Scarsdale’s Nicole Green didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary when her Staffordshire bull terrier started playing mother to a rejected lamb.
Poppy the Staffy had mothered a number of orphaned lambs on Ms Green’s rural property and the latest lamb, Lollie, was no different.
Poppy had taken to licking and cleaning the week-old lamb, cuddling with her and fussing over her as she had done with other lambs before.
The family had even named the lamb Lollie because Poppy had taken to licking her like a lollypop.
However, when Ms Green took Poppy to be de-sexed last week, her vet discovered something truly extraordinary.
“The vet said she is producing milk,” Ms Green said.
“The lamb would suckle her and Poppy would stand like sheep do; we were all joking saying she has been watching the sheep too much.
“I made the joke what if she produced milk and we could hear the lamb sucking but we didn't check because we didn't think she would actually have milk.”
Although she has never been pregnant before, two-year-old Poppy was experiencing a phantom pregnancy and due to the stimulation of the suckling lamb, the Staffy was producing milk.
Ms Green said she couldn’t believe it when the vet told her Poppy was actually giving milk to the lamb.
“The vet said milk was milk and the lamb was doing really well,” she said.
“For an orphan lamb especially at this age, the lamb is doing beautifully, it’s even acting like a dog, jumping up on the couch and so on.”
Ms Green’s vet Penelope Kirk has been practicing veterinary medicine for almost 40 years and said she had never seen a pairing quite like Poppy and Lollie.
“She was presented to be de-sexed when I noticed her nipples were large and swollen so I squeezed and there was milk; she was in false pregnancy because she has been mothering a baby lamb,” Dr Kirk said.
While it is highly unusual for a lamb to drink dog milk, Dr Kirk said the difference in the milk would not cause any problems for the lamb.
“It won’t be damaging; a majority of mammal milk is fairly interchangeable with varying levels of fats, protein, and sugar,” she said.
Despite Poppy now being de-sexed, Dr Kirk said the dog would likely continue to express milk for the lamb.
“I sometimes have to do a de-sexing at the same time as cesarean and that doesn’t stop the mother producing milk for her puppies,” she said. “It’s the sucking stimulation that keeps the milk coming but ... it’s more of a comfort suck.”