Newborn Puppy Care

The fourth article in our dog pregnancy series focuses on caring for the newborn puppies. Previous articles in the series were dog pregnancy symptoms, caring for pregnant dogs, and dog births.

Keeping Newborn Puppies Warm

Mama will provide most of the care for her newborn puppies, but one thing she can’t do is keep the environment warm enough for them. During the first week after birth, puppies should be kept in an area that is about 90 degrees. During the second week, this can be reduced to 85 degrees, then to 80 degrees during the third week, and room temperature (about 70 – 75 degrees) during the fourth week. You can accomplish this by hanging a livestock heat lamp above the whelping pen. By adjusting the distance from the lamp to the ground, you can adjust the temperature. Hanging the lamp over one corner of the box allows the dog and pups to move closer when they are cold and further away when they are warm. Make sure there is safety mesh to prevent the bulb from spraying glass over the pen if it breaks, and make sure none of the dogs can reach the lamp. Use these lamps with care, as they have been known to cause fires.

Newborn puppy
Newborn puppies need to be kept warm and cozy.

Newborn Puppy Weight

The puppies are likely to lose weight during the first 24 hours, but then should begin gaining and should double their birth weight in about a week to ten days. A puppy who doesn’t gain weight should be seen immediately by a vet to determine the cause and find a solution.

Newborn Puppies and Water

Another common puppy problem is dehydration. Gently pinch some of the skin on the top of your puppies’ necks and let go. Properly hydrated dogs’ skin will bounce right back into place, while a dehydrated dog’s skin will remain tented. If your puppy is dehydrated, you will need to use a small syringe (no needle) to force-feed him some Pedialyte.

Newborn Puppy Umbilical Cord Care

A healthy umbilical should be hard and stringy within hours and usually falls off by day two or three. If the cord becomes spongy, soft, or discolored, it is a sign of infection, which must be treated quickly before it travels into the puppy’s bloodstream.

Watch your mama dog carefully. Although most dogs make excellent mothers, some may occasionally reject a puppy. Often, this is an indication that the puppy has a problem. Carefully check over the rejected puppy for signs of infection or low body temperature.

Feeding Newborn Puppies

Check the mama’s breasts each day. Hot, hard breasts are an indication that the milk is not being emptied regularly. Use hot compresses to soften the milk and help the dog to expel it. If your dog is not able to feed her puppies, or if she is uninterested, you may have to hand feed them.

bottle-feeding a puppy
Bottle-feeding a puppy can become necessary.

To make puppy formula, mix together a 13 oz. can of evaporated milk, an equal amount of distilled water, 4 oz. of plain yogurt, 4 egg yolks, and 1 tablespoon of liquid vitamins. Feed 2 – 3 cc of formula every 2 – 3 hours if your puppy is less than 7 oz. Over that weight, feed 1 cc per ounce of body weight, every four hours. The safest way to feed your puppy is with a tube threaded down his throat into his stomach. If you are unable to do this, you can use a bottle, but make sure to burp your puppy after bottle-feeding, just as you would a human baby.

When Will Your Newborn Puppies Open Their Eyes?

Your puppies’ eyes should open at about 2 weeks of age. If they are not open by 3 weeks, see the vet. If you notice pus draining from a puppy’s swollen eyes, it is indicative of an eye infection, which can be cleaned out with boric acid solution, then treated with antibiotic eye ointment.

For about the first week of the puppy’s life, he or she cannot pee or poop without stimulation. The mother’s licking takes care of this normally, but if you are having to hand-raise your pups due to the mother’s death, disappearance, illness, or lack of maternal instincts, you will need to stroke the puppy’s tummy and anus with a warm, moist cotton ball several times a day.

Your puppies’ stool should be soft and yellowish-brown. Watery diarrhea can mean a problem with the mother’s diet. Diarrhea combined with vomiting usually means an infection and requires immediate veterinary care. If the puppy becomes constipated, try adding a tablespoon of Karo syrup to the puppy’s formula.

Care of Newborn Puppies

In addition, if the mama is not caring for the puppies, you will need to wash them with a warm, rough washcloth several times each day. The old axiom, “a mother’s work is never done” will definitely be true if you are hand raising newborn puppies!

Tiny newborn puppy
Caring for newborn puppies takes time and commitment, but it's worth it.

Spend enough time with the puppies so you can catch any problems early enough to have them treated. A healthy puppy plays hard and sleeps hard. During sleep, you should see the puppy twitch occasionally, and when he is awake, he will likely never stop moving! A healthy puppy will have a warm, pink tongue and will energetically nurse, either from the mother or from a bottle. Some signs that something is wrong include a cool tongue, a limp body, vomiting, diarrhea, incessant crying, and rattling as they breathe.

Above all, enjoy your newborn puppies! (And, don’t forget to check back in for the fifth and final article in our series, an FAQ about dog pregnancy and newborn puppies.)


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Starting a dog sitting sevrice is actually more complicated. You will need to check with your home owner's insurance for coverage, check with your home owner's association about home businesses or landlord about maximum dogs allowed in your home at one time. You should also look into being bonded & certified in doggy first aid & CPR. If you are not insured & bonded & something happens to a dog under your care, you could be liable examples dog gets out & hit by a car, dog gets pregnant, dog becomes injured or injures another animal or person. You might also need to get a business license from your city and/or county.
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