Golden Retriever Nurses African Painted Dog Pups Rejected by Their Mom

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic
Valentino Hendryco/Shutterstock

The Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana, recently welcomed a litter of eight endangered African painted dog puppies. After a rough start, only three puppies survived thanks to an unlikely surrogate mother - a golden retriever named Kassy.

The Potawatomi Zoo announced that the pair of their African painted dogs, Bleu and Maurice, had a litter of eight puppies born in late September. However, it was soon clear to the care team at the zoo that the pack would not be able to raise the puppies successfully.

“Bleu, an inexperienced mother, was not caring for her pups the way she should have, and Maurice was following her lead,” said the zoo. 

In their natural habitat, African painted dogs live in large packs with unique vocalizations and social dynamics. All adult dogs in the pack work together to help feed and raise the pups. The success of the birth and raising of the pups can be endangered if the pack doesn’t work together as they should. 

We knew within 24 hours that we had to separate them,” the zoo’s executive director, Josh Sisk, told the South Bend Tribune

The zoo’s animal care staff consulted with the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP), a group of zoo professionals who form the breeding plans for this endangered species in accredited zoos across the United States. 

The staff at zoos usually try to remain uninvolved, letting the packs raise the puppies as they would in the wild. This approach is often successful and helps the pups learn the complex social structure of their species. 

However, in this case, the decision was made to intervene and hand-raise the litter. Instead of bottle-feeding the puppies, the SSP recommended finding a surrogate dog to nurse the puppies. 

Within a few hours, the Indiana Council for Animal Welfare connected the zoo with a golden retriever named Kassy, who recently had a litter of puppies and had milk to spare. 

Kassy and her litter arrived at the zoo a day after the painted dog pups were born and immediately accepted them. The zoo’s staff watched as Kessy nursed and cared for the pups as if they were her own.

It was a crazy first month,” Sisk said. “Our team was there for four weeks, 24/7. We had a mattress next to the dogs.”

The zoo’s veterinarian and care team worked around the clock to ensure that all of the puppies, including Kassy’s litter, were getting enough food and time with Kassy. 

However, despite everyone’s efforts, not all of the African painted dog pups survived. Four weeks after the litter was born, only three puppies remained. The surviving pups were named Blue, Red, and Orange for the colors staff used to track them since they were born. 

Originally, the zoo planned to reintegrate the pups with Bleu, Maurice, and Colby. However, the adult dogs didn’t show a positive interest in the pups, so the plan was changed. 

The zoo decided to build a home for the pups next to adult dogs, so they could still learn how to behave like painted dogs. Once the puppies get older they can either be integrated with Bleu, Maurice, and Colby or moved to another zoo.

Blue, Red, and Orange have had an unusual and challenging start to life, but the zoo hopes they will have a bright and successful future,” the zoo shared in a release. “These three healthy, active pups are just the start of this story and the zoo hopes to share more positive updates of their milestones in the future.”

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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