA, and has taken the city by storm.
If you have any questions about how to raise a preemie puppy, please feel free to email me. I do not claim to be an expert, but maybe I can help you save a puppy too.