Category Archives: newborn puppy care

Why Do Young Puppies Still Need Their Mothers?

By Laurie Darroch

A young puppy still needs his birth mother in the early weeks, for health reasons and also for the formation of socialization skills.

As individuals, puppies mature at different rates. The age that is commonly considered appropriate for a puppy to leave Mom is about eight weeks of age. By that time, the pup will have learned some skills from his mother and from playing with littermates.

Although puppies learn and grow at a faster rate than human babies, they are born fairly helpless and do need their mother for awhile, for the following reasons:


Puppies usually do not fully open their eyes until they are 12 to 18 days old, although it can be earlier, and one eye may open at a time. This means a very young puppy does not have the use of vision and needs to stay close to its mother.

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How to Get Puppies Off to a Great Start

By Suzanne Alicie

I was toying with the idea of titling this “What to Expect When Your Dog is Expecting,” but because I’m going beyond simple dog pregnancy and into caring for your puppies successfully in order to give them a great start in life, the chosen title is more appropriate.

Confirm Your Dog’s Pregnancy

A visit to the vet will confirm or deny your suspicion that your dog is pregnant. If the result is positive, the vet will advise you as to what stage your dog is in and what care you need to provide. The length of time a dog gestates is around 9 weeks. Much shorter than a human, this gives you only a little time to prepare. Depending upon the stage of pregnancy when you determine your dog is expecting, your vet may vaccinate her to help protect the new puppies after birth until they are able to be vaccinated.

Care During Pregnancy

The stress level of your expecting dog should be kept to a minimum to avoid problems. A proper diet of a good nutritional dog food and plenty of water is all that your female dog requires to keep her healthy through her pregnancy. When your dog is about 4 weeks from whelping the puppies, increase the food intake a little each day. Puppies this close to birth are quite demanding on the mother and can take the nutrition from her body leaving her underweight and on the verge of being ill. At this time it is also a good idea to worm your dog. Never worm your dog before the midway point of pregnancy, and consult your vet to ensure the timing. Worming helps make sure that the mother does not pass round worms to the new puppies through her milk.

Watch for Laboring

Signs that indicate your dog is preparing to give birth include:

• A hollowing of the hip area which indicates that the puppies have moved and are getting in place for birth.
• A temperature of less than 100.
• Nesting behavior, including digging at covers, hiding or being determined to stay in a certain area. This is your dog deciding where she will have her puppies and means that the hormones which trigger labor are working.
• Shivering is actually a sign of contractions, if the dog is calm, or possibly eclampsia.
• Irritability is common in laboring dogs; try to keep her calm and relaxed just as you would a human giving birth.

Giving Birth

You dog will move into the second stage of labor known as hard labor, which will expel the puppies. Puppies are born enclosed in a membrane that must be removed for the puppy to breathe. After the first puppy appears, give the mother a few moments to chew and lick the membrane from the pup. If she doesn’t, you will have to do this for her by removing the membrane and rubbing the puppy with a warm towel. The umbilical cord can be tied and cut about an inch from the puppy. Because it is natural for mother dogs to eat the placenta and often later vomit, it’s best if you clean the placenta up and dispose of it. Generally you can expect one puppy every hour until she is finished. With several puppies the mother may take a break and not push or strain for up to 4 hours before birthing another puppy.

Watch for Illness after Giving Birth

Consult your vet if your new mom has any of the following symptoms, which could be signs of a serious condition like metritis or eclampsia during the days after whelping her puppies.

• Fever
• Loss of appetite
• No interest in puppies
• Vaginal discharge with foul odor
• Not enough milk production
• Stiff painful walking
• Nervousness or restlessness
• Muscle spasms or seizures
• Hard painful mammary glands

The area where the mom and new pups will live temporarily should be in a warm (no less than 70 degrees F) and dry area where the puppies can be enclosed while the mom can come and go. Puppies and mom will enjoy newspapers or disposable diapers to shred and make a soft absorbent nest.

Caring for New Puppies

Nature equips the new mother dog to do most of the work when it comes to caring for her puppies. Nursing and learning from the mother during the first weeks of their lives give puppies the necessary nutrition and basic survival skills they will need. A vet should examine the puppies within a few days of their birth and if any tail docking is to be done it should be taken care of before the puppies are 5 days old.

Puppies’ nails can be clipped when they get sharp. The eyes will open around 2 weeks after birth. To assist your mother dog with weaning, starting at about 4 weeks provide a mixture of puppy food and water or milk. As weaning progresses, establish a regular feeding and toilet training schedule. Encourage socialization by cuddling each puppy for a few minutes twice a day.

At 6-8 weeks of age, puppies should be checked for internal parasites and receive their vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvovirus. The rabies vaccination should not be given before the puppies are 3 months old.

Begin separating the puppies from their mother for a length of time each day when they are around 6 weeks old. This will help the mother stop producing milk, and allow the puppies to learn to spend more time away from mom until they are only together at night. For some excellent advice that goes into more detail on specifically caring for newborn puppies, read this article by Julia Williams.

While much of this may seem to be a natural occurrence, any help you provide as a responsible pet owner will make the whole process easier on your dog and her babies.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Caring for Newborn Puppies and Their Mom

By Julia Williams

If your dog is pregnant and you’re wondering how to care for the puppies once they’re born, the good news is that most likely, all you’ll need to do is keep a watchful eye on the momma dog. Most canine mothers have a strong maternal instinct and can do a great job of caring for their newborn puppies by themselves. They will know how to keep their newborn puppies warm and well fed, and how to help them with waste elimination and hygiene. However, if the mother dog rejects her pups or cannot product enough milk for them, or you are caring for an orphan, then the puppies will need your help in order to survive and thrive.

Healthy newborn puppies look vibrant and strong, and their gums are pink. A puppy’s eyes should open approximately 10 to 14 days after birth. A newborn puppy’s body weight may double or even triple during the first few weeks, and gaining 10 to 15% of their birth weight daily is considered healthy. The puppies should nurse with enthusiasm, and they often twitch while asleep.

Be sure to consult your veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns about a pup’s health. Treating a sick puppy early can mean the difference between life and death. Warning signs include failure to nurse, constant crying, weakness, difficulty breathing, poor weight gain, temperature drop, diarrhea, vomiting, listlessness, sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.

It’s also important to monitor hydration in newborn puppies. To do this, gently pinch the skin on the back of the neck into a “tent.” If a puppy is properly hydrated, the skin will go back into place immediately. If the pinched skin stays creased, the puppy is dehydrated and will need to be treated immediately.

Newborn puppies cannot regulate their own body temperature, so guard against chilling by keeping the pups indoors, off cold floors, and in a warm, draft-free room. The puppies get their best heat from the mom dog, but if you have orphans your room temperature should be on the warm side for the first month. Indirect heat from warm water bottles or heat lamps may also be used. After 4 weeks, supplemental heat shouldn’t be needed.

During the first week, a puppy’s normal temperature is between 95-98°F. The pup’s temperature increases gradually each day until four weeks of age, when it should be close to the normal temperature for an adult dog (100.5 to 102.5°F).

A large pet carrier lined with soft towels makes a nice bed for newborn puppies and their Mom. For orphans and pups with no litter mates, you might want to place a stuffed animal inside the carrier, to keep them company and provide some heat.

A mother dog’s milk provides everything newborn puppies need nutritionally during their first four weeks of life. Nursing also provides newborn puppies with antibodies to help prevent infections. If you’re caring for an orphaned pup, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian on the proper way to bottle-feed them. Your vet can also give you a recommendation on which commercial canine milk replacer to use.

In their first few weeks of life, puppies need to nurse (or be bottle fed) about every two hours. As they grow, the time between feedings gradually increases. At approximately four weeks of age, puppies can start to transition from nursing to eating solid food. Usually, weaning will be completed by approximately 6 to 8 weeks of age.

Because newborn puppies do not spontaneously eliminate waste on their own for the first month, the mother dog stimulates them through licking. If the mom is ill or absent, you’ll need to help them with this. It may not be one of the most pleasant tasks of caring for a newborn puppy, but it is vital to their health. Using a warm, moist washcloth or piece of gauze, gently massage the puppy’s genital/anal area before and after their feedings. If you’re unsure about the proper technique, please consult with your vet.

As tempting as it is to hold and hug your adorable newborn puppies, it is best for them if you don’t do it more than a few times a day. And when you do, it should be for a very short time (a minute or two at most). Children should never be allowed to handle the puppies without adult supervision, and you should also take care not to upset the mom dog when handling them.

Speaking of the mom dog, it’s a good idea to have her examined by your vet within 24 hours after giving birth, to ensure that everything went well. Remember too, a nursing mom’s nutritional needs are greater than normal when feeding a litter of puppies. Be sure to keep plenty of fresh water nearby, and provide a high quality dog food such as CANIDAE, divided into three daily feedings. Your vet may also recommend a dietary supplement to assist with milk production.

This article is intended only as general guidance on caring for newborn puppies. It’s very important to consult your veterinarian with specific questions and any concerns you may have about your newborn pups and/or their mom.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.