The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

Whelping and Raising a Singleton Puppy

When the dam only has one puppy... There IS cause for concern. There are many things not in the puppy’s favor.

  1. The pup may be too big to deliver naturally; MOST singletons must be delivered by C-section.
  2. Many dams often will not go into labor with a singleton puppy, as there are not enough hormones to trigger labor.
  3. As we have found, many dams will not produce milk with a singleton. The hormones are just not there, as a dam produces milk based on demand. No demand, no milk!

Read about all the other things to watch for, and follow Saul's story.

Singletons have a lot against them. Only 50% live. It starts in utero, they get bigger, like a fish that grows to the size of its bowl, so they are harder to get out. Sometimes one puppy is not enough to provide the needed hormones to make the dam go into labor. If you have not done an x-ray or an ultrasound, this may come on you unexpectedly; this is why I ALWAYS do an x-ray. A singleton can also risk the life of your dam.

Close Up - Newborn Puppy face with a hand under its chin

Meet MistyTrails Soltero of Czar (Saul). He is VERY vocal and lively with a good set of lungs. He has a very dark muzzle and is quite handsome and manly. There was only one Mastiff pup born this time. This is going to be quite different than Sassy's 11 puppies born last litter. I thought, BONUS, this will be a piece of cake, but NO, it is just as hard. And very frustrating.

Puppy laying on a blanket in a plastic bin

The puppy is on a warm rice pad because he does not have any littermates to keep him warm.

Sassy the Mastiff laying across from the puppy who is in a plastic bin Puppy Nursing

Since there is only one puppy, I am using only the back four teats, and not the other five. I hope the others dry up. I have marked the four back teats with a Sharpie: A, B, C, D, and I will rotate him on these ones. If I let all nine nipples come active, apparently I am asking for mastitis, as there is no way he can keep up to draining all nine. By one week old, I discovered, I should have only worked on the back two.

chart to keep track of feedings

The marking of the teats is more so my helpers and kids can help. We also make a chart to help keep track of feedings.

Puppy laying on a blanket in a plastic bin surrounded by plush toys

The singleton pup is put into a box with a lot of stuffed toys so he can climb and snuggle up against them. He also needs the exercise of climbing over littermates to stimulate him.

Puppy being fed with a bottle

The pup has gone from 750 grams to 744 grams in the time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. I will suppplement once before bed. I gave him 7 cc and brought him back up to his birth weight and now he is sleeping with his teddies on a warm mat and is more content. I’ve got a long night ahead of me.... I shouldn't have to supplement him again, but will sleep with them and put him on his mom to nurse every two hours. He is soooo cute.

Sassy the Mastiff letting the puppy nurse

Sassy, the mommy Mastiff, is pretty sore. Poor girl, but she did eat a can of tripe. I am a little concerned as this was a painful surgery and before labor, so milk can be slow to come in. We did give her an injection of oxytocin right after the C-section, as this can assist in milk production/let down.

Close Up - Puppy Nursing

The pup was born at 750 grams on Tuesday. By Wednesday he went down to 720 grams. TIME to interfere. Mom does not have milk yet, BUT, you don't want to supplement too much and not have milk come in. I let pup suck and cry for an hour, then I tube fed him 20 cc. You have to watch with a bottle not to aspirate him. Bottle is the better option, but this puppy refuses a bottle, so must be tube fed. Also with this breed, and a bottle, they often get fluid in the nose which is asking for pneumonia. So tubing is much easier (BUT...ONLY if you know how).

You have to watch that singletons do not get too fat. Pups that get too heavy too fast and do not learn to walk by two weeks old are called swimmers. Swimmers cannot walk and their chests flatten. They need therapy to get up and moving, and it can ruin their bodies forever. A singleton is a candidate to become a swimmer because he doesn't have to move or fight for a nipple. This is something I am aware of, and will watch for.

Puppy laying on a girls neck

Some cuddle time, keeping the pup warm.

Puppy laying on a girls neck next to Sassy the Mastiff Dam laying on a blanket

4:00 p.m. on day two. The pup’s weight is down to 710 grams.

Worried?? Yes! But if I totally supplement the puppy, the dam's milk will not come in. The dam is sore and growling at the puppy, I cannot leave the puppy alone with her for a minute, yet she needs to suckle. This is taking up JUST as much time as a litter of 11. OH my. But, I did this. I will see it through.

The pup sucked for 45 minutes on colostrum, and never got more than a gram. So I tubed him 20 cc to give him a boost and then he had a nap. When he wakes in 2 to 3 hours, he will have the energy to suck to bring in that milk. If I do not supplement this puppy a little, then he will become weak, and not have the energy to suck in a couple hours.

I am only supplementing him enough to keep him strong, but not fill him up, and I do not supplement until AFTER he sucks for a good half hour.

I can save this puppy by taking over. If I let nature take its course I would lose this puppy. Many breeders would call this fading puppy syndrome. I WILL NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. I could take over anytime, and just start tubing every couple hours. But, I want to see if I can get the dam’s milk to come in. It IS BEST if this puppy has a doggy mommy, and not all me.

I just want the milk to come in. He is down to 708 grams, but good news, he nursed for an hour, and went up to 712 grams; that is a start. So I am getting some milk production. I also tube fed him another 20 g.

At 2.5 days, I am worried; the most I can get is 3 cc of colostrum, and NO sign of milk.

This puppy is NOT suffering. I am trying to find a balance to supplement him enough to keep him alive and strong enough to nurse to bring in the milk. So what I am now doing is letting him nurse every two hours for up to an hour, then supplementing him after his exhausted efforts of sucking. He is content. If I did not supplement him, this puppy would die.

Close Up - Mother dog's teet

The puppy has been sucking for a minimum of 30 minutes, every 1.5 hours, for three days, and still nothing. I gave the dam lots of liquids, good food and the room is not too hot. It's been three days and we are still waiting for milk.

I AM NOT SLEEPING as I have to be up every two hours around the clock. I am getting tired.

While I wait for the milk and hope it comes in, I am faced with two choices. I could take him off and totally tube him and hand-raise him. Or, a breeder friend has a dam in whelp; I think I may borrow her dam and four puppies for a week. Just to get past this every two hour thing. Once he is at every four hours, it will be easier.

Sassy, the real mommy, cries constantly. I do not know what is going through her mind, but she is frustrated as well I think. She licked the puppy for the first time last night.

Five puppies laying on a blanket

Most people do not have this option, but if you know of someone with a dam in whelp, you can use a surrogate mother. I do have the opportunity to borrow a friend's dam and puppies that are one day older than Saul. I JUMP at this opportunity!!!

Puppies nursing on a blanket

Here we have Saul and his new brothers and sisters. When you add a puppy to a different litter, you MUST use caution. The new dam can and often WILL kill the new puppy, so exercise caution; do not leave unattended for the first while.

Close Up - Two puppies Nursing on a blanket

Saul got 4 cc of milk from his new mom, and I tubed him another 20 cc. I still have to help, as his foster mom is a 10-pound Havanese.... And I will still need to supplement him.

I have added a very large breed dog to a toy breed dam. The larger puppy is very, very hungry, and is a bit too assertive. He wants food. So, what I am doing is every two hours, I am giving him 20 cc of Mammalac to take off the edge, and he is now gently nursing and not in a panic to get food. He knows there is food. The dam was worried, but with this technique of taking the edge off of the puppy, and with him being more gentle, she is accepting him. This is the first time I have done this, but with the help of mentors and friends, we have come up with this awesome answer to our situation.

Mastiff puppy nursing


In the morning the pup weighed 796 g and at noon he weighed 832 g.

Sassy the Mastiff mom is howling for her puppy. I put him on Sassy, and he got 8 grams of milk. WOW unbelievable! Grin! Her milk is finally in on the back two teats.

I will put the puppy on the real mom once a day, as well as on the Havanese mom. Sassy the Mastiff mom is not as attentive to cleaning, so I will still put him with the Havanese mom too.

By the end of that night the pup weighed 874 g

A drop of milk coming out of a teet

DAY 6 —Mastiff getting some milk

Milk coming out of teet Close Up - Milk coming out of teet

DAY 6—Milk in the Mastiff mom. Not a lot, but enough for one feeding a day.

In the morning the pup was 874 g. I left him alone with the Havanese dam all night, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and she tended to him 100%.

A PLEASANT turn to his FATE...

Saul the Mastiff puppy is doing very well. He is with the Havanese dam and four adoptive Havanese puppy siblings who are one-fourth his size. The Havanese dam tends to all his needs.

During the day I tube him 20 g every couple hours while the Havanese dam tends to him all night. Sassy comes in once a day, and he gets about 10 cc of milk from her back two teats.

I would say he has the best of everything. ONE SPOIL'T puppy.

At one week old, his weight compared to a nursing puppy is exactly on. In fact, he is bigger.

Puppy Weight Chart

All the Havanese puppies cuddle up to Saul the Mastiff puppy. All is wonderful. The Havanese dam cares for him 100%, however I still supplement him every two hours during the day, on top of her milk. She loves him as her own.

Two Puppies cuddling

Look how much larger the Mastiff puppy is than the Havanese puppy. The Havanese pup is one day older than the Mastiff pup.

Two Puppies cuddling on a blanket

By keeping the singleton Mastiff puppy with the Havanese litter, it gives the Mastiff pup all of the stimulation and warmth he needs from the other puppies. Not to mention the care the mommy Havanese dam is giving him. The pups and dam do not know they are different breeds. To them, they are all one happy family.

Two Puppies laying in the corner together

Sassy the Mastiff mom has been giving 10 cc a day of milk from her back two teats. On day nine Sassy gave 20 cc milk letdown to Saul.

Sassy the Mastiff Dam cuddling with a puppy

Sassy pulled Saul in close, cuddled him and put her arm around him. Soooooooooooooo sweet.

Sassy the Mastiff dam licking a puppy

Kissed him. Sassy does love him. She has very little milk today. But LOVE overflowing.

Sassy the Mastiff Dam laying with a puppy on a blanket

And they went to sleep.

Puppy climbing on Sassy the Mastiff dam

Sassy has minimal milk, but twice a day she gets to snuggle and feed Saul. She gives him about 10 cc. I tube him 60 cc of goat’s milk every few hours.

Puppy climbing on Sassy the Mastiff dam's face

I think Saul is going to be a BIG boy. He is not chubby. He is starting to walk about and gets OUT of the whelping box. So nice and agile.

Mastiff puppy eating out of a bowl

At three weeks, as sad as it was, Saul was getting too big to be raised by a toy dog mom and her babies. He started to walk on them, so we have started him on goat’s milk and pablum. His Havanese mom will leave in two days.

Mastiff Puppy laying on a dog bed in a cage

3.5 weeks old—Saul ate, made a mess, and fell asleep in it, so we left him to rest. LOL.

Mastiff Puppy pooing in the correct area

Saul is totally paper trained at 3.5 weeks.

Mastiff Puppy and Havanese Puppy sniffing each other through a x-pen

I have put Saul next to the 10-week-old Havanese, so they visit through the fence.

Havanese Puppy and Mastiff puppy in the Same pen socializing together

A 10-week Havanese puppy is socializing with 3 ½-week-old Saul.

Mastiff and puppy laying together on a blanket

He still visits with his mom, Sassy, but she doesn't tend to him at all.

Close Up - Saul the Mastiff puppy

Saul the Mastiff puppy at five weeks old

Saul the Mastiff Puppy playing with Havanese Puppies

Saul the 10-pound Mastiff puppy at five weeks old playing with 12-week-old Havanese puppies. Saul pins them down; part of his instinct at play; he wants to be dominant.

Saul the Mastiff Puppy and the Havanese Puppies preparing to eat food together

Saul the 18-pound Mastiff puppy at six weeks old playing with 13-week-old Havanese puppies

Saul the Mastiff puppy laying on a boy on a couch

Saul the singleton English Mastiff puppy at eight weeks old

Left Profile - Mastiff Puppy

Saul the singleton English Mastiff puppy at eight weeks old

Close Up - Saul the Mastiff Puppy on a persons shoulder

At nine weeks, Saul is 30 lbs. and ready for his new home.

Saul the Mastiff Puppy is laying on a blanket in front of a dog bowl filled with food and a dog bowl filled with water

Saul the singleton Mastiff puppy at 3.5 months old, weighing 60 pounds. He is the YOUNGEST and BIGGEST in his puppy class.

Saul the Mastiff Puppy laying on a carpet looking into the distance

Saul the singleton Mastiff puppy at 3.5 months old, weighing 60 pounds

Saul the Mastiff Puppy walking beachside

Saul the singleton Mastiff puppy at five months old, weighing 110 pounds, at the beach

Saul the Mastiff Puppy sharing a stick with another dog on the beach

Saul the singleton Mastiff puppy at five months old, weighing 110 pounds, at the beach with his Border Collie friend.

Saul the Mastiff sitting in a Jeep

Saul the singleton Mastiff puppy at nine months old

Saul the Mastiff playing in the yard with a person

Saul the singleton Mastiff puppy at nine months old

Saul the Mastiff sitting in the back seat of a really tiny smart car

Saul the singleton Mastiff inside a smart car

Whelping a Premature Litter

Courtesy of MistyTrails Mastiffs

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