BEIJING (AFP) - Two red pandas who were abandoned by their mother soon after they were born in northern China have been nursed to health thanks to the love and milk of a dog, state media reported Thursday. The two protected baby pandas were born at a zoo in Shanxi province on June 25 and were immediately rejected by their mother in front of a huge crowd of visitors, Xinhua news agency reported. No one knew she was pregnant. Her plump body and bushy hair disguised her protruding belly until the babies were born, a worker at the Taiyuan Zoo, Ha Guojiang, told Xinhua. The mothers rejection prompted a frantic search for a surrogate, and three canine candidates were found before the final bitch was chosen, the report added. Its good-natured and has sufficient milk. The baby bears seem to like it, too, said Ha, who said the baby pandas stayed with the mother dog every day. In a cruel twist, the dogs surrogacy has led to her rejecting her own recently born puppy. The mother dog thinks the two bears are its own babies and refuses to nurse the pup, said Ha, who has fed the puppy milk to keep it healthy. After three weeks, the baby pandas are more than 20 centimetres (eight inches) long, twice their birth length, said Ha. They move around a bit but their eyes are still not open. Red pandas are small, raccoon-like mammals that feed mainly on bamboo and habit forested mountain slopes. They are known as red pandas because they have reddish brown fur. The animals, also known as lesser pandas, are protected in China, like the better known Great Panda.