What to Expect When You Are Expecting Puppies

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The environment that a newborn puppy is to be reared in should be set up well in advance of whelping. A whelping box should be placed in an area of the house that allows your dog and her puppies much privacy. The box should have walls tall enough to allow the mother – but not puppies less than 4 weeks of age – to exit. It should be made of a material that can be easily cleaned. Non-vertical sides (sides that slant outward) are often recommended so pups don’t hurt themselves or one another as they try to climb the walls of their enclosure.

A heat source should be present since newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature very well. Environmental temperature should remain around 86 to 90 F during the first week of the puppy’s life and gradually fall to 75 F over the next 3 weeks. The ideal humidity in the whelping box should be 55 to 60 percent. Drafts must be avoided.

Very soon after birth, puppies should begin suckling from the mother. Newborns have very low reserves of energy, so they must obtain fresh reserves from the milk. In addition, since very few antibodies come from the mother through the placenta (blood) before whelping, puppies must get infection-protecting antibodies from their mother’s first milk. However, if puppies don’t ingest the milk within 12 to 16 hours after birth, very few antibodies will be absorbed and the puppy will be susceptible to infections until he can produce his own antibodies after 4 weeks of age.

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