Last Sunday, Shannon Torrez's dog Asia became a mother. The Sharpei and Pitbull mix gave birth to one puppy named Raider. It was a surprise to Shannon, but nothing compared to what came next.
"I got a call from a friend of mine that three kittens had been dropped off on her front porch in a little bucket and she didn't know what to do with them. I went and picked them up, figuring I was going to have to bottle feed them for a little while before adopting them," Shannon said. "When I got home Asia was kind of throwing a fit that I had the kittens and she wanted to see them. I put them up to her and she didn't want to me to get them out of her sight."
Asia immediately began taking care of the kittens. She cleaned them, nursed them and protected them.
"The first couple of days she wouldn't leave their side at all. It took her a few days for them to get settled in and for her to get comfortable before she would even leave the box," she said.
Although it seems unusual, it's something that veterinarians have seen before.
"It occurs actually pretty often," said Dr. Lane Preston with the Animal Medical Center in Lubbock. "She goes ahead and adopts those kittens as her own even though they're not hers. They don't smell like dogs but the urge to mother and nurse is greater than all of those things."
He says this usually occurs when female dogs go through their heat cycle. Their bodies think they are having a puppy and even if they aren't, the dogs still produce milk.
Sometimes the dogs can suffer health problems when they have milk without puppies to drink it, so this kind of surrogate mothering is encouraged.
"There are times when we have to tell the people, do you know of anybody that has some puppies or has some kittens that you could put on this mom to help her out a little bit?"
The kittens are about three and a half weeks old right now. They will stay with Shannon and Asia for another four weeks.
"I honestly thought she would take them in, you know clean them, keep them warm at least, but that I was going to feed them because she is much bigger than they are. But no, they got the hang of it and she has no problem with them," said Shannon.
Dog milk is close enough to cat milk that the kittens should suffer no ill effects.
Torrez has tentatively named the cats Jade, Jewel and Gunner.
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