Having new puppies in your home is a joyful and rewarding experience. However, just like babies, newborn puppies require special care for their health and happiness. Though the puppies are cared for by their mothers, some females don’t produce enough milk for their young. Sometimes, puppies become separated from their mothers, and others may be rejected by them. Particularly in cases like these, newborn puppies need special care from their humans. During their first few weeks of life, the primary needs of puppies are to be fed, to stay warm and develop social skills.
Feeding a Newborn Puppy
During the first 4 weeks of life, puppies get all the nutrition they need from their mother’s milk. However, if the mother is not around, you will need to bottle feed the puppies. Begin by asking your veterinarians for suggestions on commercial puppy formulas. In the beginning, the puppies will need to be bottle-fed every 2 hours during the day and once or twice during the night. You can feed the puppies with a small syringe, or special bottles that are designed for puppies.
If the puppy formula is powder that has to be mixed with water, be sure to get out all the lumps. The formula should be room temperature before you feed the puppy. When it is time to feed the puppy, you should feed him or her face down on your lap or tabletop. If you feed a puppy on his back, he may choke on the milk or breathe it in. According to Doctors Foster and Smith
, a puppy that has had enough to eat will sleep quietly, and their stomach will appear rounded. After the puppies have reached 3 weeks old, feeding them 4 times a day is recommended.
Transitioning to Solid Food
According to the ASPCA
, after 4 weeks have passed, it is time to transition to solid puppy food. To begin soak high-quality dry puppy kibble in warm water and puppy milk, changing the consistency of the kibble. Provide this mixture for your puppies several times a day. Gradually, you can decrease the amount of puppy milk and water you are adding to the dry food. After the puppies are 7 to 8 weeks old, the puppies can eat the kibble completely dry. It is a good idea to consult with your veterinarian regarding recommended puppy food, as well as how often to feed them.
Monitoring the Health of Puppies
How much a puppy should weigh is determined largely on their breed. However, during the first few weeks of a puppy’s life, their weight should double or triple. ASPCA says that every day, the puppy should gain 10 to 15 percent of his birth weight, every day. If a puppy doesn’t gain enough weight, he or she may not survive. Although most veterinarians recommend that puppies be brought in for a checkup and vaccinations after 6 weeks of age, if any of them exhibit the following symptoms, they should be taken to the vet immediately:
- Lack of appetite
- Not gaining weight
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing or wheezing
- Incessant crying
- Gums that are pale
- Discharge in the eye area or eye swelling
- Nasal discharge
- Unable to pass urine or stool
If newborn puppies aren’t kept warm enough, they can quickly die of hypothermia. If the mother is present, she should provide enough heat for the puppies. However if the mother is not with them, you will need to use alternative methods. Blankets are helpful, as are heating pads, however be careful not to use something that is too warm and can burn them.
You may be surprised to learn that newborn puppies can’t pee or poo on their own. To encourage elimination, mothers lick their puppies’ bottoms. But what if the mommy isn’t around? Cesar Millan
recommends that you do the following: Take a soft cloth that has been dipped in warm water, and use it to massage their urinary and anal regions. This needs to be done until the puppy is about a month old, when they become able to eliminate on their own.
Training and Socialization
Within the first few weeks of life, you can gently handle the puppy and call to them when they go exploring. This will help the puppy to bond with you, by becoming accustomed to your voice, smell and touch. It is also acceptable to introduce your puppy to others during this time.
If you are looking to crate train your puppy, you will need to wait until they are about 7 to 8 weeks old, eating solid food and going to the bathroom without assistance. The crate should be introduced to them in the most positive way possible, giving toys or treats when they go inside, and only keeping it closed for a few minutes at a time.