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~~*~~*~~ Royal Canin Babydog Milk ~~*~~*~~ Pig, the greatest chocolate Labrador that ever graced our fair land, became a mother on June 23rd. It was my proudest moment and possibly Pig's too. This was Pig's first litter and my first one doing it alone - previous Labrador litters in the Smith household saw 4, 6 and 8 puppies produced and when my dad, a vet of 50 ish years said he could feel 4 in Pig's belly I was pleased - a nice little litter for us both. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out that way. Pig started pushing at 8.50am and by 1.15pm she had popped out 8 little beauties. Me and mother (she ditched her charitable book delivery and drove an hour to hold Pig's paw as she was the official birthing partner) had a brew, Pig had some dinner whilst her babies had theirs and I thought that though it was double the amount of pups it was still manageable and not too hard on the Pig. Pig then started pushing again and by 4.00pm, 4 more had arrived. This was now a big litter. ~~*~~ Why use synthetic Milk? ~~*~~ There are numerous reasons that this milk may be used - my main priority was to supplement the puppies as Pig only has 10 teats for a start and the pups take their feed not considering the needs of Boris and Jeffrey (the two runts) or that of mother. Other reasons for its use include when the bitch has mastitis, eclampsia (Pig got this after 4 days - lack of calcium which can kill the bitch due in this case to greedy puppies but was rectified with calcium tablets from Tesco), orphaned babies and agalactia (lack of milk production). As I was supplementing Pig's milk at first I was feeding every 3 hours (this meant no sleep for the first week and I mean no sleep) to ensure that everybody was topped up and Pig wasn't too drained. After a week, I was able to feed with 5 hours in between and luckily they were happy to be weaned (fed food other than milk) at 2 ½ weeks. ~~*~~ Babydog's Milk ~~*~~ I chose Royal Canin's puppy milk because it was the only brand my vet sold and handily it came with a bottle and 3 different sized teats. The pack included 4 x 100g sachets, instructions (thank god), and the bottle set. It cost £14.00 from my vet but that's because vets are buggers for charging the earth - it's about £8 on ebay or £30ish for the 2kg bucket load. Obviously, there was no time for me to shop around and wait for the postieman to deliver so I grabbed the set and ran back to the hoard. ~~*~~ The ingredients ~~*~~ The ingredients listed are milk proteins, animal fats, whey protein, soya oil, copra oil, fish oil (source of DHA), minerals, fruto-oligo-saccharides, flavour. Now, to me these ingredients mean absolutely nothing. Sorry. On the Royal Canin website, I found the following information which was interesting even if it is a big ole lie: The product has the advantage of 'Harmonious Growth' - it's as close as possible to the mother's milk with high energy (5590kcal/kg) and high protein (33%). It has 'Digestive Safety' - contains carefully selected ultra-digestible proteins and has a lactose content similar to that of the mother's milk - it doesn't contain starch. The addition of the fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS) helps maintain a healthy balance of digestive flora (I have no idea what this is all about but all the puppies survived). DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid which apparently is the most important polyunsaturated fatty acid in the mammal brain and retina and the puppy's immature brain has a high DHA requirement (maternal milk is full of DHA). I suppose the puppies brain's were fairly well developed considering Labradors aren't the brightest of creatures - I started clicker training at 4 weeks and it only took a couple of training sessions for them to learn sit - clever puppies and they were toilet trained (bar the excited accident) by 6 weeks. So there you go - everyday's a school day. ~~*~~ The Bottle ~~*~~ The bottle supplied only held around 100ml which was plenty at first but within a week the little blighters were requiring a bottle each so I purchased value bottles from Tesco and everyone was happy. The small teats were of no use for my little fatties, the middle teats were perfect for a week (a bit longer for the runts) and the large teats lasted till weaning. The bottles and teats were easy to keep clean - I just placed them in a pan of boiling water to clean them out and they were ready to go again and again and again! ~~*~~ The instructions ~~*~~ Babydog milk is meant for all puppies regardless of breed or stupidity from birth through to 2 months. The measurements are for the average weight of the pup when it's an adult (though the weight category ranged from 25 to 45kg so I went with the weight of Pig as my measurement since she's quite a slight Lab). I have to say, the only instructions I really paid attention to was the milk powder measurement ratio to water - the rest was pretty much 'play it by ear'. I found the best way to mix the powder was not to put it in a pan of water at 70 degrees but to boil the kettle, pour this into the bottle, put the correct amount of powder in then shake it to death and then cool the bottle by placing it in a cold jug of water. The reason I ditched fannying around with a pan of water was due to the bottles going cold if one puppy took a long time to have his feed - you're not supposed to warm it up or to use after an hour, so I didn't. Boiling a pan of water and letting it cool to the required temperature took far too long - bear in mind I was feeding 12 of the little buggers and pretty much didn't sleep unless you count the snooze in a deckchair against the fridge whilst feeding Gloria, which I don't. Puppies cry when their hungry (or ill or cold or hot or being sat on by the Pig) and this was a noisy litter - there was always someone trying to get a teat and missing out so I had no choice but to feed. The instructions also give an approximate amount (ml) that the puppies should be having - this proved a bit of a problem since I was 'topping up' the kids - one breeder said that the pups would regulate themselves and stop when full - this was not the case with most of them and their bellies would swell until they looked like they would burst - thus I had to limit them which was hard especially with Roger and Margery who literally opened their gullets and sucked the bottle in seconds. To keep a tab on things I created a tick chart to see who was fed/how much/and whether they had the runs! It became a military operation but I loved every sleepless second of it. ~~*~~ Poor ole Pigsy ~~*~~ Some would say that it's survival of the fittest and I should have let the runts die and Pig to get on with it - those people are meanies. All of the pups had a good sucking reflex and could flip themselves over from birth so I knew that given the chance they would survive. It was only down to logistics that the pups were struggling and so I did my best to keep them going. Pigsy was drained of milk literally and had to have breaks due to her eclampsia (the poor girl collapsed and I had to separate her for a while) and I had to give the kids their full dinner for a couple of days. Personally I've never had to use babydog milk before and the choice of this or goats milk was easy - this stuff is brilliant (cow's milk by the way is just too rich and when watered down doesn't contain enough protein to provide a puppy with its full meal). ~~*~~ Puppy Power ~~*~~ I used Royal Canin from the beginning but moved on to Skinners powdered milk primarily because it was cheaper and because the local pet shop had it available - but next time (though I hope the next litter is a little smaller) I'll stick with Babydog throughout. The kids didn't notice a difference and I did only use it with their weetabix mix but I feel guilty for not giving them the best. It was very easy to wean the babies as they were already used to the milk taste and so as soon as they could lap they were weaned. Using puppy milk ensured that the littler ones had the same chance as the bigger ones - bigger puppies push the smaller ones off the good teats so smaller pups remain small if left alone and with the puppy milk I saw a good even weight gain on them all. Of course we went through a bout of the runs but nothing serious or long lasting so I think its a great product for easy digestion. I would say with certainty that if the pups had been left alone with the Pig, there would have been a very different outcome - Pig would not have survived which in turn would mean the pups wouldn't have survived without the aid of puppy milk. I do think that the measuring spoon and measurements (eg: 5/10 or 4 + 1/10th) could have been written a bit clearer as it did require a maths degree to work it out but we got there in the end. Last week, 12 chunky Labradors went to their new homes and I couldn't have been a more proud Grandma! ~~*~~ Dull information (more dull than the rest) ~~*~~ Royal Canin has a very informative website www.royalcanin.co.uk where their About page is actually quite interesting. If you'd like to contact them, you can call them on 0845 300 5011 or if you're a breeder you get your own local lady distributor who's absolutely lovely and will fetch you a bag of food in the blink of an eye). Or you could write them a letter and maybe send a few piccies of the little ones - Crown Pet Foods Ltd, Oak Tree Meadow, Blackworthy Road, Castle Cary, Somerset, BA7 7PH. Caroline & Pig September 10 Both missing the chaos. Review will appear elsewhere, probably.