How to Get a Dog to Produce More Milk for Her Puppies

Updated on November 27, 2017
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a small animal veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

A large litter of puppies is a blessing, as long as there is enough milk to feed them.
A large litter of puppies is a blessing, as long as there is enough milk to feed them. | Source

Every expectant “puppy family” has hopes and worries. Will momma be okay or will she need help, or even a caesarian? Will there be enough puppies? Will there be too many puppies? Will momma be able to take care of all of them?

An ultrasound or X-ray might be able to give you an idea of how many puppies to expect. Or maybe not. There are always surprises on whelping day, and no milk is just one of them.

Main Causes of Aglactia (No Milk Production) in Dogs

 
Malnutrition
Heavy parasite burden (worms)
Dehydration
Premature whelping
Stress/nerves
Infected mammary glands
Infected uterus
Failure to release hormones
Failure to respond to hormones
When there are more mouths than teats, some puppies will have to wait patiently.
When there are more mouths than teats, some puppies will have to wait patiently. | Source

What Should I Do If My Dog Has No Milk

An expectant mother usually has a little milk even before her puppies are born. By the time she is whelping, her production of oxytocin (a maternal hormone) should make milk available to her puppies.

Most dogs that are fed correctly and in good shape will have some milk production. However, you might need to help things along.

Provide Liquids: Either Fresh Water or Chicken Soup

  • If your bitch is in good shape and whelps but does not have milk available, the first thing to do is make sure she has plenty of fresh water. That is rarely the problem, but she may only want to drink warm, lukewarm, or cold water. Calm down, sit next to her, and offer her several different temperatures and see what she likes. You may be surprised.
  • If she is not drinking, despite your best efforts, try giving her a big bowl of lukewarm chicken soup. If you do not keep this in your kitchen, get some before the puppies arrive. The extra nutrients will help, and the salt will tend to make her thirsty.

Ask a Vet

Call your veterinarian. They can also come out and examine her to see if there is an infection that you have not been able to identify. They may also decide to give her an injection of calcium or oxytocin.

Try to Have the Puppies Nurse a Little

Finally, go ahead and put the puppies up to her teats and let them try to nurse. Many websites and books will tell you about the importance of the puppies nursing colostrum, the antibody-rich milk produced when they are first born, but no one has a solution about what to do if there is none.

The Importance of Colostrum

Colostrum is the first milk produced by a bitch and it protects the puppies from diseases she has been exposed to and developed antibodies too. All dairy farmers save colostrum to give to newborn calves, but it is not usually available to dog breeders. Maybe the puppies can get a few drops out, and even a little will make a big difference for the weeks they have ahead of them.

There are some commercial colostrum replacements. Ask your vet which ones they recommend.

How Can I Tell If The Puppies Are Getting Enough Milk?

For the first seven days, newborns should nurse once about every two hours. Signs that the litter might be underfed include:

  • Constant crying — This is a sign that the newborns are hungry. Try placing them on the hind teats. If there are smaller ones that keep getting edged out or don't have a strong enough sucking reflex, it's possible you'll have to supplement with bottle feeding. Ask a vet how to do this properly.
  • Not gaining weight — Puppies should double in weight every week.

If there are a lot of puppies, start offering soft food at about 3 weeks.
If there are a lot of puppies, start offering soft food at about 3 weeks. | Source

What If None of This Works?

Some dogs will have plenty of milk but be blessed with a lot more puppies than they can feed. Some will produce only a few drops, and some won´t produce anything at all.

If the puppies are not getting enough to eat, they will be restless and cry a lot, and of course they will not have full bellies. It is at that point that you have to try to feed them some extra milk.

You can purchase a puppy milk replacer from a pet store or your vet, or make a natural substitute. If you want to make up your own, follow this formula.

A Natural Milk Replacement

Mix together the following:

  • 1 cup goat's milk
  • 2 egg yolks (not the whole egg!)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 4 - 6 tablespoons sterile water

If the milk substitute is too thick to come out of the bottle's nipple, you can make the hole a little larger with a hot needle. However, the milk should not be so thin that it pours out without the puppy nursing—if it is too thin the puppy will end up drowning.

Some breeders recommend adding corn syrup or sugar to the milk substitute, but goat's milk has plenty of sugar and since too much leads to diarrhea you do not need it.

If the puppies are becoming hypoglycemic (depressed and losing the suck reflex) you can add about 1 teaspoon to the milk mixture.

Tube vs. Bottle Feeding

Tube feeding is quicker than bottle feeding a whole litter, but if it is done wrong the puppy will drown or die later. The amount is also critical, since a puppy cannot just stop when he is full.

I prefer puppies be bottle fed every 3 hours for about 3 weeks. Yes, it is a lot of work. Yes, the life of a puppy is worth the effort. If you are bottle feeding, the pups can nurse about as much as they want, and should be getting between 2-4 cc for each 30 grams of body weight.

Keep the Mom Involved

Even if the mother is not able to feed the puppies, try to let her stay involved in the process by keeping the puppies clean and providing warmth.

If she is not around, you will have to make sure the puppies are kept warm and rub their bellies and perianal areas with a warm paper towel to stimulate urination and defecation.

First thing on every puppys mind on waking up: Wheres the milk?
First thing on every puppys mind on waking up: Wheres the milk? | Source

If your dog does not produce enough milk at the beginning, or does not have enough to satisfy all of her puppies, you still have a good chance of helping her out if you follow the steps outlined in the first part of this article. Stay calm, but act right away. This problem will not wait until tomorrow.

Even if she does not respond, keep in mind that the next few weeks will be over quickly. Puppies grow fast and within three weeks, they will start taking soft food. You can still feed them with a bottle for the next few weeks, but most of your hard work will be over.

Take care of those puppies!

A natural diet is the best method of feeding your dog and making sure she will have adequate milk when the big day comes along.

Reader Questions

Morning! I have an issue. My lab had her 1st and only litter Wed. I've weighed the 11 pups daily and they aren't gaining weight. She is so exhausted and the pups are starving.

I bought prm and a bottle bit none will take it. Calli seems depressed and not normal but our vet said just be patient. I'm afraid if I keep waiting were looking atb11 dead pups and a suffering mamma.

What do I really need to do? These puppies are going to Wounded warriors and need to be healthy. Thanks Carrie :)

Carrie, the only solution I can offer is to tube feed the puppies. This is not something you can learn over the internet. You will need to take the puppies in to your regular vet so that the vet tech or vet nurse can show you what to do.

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    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 2 days ago from The Beach of Brazil

      If your puppies have not gained weight for one wk you need to start feeding them now. 3 wks is plenty old enough to start drinking from a bowl, and you can also give minced meat and other foods at this time, as long as they are semi-digested type. Look at my article

      https://pethelpful.com/dogs/best-puppy-milk-replac...

      to learn how to make a puppy milk replacer, and

      https://pethelpful.com/dogs/best-puppy-food-raw-do...

      if you need some more info on feeding puppies.

    • profile image

      April 2 days ago

      My pitbull had 10 puppies and they are now 2 days away from being 3 weeks old and she has stopped producing milk. They get a little bit here and there but have not gained any weight since week 2.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 4 weeks ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Lynda, it sounds like she is already producing enough milk for more than one puppy, and if the udder is hard it might be because of mastitis. I recommend you take her in and have her examined for infection. If you cannot, you might try taking the excess milk many times per day. (If you do not milk her, she will definitely develop mastitis.) Good luck with them.

    • profile image

      Lynda 4 weeks ago

      My first time mum only had one puppy she fed well for 3 days now looks as if she's no milk her one of her tweets felt quit hard but after puppy suckling feels ok now what can I do to help

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 4 weeks ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Johni, where are you located? How bad are the winters? Is your dog small or large?Outside or inside?

    • profile image

      johnibarresto 4 weeks ago

      Any Good suggestions for caring dog in winters ?

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      Carisa schulze 7 weeks ago

      I have a question.. My dog had puppies on sunday, 10 but lost 4. Now she isn't giving enough milk for the puppies and even when I feed them milk from a bottle, they still whine and whine. What do I do

    • profile image

      Christine 7 weeks ago

      Chicken soup? Or chicken broth?

    • profile image

      Pamela 2 months ago

      Always remember if puppies won't take bottle. The medication syringe they give at the pharmacy for Little ones they work great. You can measure and actually keep track what your feeding your furbabies.

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      Darla 2 months ago

      Hi ya'll I am a proud grandma of 12 beautiful lab puppies.. three were breach saved them all. Two runts, 1 of the runts is not growing at the alarming speed of even the other runt. Mom only has 9 tits and already she is getting tired of beong with them. My concern should I supplement early, so they all get enough, I am going to with Tiny or she is not going to grow, the others are double the size of her. Help 9 tits 12 Lab akc puppies

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      Angie 2 months ago

      My pom had 4 pups last night this is her second litter and the first time she could not feed them. The pups are all trying to nurse are quiet unless bothered and sleeping well but when i feel her teats they dont feel full and i was unable to get anything out. Should we supplement or let her try

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      Okoijie Endurance 2 months ago

      Would feeding the puppies with a human baby formula suffice?

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      Norma 6 months ago

      I've tried to nurse puppies at least every hour water supplements and one of the pups will not go potty how often should they go everyone says different things so I'm confused the smallest one keeps trying to push they are a week old his tummy is not really hard but what can I do to help him go potty

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      JennR 6 months ago

      My girl had her 1st liter of 6 pups. She isn't producing as much milk as needed. I've been feeding her old fashioned oatmeal every other day, helps a little, but I was wondering if I could give her Organic Mother's Milk tea that promotes healthy lactation? Any information would be much appreciated, thank you!!!!!

    • profile image

      lisa beckman 8 months ago

      she had 13 pups 2 weeks old seems like shes not produceing enough milk what can i do

    • profile image

      Vic 8 months ago

      Hi my friend dog just gave birth to 11 puppies but can't breastfeed them,

      4 puppies already died because of these issue. The dog it's new mom as well. What we should do to avoid this.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 8 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Annie fat helps a lot so if she is okay with the bacon grease feel free to give her more. The main cause of poor milk production I see is malnutrition, and the high grain diets most of our dogs are forced to eat do not provide enough calories. Do you guys make goat cheese? (That is also very high in fat and great for nursing dogs.) Fish oil, which is also high in omaga-3 fatty acids, are also good. Congrats on Lady´s litter!

    • profile image

      Annie Wilson 8 months ago

      I would like to thank you for posting this information online. My dog, Lady, just had 9 puppies and this is her second whelping. She is a great mother and is always letting the pups nurse. She also cleans them every 30 minutes or so. I was just worried about her milk supply. I have been adding extras in her food to help with the milk production. I added chicken broth in her food last night and a bacon greased, fried egg every morning. luckily we raise goats so we already have the goat milk available in case it is needed. Are there any other foods that I can add into her regular dog food that might help speed the process of producing milk?

      Again thank you for all this information.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 9 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Geraldine, no, it does not go to her teats. Since many dogs have an intolerance to milk, it is what is causing her diarrhea. Try feeding the puppies the milk replacer formula I give above.

    • profile image

      Geraldine Duran 9 months ago

      If I give the mom milk to drink, does it go to her teats for the puppies ar just come back out!! she didn't have anything coming out of the teats when the puppies were born so I gave her pet milk but it gave her diahrrea!

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      Deena 9 months ago

      My Molly gave birth to her first and only litter of 11 puppies. They are 4 days old and I'm thinking she's been a little nervous or stressed on two of the days because the puppies have been crying more but all and all she's been doing great.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 11 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Wendee, I would definitely recommend fresh homemade chicken soup if you can make it. The soup you can make at home usually tastes better and the dog is more likely to drink it.

      However, if you cannot the high sodium chicken soup available in a can is okay too. The high salt content is more likely to make her drink more.

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      Wendee 11 months ago

      What kind of chicken soup? homemade?

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      Gina 16 months ago

      My dog's puppies is 2 weeks old... and I'm having trouble with her nursing teats.. and I squeeze on them... and sometimes milk comes out like it's supposed to... and sometimes it doesn't... and today is the 29th and it doesn't look like any is coming out of most of them... but the puppies are on the teats nursing like maybe milk coming out I don't know can't tell and I'm wondering when she is not producing any milk and most of her teats what do I do I'm stressed out about it and I want my puppies to live and I saw on the internet that the puppies are supposed to gain weight week by week and this is just they were born on the 14th of July.... please help what do I do????? there is one bigger puppy... and the rest is about medium size one is just a little bit smaller but not by much.. 4 puppies total. The mama has been eating her food I've been giving her dry food and wet food mixed together... and then sometimes I put about a cap full of oil in her food of canola oil and then sometimes I put lard grease from the stove in her food but not very much... am I doing what's right so far please help I don't want my puppies to die or cry because they don't have milk . 7/29/2016

    • profile image

      Summer Edwards 18 months ago

      My dog is having her first litter of puppies and I'm a nervous wreck.i want to make sure they are safe and well fed.she keeps rolling over on them and I'm concerned they are having trouble nursing .all advice welcomed! Thanks in advance !

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      Laly 19 months ago

      Thanks for all the information.. It's very informative...

    • profile image

      Yashni 20 months ago

      Hi

      Actually my dog got 4 premature babies

      One died and other are still here

      Problem is the mother is not having enough milk for the puppies

      And I have started giving them milk but they are not opening their mouth

      However with certain difficulties they drank the milk

      I need help so that the mother can take care of her babies

      And also have enough milk to feed her babies

      Very stressed concerning the puppies and the mother from the time we lost the 1 puppy

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 20 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Catherine, there is a puppy feeding formula I have developed at https://pethelpful.com/dogs/best-puppy-milk-replac... .

      If they do not care for that much, you can using organic goats milk instead of the powdered formula. (Mix the goats milk with the coconut water, as described above.) Good luck with your little puppies, but get the mom spayed as soon as the puppies are weaned to prevent this happening again. Good luck

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      Catherine 20 months ago

      PLEASE help me! My Chiweenie got pregnant in her 1st heat, by my Chi-pom. Against my better judgment, I didn't fix her ASAP, and Dino got 2 her. She'll b 1 yr, late May, and she had her litter on April 3rd. She had 4 beautiful puppies, and there were no complications. (Thank u Jesus) But my fear of her not having enough milk 4 her pups has come true. I took them 2 the Vet, 2 days after they were born. He said, "They're not gaining as much weight, as i'd like them 2." He told me 2 bottle feed each 1, four times a day. I immediately went 2 Petsmart, and purchased a nursing kit, and powder formula. They HATED it. They wouldn't open they're mouths, and cried when I tried 2 feed them. :( This stressed me out, and mad me so sad. They appear 2 b gaining weight, but they cry, often, and struggle 2 latch on. I'm fearful they're not drinking enough. What am I 2 do?! They're 9 days old now. Should I try again? Do u think they might b more accepting of the bottle now? I'm so afraid they're not gonna gain the proper, healthy weight they so desperately need. PLEASE help me!

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      Jamie 20 months ago

      Thanks for this. I literally dunno what to do. My bitch loves her pups so much but she ain't got enough milk. I made a chikn' soup earlier and it did worked. I saw the mouth of her pups with milk residue. So glad I found this blog.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 21 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Anil, most puppies do not even need the formula. If they are hungry, and the female is not producing enough milk, go ahead and supplement as soon as you need to. They should be able to start eating solid foods (made up as a mush) at 3 weeks of age.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 21 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Marie, female dogs are much less protective of their puppies as the days pass, so you just need to stick with it until she realizes you are not hurting the puppy and gets used to it.

      You have a lot of work ahead of you. Good luck to you all.

    • profile image

      anil kumar 21 months ago

      Hi folks,

      When we start this goats milk formula after dog giving birth...

    • profile image

      Marie 21 months ago

      My dog gave birth on Monday and one of the puppies is not getting enough but every time I try to feed it with her there she tries to pull the puppy away and stop the feeding, it has a cleft so there is no way she can feed it. If I try to feed it in another room she barks the whole time. Is there anything I could do to help the situation?

    • profile image

      maryviolago 2 years ago

      im worried about my bitch, it's like there is a circled swollen lump around her nipples, im not sure if it is mastitis coz she still continues to attend the needs of her pups. She also didnt stop breastfeeding nor have lost her appetite

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Samantha--if the pups do not want the Esbilac, I would try another formula. Make up some of the goats milk formula described in this hub. (If you look under the "related hubs" you will also see a milk replacer formula made with coconut water, which I think is the best .) Is the replacer warm when you offer it? Try putting a drop of replacer on your fingertip and opening the puppy´s mouth to start her nursing.

      If the pups still wont eat, the only way to save them will be to tube feed. There is no way I can show you how to do this on the internet so you will need to take them to your local vet or a breeder willing to help you.

      Do something right away!

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      Samantha 2 years ago

      I have a female that I retrieved from a pound. She is close too two years old. This is her first litter. She has 11 pups...she is not producing enough milk and actually I don't think she is producing any. What can i/need to do? I have purchased a milk replacement formula but the pups don't want it. What can I do?

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Maria it sounds like you are already doing all you can. The pups have to be cleaned with a wet paper towel to stimulate defecation, and if you need more advice on making up a formula here is an article I wrote:

      https://pethelpful.com/dogs/best-puppy-milk-replac...

      It is unusual for a dog not to want her puppies but not unheard of. If you want to keep them alive, do everything you can for them for the next few weeks: keeping fed, keeping warm, and cleaning.

      Good luck to you all.

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      maria larronde 2 years ago

      I have a dog around two years old first litter. just had a little of 7 first one she kill and doesn't want the puppies i have try to introduce them to her but she tries to snap at them we are nursing them.we hold mother down so the puppies can get nurse we also bought puppies formula. I am also cleaning them we keep them warm .What else can we do for them???

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi amarie if she stopped because of hunger I cannot guarantee that she is going to start producing again. Here is an article I wrote on using a puppy milk replacer:

      https://pethelpful.com/dogs/best-puppy-milk-replac...

      If you do supplement feed for the next few weeks, be sure to leave the pups with the mom so that she can clean the pups and raise them normally (discipline, etc.). Good luck with her.

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      amarie 2 years ago

      My dog have birth 2 weeks ago, and I noticed today that her milk isn't coming out, we also had an emergency early in the morning knowing she had plenty of water from that night, we didn't feed her until we came back home in the afternoon. We feed her the minute we walked through the door, can the milk come back after being fed?

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      David, do you mean she is eating eggs and cottage cheese but will not eat commercial dog food? Have you tried the methods above, like chicken soup?If her vet check is okay, no mouth lesions or other health problem, try switching her diet to something better.

      Nine is also very old to have puppies. Is this her first litter? Is she even taking care of them?

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      David 3 years ago

      I have a 9 year old female she is at the vet now but she hasn't ate a cup of food in 2weeks what is my options she will eat eggs and cottage cheese and rice but she isn't producing enough milk to feed her pups and is running out of milk any ideas will help a lot thanks

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      Uma 3 years ago

      Thanks a lot for the info is very useful ..

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Solaras, glad I can help your BC crew! I really enjoyed all the updates of your latest litter that you posted on that "other" site. The little yawning puppy in the photo is my latest litter of Pits. Cute, huh?

    • Solaras profile image

      Solaras 3 years ago

      Great post - Thumbs up and useful! I feed goat's milk, did not know to add the egg yolks and yogurt.

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 3 years ago

      Thanks Dr Mark. I've always had dogs that are 'fixed' so to speak but have thought about breeding (in extremely humane ways of course) maybe in the next life. Good post and very unique

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Yes, I will be surprised if this gets much traffic since most people do not breed, but it may be able to help someone.

      I have heard a lot of negatives on the few comercially available colostrums, but there are no good studies that I know of. They have less immunity than with regular colostrum, but no one is sure if it is enough (to my knowledge). It sure would be better than nothing, if it was from a company that was any good. I have also heard of taking serum from a healthy dog on the premises, and that may have a lot more value. Or not!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Great info, Doc. Around here the emphasis is on spay and neuter, so very few dog owners experience whelping and having puppies around that are too young to leave the mom.

      What about the powdered canine colostrum that's available commercially? It's my understanding they should get colostrum for the first 24 hrs. Would that stuff do the trick if mom can't produce any? At my store we sold calf colostrum and kid colostrum, but I never brought the pet stuff in. Voted up, useful and interesting.

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