How to Feed and Care for Newborn Puppies
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to care for newborn puppies? What should you watch out for? What if the mama is no longer around? Read on to learn the basics!
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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Common Health Concerns
The 3 most common issues with newborn puppies are:
1. Low body temperature
2. Low blood sugar
Newborn puppies need to be kept warm, especially if the mama isn’t present to keep them warm with her body heat. A heating pad on the lowest setting and placed under several towels works nicely. If you don’t have a heating pad, no worries, you can fill a few water bottles with some warm water and place them next to the puppies as a nice substitute. Be sure the heat source isn’t too hot and that the puppies can move away from the heat if they get too warm.
Do not attempt to take the puppies’ temperatures orally or rectally, just check them frequently and make sure they are all equally warm to the touch. You’ll become familiar with their normal temperatures.
Blood Sugar and Feeding
Puppies need to be fed every 2 hours or so to maintain stable blood sugar levels. If they’re nursing well, their bellies should become somewhat round and they should sleep well. If bottle feeding, be sure to use a commercially prepared formula for puppies and feed the puppies in an upright position. If a puppy seems unwell or agitated, they may not be getting enough nutrition - consider increasing the amount fed or feed more frequently.
It’s extremely important to feed them a nutritionally balanced, commercially-prepared formula, this is no time to consult with Google. Also, mama should be on a commercially prepared puppy food as she’s going to need the extra calories while she’s nursing.
It’s a good idea to come up with some sort of system to identify each puppy (different colored yard “collars”) as well as to weigh them daily. A kitchen scale works nicely. The puppies should gain at least a very small amount of weight daily. Not gaining or losing weight is one of the first signs that something is wrong, and the puppy should be examined by a vet.
After they eat, if mama isn’t present, the puppies will need to be stimulated to poop and pee (the mama normally does this by licking them). A cotton ball or tissue dipped in warm water and squeezed out can be used to lightly stroke them along their lower abdomen and onto the genitalia. Be sure to hold them in an upright position while doing this in case there’s any vomiting.
Puppies can become dehydrated for many reasons. The most common are not nursing or being fed frequently enough, intestinal parasites causing vomiting or diarrhea, or being fed a non-commercially prepared formula.
To check for dehydration, look for subtle changes in skin turgor or elasticity. What that means is their skin doesn’t “bounce back” normally when pinched. Be sure to check this frequently to get an idea of what their normal turgor is. A good place to do this is right below the back of the neck near the shoulder blades.
Another good way to check if the puppies are well hydrated is to simply lift the upper lip and check their gums. They should be pink and moist. Again, it’s a good idea to check this frequently and become familiar with what’s normal (before any potential issue).
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