If not spayed, the chances are good that at some time or the other you are going to play grandma or grandpa to a litter of puppies. As a new grandparent of puppies, there are a number of things you can do to help your dog take care of her litter and get the puppies off to a great start in life. So, please read on to learn how to take care of a newborn puppy!
What do I do when my dog is giving birth?
So the big day is here, and mom is restless, looking around for a place to give birth. The best thing you can do for her at this point is to give her a comfortable whelping box. It should not be too big, otherwise, the puppies can get ‘lost’ in it and not find their way back to their mommy, but it should also not be too small for her and her puppies to move around in comfortably. The bottom needs lining with newspapers or other material that you do not mind throwing away after the birth.
The next stage is entirely the new mom’s job. She should give birth to her puppies’ one at a time, cleaning them up after each one sees the light of day. Allow her to do so, as eating the placenta is good for her at this time. If there is a real difficulty during labor, take her to the veterinarian immediately. Very few dogs need to be assisted while birthing, however.
A new puppy is born every fifteen minutes to two hours. Do not worry. It is normal. If the time between births is short, help her by breaking open the amniotic sack around the baby. This allows the puppy to breathe. The mother can clean up the puppy afterward when she has more time.
During births, also put the newly born puppies up against the mother’s teats so that they can suckle between births. While she is giving birth to another puppy, rather keep the puppies in a warm box so she does not lay on them by accident. Place them with her once the next puppy is born. Repeat this process until she has finished birthing.
Rubbing the puppies with a clean towel after the mother has cleaned them mimics her licking and dries them off completely.
Make sure mommy has water and food during this time. Birthing takes a lot of work! Also, once rested, take her outside in case she needs to do her ‘doggy business’. Use this time to get rid of the soiled newspapers or other material on which she gave birth, and replace it with clean, snuggly towels or blankets.
Keep them warm
The new mother instinctively knows how to look after her puppies. She will feed them and keep them warm. You can help, however.
A great way to help mom keep her new litter warm is with a heat lamp. Do not place it too near the litterbox, but a little away. Besides warmth from their mother, puppies snuggle up to each other for warmth. Remember, puppies have trouble keeping warm by themselves for the first few days, just like human babies.
After giving birth, mother and puppies must stay together. This helps them bond, but also for the puppies to get the crucial first milk that builds up their immune system. She feeds them every two hours for the first week, progressing to every three to four hours’ as they grow older. It depends on the size of the litter.
At about four weeks’ you can introduce a mixture of solid food and milk. At eight weeks, puppies eat by themselves and weaned.
Sometimes a mother cannot feed her puppies. She may be ill with milk fever, for example, or the puppies orphaned. Sometimes she just not produce enough milk, especially with a large litter. If not taken care of, these puppies will die. You need to step up to the plate and take over the role of mommy. This could seem a scary situation! Do not panic! Taking care of puppies is quite easy if done right.
If the mother cannot feed her puppies, you need to bottle-feed them. Puppy bottles, teats, and milk are available at most pet stores or veterinarians. Dilute the milk mixture according to the specifications. They include directions regarding how much to feed a puppy and the dilution according to age. Feed the puppies every two hours at first. As they grow older and drink more, they need less feeding.
Tiny puppies from toy breeds have difficulty with puppy teats. Feed these puppies with an eyedropper. It goes fairly quickly as their tummies are tiny.
Remember to test milk temperature on the inside of your arm before feeding. The same temperature as your body temperature is perfect.
Weigh the puppies regularly. This lets you know whether they are growing and thriving or not getting enough nutrition.
A small puppy needs help doing his ‘business’. Normally, the mother licks his private parts, stimulating him to ‘go’. A newborn cannot defecate or urinate by itself. When hand raising a puppy, you stand in for the mother and have to help him.
Dampen a washcloth or cotton wool ball in warm water and massage these areas after each meal. This mimics his mother’s tongue. This is only necessary the first three or four weeks. They are able to ‘go’ by themselves after this time.
Your puppies will do little more than eat, sleep, and ‘go potty’ for the first while. This is perfectly normal. They will also nestle close to their mother for warmth. Where there is not mother substitute a heat source.
A heating pad in the whelping box is great. Alternatively, a warm water bottle wrapped in a towel works too. Consider covering a portion of the box with a towel or blanket so that it is not too bright.
Visiting the veterinarian
A puppy’s first visit to the veterinarian is when he is about eight weeks old. After deworming, vaccinations, and a full physical checkup, he can go home again. He needs to visit between two and four weeks later for boosters.
A rabies vaccine, required by law, is given at approximately twelve weeks. Do not skip this one. It is important for his and your health.
Each puppy is presented with a card showing the vaccines needed and dates at which to get them. Keep this card safe.
By the time the puppies are eight to ten weeks old, they can eat by themselves and weaned off their mother. They can go to their forever homes. After a job well done, and much love was given, do not be sad as they leave. Just make sure they go to homes that will love and care for them as well as you have the first weeks of their lives.
Before you go, have a quick look at this relative video: