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Singleton Puppy Syndrome

When an ultrasound or X-ray confirms a singleton puppy, it can raise many questions and concerns.

Is It Normal for a Dog to Have One Puppy?

A singleton is a litter consisting of only one puppy. While this is uncommon, it does happen and presents unique challenges during pregnancy, delivery, and beyond. Typically, dams have multiple puppies in a litter.

Singleton Puppy Whelping: Will My Dog Need a C-Section?

A C-section is often recommended or required when there is only one puppy. Labor in dogs is initiated by the puppies, not the mother. The puppies produce cortisol to start labor, but a singleton pup may not produce enough cortisol, delaying labor. Additionally, the placenta is designed to function for only about 63 days. If the pregnancy extends beyond this, the placenta may fail, risking the pup's life. Knowing the female’s ovulation date and calculated due date (63 days after ovulation) is crucial to prevent this.

Monitoring and Delivery

Careful monitoring of the pup’s well-being after day 62 of pregnancy is essential. This may include serial ultrasounds or fetal heart rate monitoring to ensure the pup's health. If there are signs of distress, an emergency C-section is necessary. If a C-section is planned, discuss the possibility of uterine biopsies with your veterinarian to understand why there was only one pup.

Singleton Puppy Problems: Lactation and Nursing

Milk production can vary with a singleton litter. The dam may either overproduce milk or not produce enough. To support the pup, you can use rice or bean-filled socks heated in the microwave for warmth and side support. If the dam over-lactates, collect and freeze the additional colostrum and milk for future use. Monitor the weight of the singleton puppy carefully to avoid joint issues associated with excessive weight.

Behavioral Challenges

Singleton puppies may face behavioral issues due to the lack of littermates. They do not experience the normal interactions and challenges of a larger litter, which can lead to difficulties in socialization and learning appropriate behaviors. To mitigate these issues, simulate littermate interactions using small stuffed animals to nudge the pup off the nipple, teaching them to cope with frustration and touch.

Introducing Social Interactions

Between weeks three to six, introduce the pup to other puppies of a similar age and size, as well as a variety of surfaces, toys, sights, sounds, and experiences. Avoid overwhelming the pup with too many new people or inappropriate interactions with other dogs. If the pup did not receive colostrum, consider early vaccination for parvovirus or conduct a titer test to assess antibody levels.

Preparing for New Homes

When the singleton puppy is ready to leave for a new home, ensure the new owner is knowledgeable about dog behavior and can provide a supportive environment. Behavioral issues in singleton pups can include failure to learn bite inhibition, lack of social skills, inability to cope with frustration, and fear of enclosed spaces. An experienced adult dog can help teach the pup social skills and appropriate behavior.


Caring for a singleton puppy requires extra attention and planning. With careful monitoring, appropriate veterinary care, and proper socialization, singleton puppies can grow into well-adjusted and healthy adult dogs. For more information on caring for your pets, visit

Singleton Puppy Syndrome
Singleton Puppy Syndrome


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