Caring for a Newborn Puppy

So, your momma has given birth to a new litter. Congratulations! Unfortunately, caring for newborn puppies can be a challenge for any owner, especially first timers. This isn’t going to be a casual experience in any way; you’ll need to be prepared!

Physical & Mental Development

Your puppy (or puppies) will be born both blind and deaf, and will stay that way for the next few weeks. This is normal, and there is nothing to worry about! Your newborn will sleep a lot, and is heavily reliant on the mother for body heat, among several other things. Never separate mother and newborn for long periods, and be sure to keep the little one warm!

By the third week, your puppy’s senses will have improved and he will begin walking around, but his (her) coordination will be poor and wobbly during these first few weeks. In fact, during the first two weeks, your pup won’t be interested in much other than sleeping and eating.

Pro Tip: Newborn puppies barely ever ‘cry’. Crying is a sign there is a problem, and it’s important you seek veterinary help if your newborn does cry out.

Health & Nutrition

Believe it or not, you don’t need to ‘feed’ your puppy anything, not that it could eat solid food anyway. Your puppy will be completely nourished on mother’s milk for these first two weeks, and there is no man made substitute on Earth of equal value. In fact, the mother’s milk contains important antibodies that offer protection from several diseases, in addition to countless nutrients (many of which can’t be replicated in artificial, man-made milk).

This is another reason why it is integral you don’t separate young pups from their mothers! You can start weaning your puppy off mother’s milk, gradually switching (ideally to wet, not dry) dog food, at about 4 weeks. Remember, the nutrition of the pups depends on the health and nutrition of the mother!

You should get all of your puppies examined by a veterinarian to be sure they are healthy and developing like they should. The mother also needs to be examined by a vet to be sure she is healthy, since the puppies will receive nutrients from her.

Most puppies first receive vaccinations around week 6-8, but you don’t need to worry about that now. Your veterinarian will walk you through any other questions you might have.

Pro Tip: Where things like fleas rarely cause an immediate problem for most dogs, they can be extremely dangerous to newborn puppies. In fact, if the mother has fleas, ticks, mites, or most other parasites, the puppies will probably get them as well. This is another reason why it is so important to get the mother checked by a veterinarian!

Newborn Puppy Temperature Control & Safety

Newborn pups aren’t able to control their body temperature, and are very reliant on their mothers for this reason. It’s important for owners to ensure puppies are kept in a warm, draft free environment, and avoid taking them outdoors into the cold if at all possible. Any exposure to cold could stress the pups, and increase the likelihood of developing diseases.

On the flip side, where as heat lamps or heating pads can be helpful, it’s important for any owner to carefully monitor their location in order to avoid burning the puppies. Heat lamps are recommended over heating pads for this reason; you can control their placement.

The breeder should inspect the pups after they eat in order to ensure normal, healthy development.

Many veterinarians recommend purchasing a baby weight scale to monitor growth. All of your puppies should show a gradual weight gain when you weight them at 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, 3 days, 5 days, and 7 days.

It’s a good idea to keep your puppies away from unvaccinated or unknown dogs.

Again, temperature control is the leading hazard among puppies and the greatest worry for any breeder. If a pup does somehow become chilled, warm it up ‘gradually’, and avoid feeding until the pup’s body temperature is back to normal.

Though she shouldn’t do this often, puppies need to be provided with an artificial source of warmth if the mother leaves them alone.