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Caring for Newborn Puppies

Delivering and caring for a new litter can be an overwhelming task for any mother. Even though your dog will probably do a great job caring for her babies, there are some things you can do to help her while she continues to nurse.

Warm Environment

Keeping the babies warm is essential, and chilling can result in serious illness or even death. In the first few weeks of life, puppies are unable to maintain their body temperature. Usually, they snuggle up to their mother to provide heat support. You can assist by keeping the whelping box in an 85 to 90 degree Fahrenheit environment for the first 5 days of life. Electric bulbs suspended far away from curious noses of the babies or mother or well insulated heating pads work well.

From day 5 to 10, slowly reduce the temperature to around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to slowly reduce the temperature. By the end of the fourth week of life, the environmental temperature should be around 75 F.

Clean Environment

The whelping box needs to be cleaned every day. Use newspapers or easily laundered towels/blankets. Change the bedding daily. The mother will try to keep the area clean but that can be a difficult chore, especially with large litter. The mother will take care of the elimination needs of the babies by frequently cleaning/licking their genital areas.

Healthy Environment

Making sure the babies are healthy and growing can be difficult unless they are frequently monitored. In the first few weeks of life, weigh each baby once a day. Record their weights and make certain that each baby is steadily gaining weight. The weight changes will be in ounces so their growth won’t be rapid, but should be steady.

After the puppies’ eyes have opened and the pups can stumble around, you can offer small amounts of moistened puppy food. However, expect them to walk through the food and make a complete mess. Bathing may be required after each feeding.

Signs of Problems

Through daily monitoring, you can detect and treat illness early if it occurs. Any puppy that is losing weight or is not consistently gaining weight needs medical attention. Continual crying also indicates a problem. If the mother is neglecting selected babies, those babies need your help to survive. You may have to remove the neglected babies and hand raise. The mother may instinctively know if babies are not thriving and will not spend energy caring for them; she will most likely abandon them. Unfortunately, these babies may not survive, no matter how well you care for them.

If you notice any problems or abnormalities with the babies, a veterinary examination is strongly recommended. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of illness will give each baby the best chance at survival.