Mortality of puppies is high, even in well-managed colonies. Overall mortal-
ity by weaning at 8 to 12 weeks of age averages 18.7% in puppies. Neonatal

mortality in puppies is associated with age of the dam; the number of pups
weaned per litter decreases and puppy mortality increases with increasing age
of the dam.


Trauma and maternal neglect are common causes of neonatal loss. The rate of

puppy deaths from trauma was 37% in one colony described. Anecdotal re-
ports suggest that hypocalcemia may cause bitches to savage pups. Lack of ad-
equate milk production or milk letdown may be associated with poor mother-
ing. Prolactin, which stimulates milk production, stimulates maternal

behavior. Oxytocin, which stimulates milk letdown, is associated with en-
hanced pair bonding between dam and offspring. Other traumatic insults to

neonates include dystocia, suckling by littermates, and overzealous cleaning by
the dam. Maternal neglect may occur in high-strung dams or if the neonate is
sick or chilled. If a bitch repeatedly rejects a neonate, even after rewarming and

physical examination to rule out overt abnormalities, it might be best to re-
move that animal for hand raising.

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