Newborn Puppy Care Guide
Caring for Newborn Puppies and
Newborn Puppy Care for Newbies

Newborn puppy care guide to caring for newborn puppies. Here we demystify newborn puppy care for nervous newbies. Information on feeding newborn puppies can be found here.

Some pups have been born – now what do you do?

Firstly, attend to the needs of the bitch. If she has been in labor for several hours, take her outside on a leash to toilet. Take a torch if it is dark just in case she drops a puppy while she’s out.

Newborn Puppy Care GuideTo Use of a Brooding Box

newborn puppy care

For optimum newborn puppy care during the birth, I like to remove all but the last puppy born and place them in a brooding box, warmed with a thermostat-controlled heat pad set at 30 C (85 F).

A soft heat pad like this is ideal for warming the brooding box. You can buy thermostats and heat pads at the best prices in Australia here (240V, Aussie plugs).

That way the bitch will not be distracted from cleaning the most recent puppy, it will get a chance to feed without competition, and the risk of her accidently squashing a puppy is alleviated.

When taking care of newborn puppies you should also make sure the whelping area where the puppies and bitch have their nest is clean and warm at all times.

Newborn Puppy Care GuideTo Whelping Box Temperature

Newborn puppies can’t regulate their own body temperature. This means they are very susceptible to hypothermia and can die if they get chilled (they can also die if they get too hot!).

Hopefully when caring for newborn puppies you have planned in advance to provide a nice warm environment for your new babies.

You can boost a cold environment with a heat lamp placed over the whelping box directed where the bitch lies.

newborn puppy care

A brooding lamp like this is ideal for warming the whelping area. You can buy thermostats, lampshades and infrared heat bulbs at the best prices in Australia here (240V,Aussie plugs).

A thermometer placed inside will help you monitor the situation.

Use a thermostat to maintain a temperature of 30 C (85 F) for the first two to three days, gradually dropping down to around 25-27 C (75-80 F) over a week or two after that depending on the temperature in the environment.

Don’t try to warm the whole box up to this level as it will confuse the puppies, who find their mum by following the warmth. The temperature on the far side of the whelping box can be as low as 20-25 C (70-75F). This will also give the puppies somewhere cooler to crawl to if they feel too hot. As a guide, puppies normally sleep cuddled up together. If they are scattered around separately they may be too hot.

Newborn Puppy Care GuideTo Whelping Box Bedding

For bedding I like those tough ‘outdoor high back chair’ cushions (the type you use on swimming pool chairs), fit snugly into a plastic and wire rabbit hutch for whelping in (perfect for mini schnauzer sized dogs).

newborn puppy care

The bitch will often scratch violently at her bedding before, during and after the whelp and the plastic weave on these long padded cushions resists damage and doesn’t get all messed up like other beddings.

Because it stays more or less in one piece, there is also less likelihood of a puppy getting lost in the bedding. I scout curbside rubbish collection days for them!

Newborn Puppy Care During the Whelp

Offer your bitch water every few hours during the whelp, and continue offering food and water every few hours for the first day or so until she is willing to leave the babies now and then to eat and drink.

Take each puppy in turn and make a record of its sex, color, weight and any distinguishing features (e.g. “white front left paw”). The first sign of illness when caring for newborn puppies is often poor weight gain, so it pays to have a record to their weight from birth onwards so you can monitor how they are going and get early warning of any problems.

Watch carefully to ensure all puppies have successfully fed from the bitch – some may need a little help to latch onto a teat, but it’s best to leave them to try themselves for several minutes before intervening. It is vitally important that each puppy drinks from its mum in the first 24 hours of life so that they get a good dose of the immunity boosting colostrum produced by the bitch at that time.

Newborn Puppy Care After the Whelp

Once they have all fed and fallen asleep, take the bitch outside to eliminate. This is also a great time to wash her rear end in warm soapy water, especially if she is messy from the birth. Dry thoroughly before letting her go back.

At around 3 to 4 days I remove the puppies’ dew claws. Check your breed standards first as some require them to be left on. In Australia tail docking is now illegal, but where it isn’t this can be done at the same time as the dewclaws. Get someone to take the bitch for a walk during this time so that she doesn’t get distressed when she hears them crying. Afterwards they can be put back to suckle and soon settle down as if nothing has happened.

Newborn puppies open eyes from 12 to 14 days of age. Their eyes are bluish at first and puppies can’t really see clearly until they are around 4 weeks of age. Their ears open soon after and they should also be able to hear properly by 4 weeks.

Newborn Puppy Care After Three Weeks…

newborn puppy care

When caring for newborn puppies their mum licks their botties for the first few weeks to facilitate their toileting. She stops doing this at around 3 weeks, when it is time to move them to a playpen. Furry breeds should also have their botties trimmed at this time to avoid “dags”.

Provide a shallow non-tip water dish for them and allow the bitch access whenever she wants (a low barricade across the entrance that keeps the pups in works fine). A nearby but separate bed should be provided nearby for her so she can have a break now and then.

The playpen should include a cosy nest area, a food and water area and a distinct toileting area. I use sawdust or sand in a shallow tray for the toilet. It should be kept clean and dry. For the rest, several layers of newspaper works well. Replace it morning and night to maintain hygiene.

Newborn Puppy Care GuideTo Worming

caring for newborn puppies

Puppies, as well as pregnant and lactating bitches, are highly susceptible to intestinal parasites. You should worm them with a quality liquid puppy wormer that treats roundworm and hookworm at 2, 4 and 6 weeks of age, finishing off with an all-wormer at 8 weeks. If not treated they may not thrive, and will be a dangerous source of infection to toddlers and young children. Weigh each puppy first so that you can work out the right dose of wormer for it.

Newborn Puppy Care GuideTo Vaccination

The recommended vaccination regime for puppies has changed recently. Reports indicate that the strongest immunity is achieved by vaccinating first at 8 to 10 weeks, then again 4 weeks later, followed up by a third shot a year after that. Yearly boosters thereafter are no longer recommended for most dogs (those that are healthy, and out and about in public regularly), and may trigger the development of autoimmune diseases. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

I vaccinate at 8 weeks and have the puppies health checked at the same time to rule out heart conditions, retained testicles, hernias, poor bite, etc. Talk with your veterinarian about what you should be vaccinating for in your area.

Newborn Puppy Care GuideTo Socialization

You should play with your puppies every day and allow their supervised interaction with gentle children. Puppies kept “down the back” in dog runs and never handled are inadequately socialized and make less than ideal, non-responsive pets.

I hope you have enjoyed this newborn puppy care guide and now feel confident to handle your next litter!