Sponge Supplementation Put to the Test
by Pilar Kuhn
Recently in the social media channels, a video on YouTube by Sherry Chevalier shows her using cosmetic sponges and formula to supplement her neonate puppies. She does a very good job clearly demonstrating how to prepare the sponge, the puppy, and we all watch the little one nurse away as if the sponge is a teat replacement.
The benefits, she explains, of this technique is being able to clearly measure how much formula the puppy is getting, strengthening the suckling action, and preventing aspiration that can come about from bottle feeding and takes away the human stress of supplementing via tube feeding. It also takes less time than bottle feeding.
In our own household, we welcomed a litter of Scotties and Bouviers within a week of each other. Our Scottie bitch had 6 puppies and our Bouvier bitch had 11 puppies. We weigh our puppies twice a day in grams to keep a close eye on gains and losses and after the first expected day of losses, we noticed a few of our Scottie puppies still losing on their second day. We had 2 Scottie puppies that were on the smaller side and kept getting bumped off teats by larger siblings when trying to latch on and nurse. My husband is very adept at tube feeding, but I thought perhaps we should try the sponge method to see how it really works.
The cosmetic wedges are a great size, shape, and density to help a puppy get a similar sucking action and milk reward as from its mother. We found that placing the tip of the syringe with formula near the puppies mouth helped keep the formula going to the best part of the sponge for the suckling puppy.
At first, the puppies weren’t sure about the formula. We started off with Esbilac and later switched to a goat’s milk and yogurt formula. The initial introduction of the sponge as a nipple took a little coaxing. And one of our Scottie puppies was having some suckling issues. We’re not exactly sure what her overall issues were, but even when she would latch on to the sponge and imbibe formula, we would weigh her afterward and she wasn’t getting as much as we would hope. We resorted to tube feeding this puppy and, in the end, we lost her after 10 days. However, one Scottie male that was also on the small side has benefitted from little sponge supplementing boosts now and then. He is thriving.
Our Bouvier puppies are all thriving, but there are more than our bitch can nurse at any one time because of the sheer number of them. Morning and evening after we weigh everyone, we have found that three of our eleven puppies need an extra boost every day. It’s never the same 3 puppies, either, which is good. It is evident that they all are trying their best to rotate and share their mother’s milk, but it is a lot for her to provide for those hungry mouths.
Both Scotties and Bouviers get a whiff of the goat’s milk formula and start to squirm. They obviously love the taste of it and get a great full-tummy reward so they start to squirm as soon as they smell it. I almost can’t get the primed sponge in their little mouths fast enough. I have also found that many of them like to nestle their heads against my wrist while I dram formula onto the sponge. I presume they feel as if they’re against a sibling or their mother while nursing.
The benefit, again, to this method is that with strong and thriving puppies, it is an excellent way to make sure they get more meals without a risk of aspirating. And when they are full, they pull themselves off the sponge, just as they do their mother’s teat. Every one of our puppies that has received an extra meal has gone on to have decent gains for the next day or two before needing to be worked into sponge rotation again. I am one grateful breeder for the ingenuity of another breeder that shared this in social media channels for all of us to see. If you have to supplement a puppy, this method is an excellent option.
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