Your momma dog has whelped and now you need to know how to take care of newborn puppies week by week. We’ll help you through the first 24 hours and beyond with this useful guide.
Following on from our Guide To Whelping, this article will be your go-to resource for newborn puppy care. Keeping your brood in the right temperature feeding schedule and ready to go to their new homes in the best health.
So let’s start at the beginning, with what to look for during the crucial newborn puppies' first 24 hours.
Newborn Puppies - The First 24 Hours
Creating A Clean & Safe Space
Your top priority is to make sure that the space that mom and pups are in is safe and clean. Especially if mom caught you out with an early birth!
You’ll want to clean up your new mom as much as possible, whilst also being careful to not upset her. Using warm water and a gentle cloth is a good way to go, being alert to move at her pace, as she may be feeling extra sensitive or protective of her little ones. Avoid any harsh disinfectants unless your vet has specifically told you otherwise.
You’ll want to spruce up the whelping pen too, if you can, by removing any pads or newspaper that were affected during the birth. Potty Buddy Reusable Dog Pads come in very handy here, as you can simply throw them on a hot cycle in your washing machine, and use your spares in the meantime. Plus they are cozy and absorbent enough to make the perfect whelping den base.
Make sure the puppies are in a secure space that they can’t wander away from and that no other dogs or pets can reach them for now. As mom will want to keep them safe, warm, and cozy for these first precious hours.
Looking After Your New Momma Dog
Mom is most likely going to be glued to her puppies. And quite rightly so! But if you can, encourage her to take bathroom breaks every few hours, by leading her outside if you have to. This will help her stay healthy and happy even if she’s a little reluctant at first.
Take a moment to give her an examination, to check she’s doing ok. Look over her nipples and make sure there’s no swelling, tenderness, hardness, or heat. Also, take a look at her vulva and check for any bleeding, bad smells, or green discharges. If you notice any of these abnormalities, don’t hesitate to call your vet.
See if you can check her milk too, which should be white without any traces of blood or yellowness.
Keep An Eye On The Pups
Be sure to check in on the pups every few hours. Heck, we know we’d be there 24/7 just to see those cute furballs!
But it’s particularly wise to check in often if your doggo is a first-time mom, as sometimes it takes them a while to get the hang of things. Ideally, they should be suckling and sleeping happily, warm around mom. But if you notice any crying, or lost little ones that seem cold, place these little ones back with mom and preferably on the furthest back nipples to get a good feed.
Check no puppies are routinely being pushed out of the way, as sometimes competition for that milk can get a little fierce! They may need some help learning how to share.
Book In A Post-Natal Check
As soon as you can, get mom and puppies seen by a vet. They can check your girl over and make sure she is coping well after the birth. They can also check the milk production and examine the puppies for any abnormalities.
Newborn Puppies Care Week by Week
In week 1, the puppies' eyes will be closed, and they’ll need to be checked on often to make sure they are getting milk and warmth from mom.
Weigh the puppies frequently, this way you can start to keep a record of how much weight they are gaining as they grow. There should be a steady increase every day, doubling their original weight by around 7-10 days old.
Regulating temperature for newborn puppies is super important, especially in that first week. So you might want to invest in a heating pad or heat lamp, especially if mom is very attached to you and keeps leaving them to come for a cuddle! You’ll want the temperature to be around 85-90°F (29.5-32°C).
If mom struggles to remember her duties, you might want to place her whelping pen closer to where you spend a lot of time, so that she can be near you and be a good mom at the same time.
If you are using a heat lamp, you can slowly decrease the amount of heat you give the puppies now, working down towards about 80°F.
Those peepers might start to open now, so can keep watch on their eyes. If there seems to be no sign of eyes opening after week 2, do check in with your vet. Also, be vigilant of any discharge or signs of infection here.
Continue to weigh the puppies and start charting their growth. This way you can see if anyone is lagging behind or seems to have stalled. If you notice any weight loss or significant plateaus, best to call your vet.
Start the deworming process using your vet’s guidance.
It’s time to start handling the puppies (yay!). Try carefully and gently picking them up, making sure mom is happy with you doing so. This is the beginning of their socialization, which can help them grow into well-adjusted doggos.
Keep an eye on how they are growing and be sure to keep them secure, as by this age they may start to get adventurous.
It’s also time to lower the heat lamp again, to around 75°F, as they are now much better at regulating their own temperature.
You can also start to offer water. Just be sure it is in a shallow & puppy-safe bowl. Some vets recommend trying a mixture of water and puppy formula to see if they are enticed to have a sip.
Look for signs of walking, as your little doggos should be getting close to standing on all four paws now.
You can most likely remove any extra heat sources now, as room temperature should be fine for these fast-growing pups.
Time to bring on the solid food! Introduce your brood to soft, mushy foods and see how they interact. You can slowly build them up onto more and more solids.
Continue their socialization with more handling and time spent in the pen.
Nursing will now reduce, and you can up the use of more solid foods.
Socialization can increase, especially as the pups become more active and engaged in the world around them. You could introduce other family members now, just make sure they are gentle as those little ones are still delicate.
Weeks Six, Seven & Eight
Things will start to move fast now, so try and get lots of socialization in before they venture to their new homes. Invite friends over, introduce new surfaces and unusual sounds, and perhaps even let them meet your other pets.
Time for those all-important first vaccinations. The specific vaccines given will depend on your region and the specifics of your puppies' lifestyle but will cover them for most of the major diseases you’ll want them to avoid in later life.
Don’t forget to register the puppies if they are purebred.
It’s weaning time! Encourage the use of solid foods and let mom have a break from all that nursing. Especially now those first teeth are coming in.
Prepare them for their new homes. While it’s sad to watch them go, set them up for success by giving them the best send-off. Give each puppy a pillow or blanket that smells of mom, so that when they hit 8 weeks they are ready to start their own adventures with a little comforter for the road.
Newborn Puppies Feeding Schedule
Things don’t always go to plan. Perhaps mom just can't handle the burden of looking after her little ones. Perhaps mom is sadly in vet care or didn’t survive the birth. Perhaps you’ve found a littler of puppies in desperate need of help.
While all these situations are heartbreaking, to say the least, raising orphaned puppies can be an incredibly magical and life-changing experience.
You’ll need to set up a newborn puppy feeding schedule and know how much should those newborn puppies eat. If you have a bundle of newborn puppies on your hands, they must be fed every couple of hours and at the right amounts for their age and size.
To nail this, it’s best to work with your local vet or a rescue group to get tailored advice and support.
Get your hand on a good milk replacement formula, made just for puppies, and prepare the formula as directed on the package. They should have guidelines for dosage, generally it’s around 1cc of formula for every ounce of puppy weight - so you’ll need the kitchen scales handy!
Despite our instinct to immediately feed a puppy in trouble, warmth is actually far more important, because a cold puppy can’t nurse or digest food. So it’s best to get a heat lamp too so that they can stay at those optimum temperatures we mentioned below.
A common question here is can newborn puppies get too hot? Yes - if they reach 101 to 102.5°F they’ll be in danger of heatstroke, so invest in a good thermometer to be sure.
How to Care For Newborn Puppies and Their Mother - The Wrap Up
There you have it, our full guide to newborn puppy care week by week. We hope it helps you manage caring for your little brood of doggos, and supports them in growing up happy and healthy. Enjoy all those fluff bundles as much as you can, as there’s nothing cuter than a puppy right? :-)
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