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Our guide to caring for newborn puppies

It’s an exciting time when your dog has just had a litter of newborn pups! From birth to eight weeks, they are still very helpless and fragile and dependent on their mum – and you – for survival. Puppies do grow up quickly, and you will see many changes in your newborn puppies within those first two months. To ensure they grow into strong and healthy adults, it’s important to give them the best start in life. So, what do you need to do when caring for newborn puppies?
Our guide to caring for newborn puppies

Food and nutrition

To begin with, the only food your newborn pups will need is their mother’s milk. If they are not thriving and seem hungry, you may have to provide puppy formula to ensure they get all the nutrients they need. Normally, this is not needed, but it’s essential to keep a close eye on the newborn pups to make sure they are all suckling

After three-weeks-old, newborn pups milk teeth erupt. This may be the time they start weaning. Your mummy dog may initiate this process if their sharp little teeth hurt her nipples when feeding. It’s probably a good time to introduce a little food. Buy a puppy kibble or puppy dog meat and encourage them to try it from the end of your finger. If you choose kibble, you’ll need to soften it with water or puppy formula. You’ll find they will soon catch on to the joys of dog food, and by 6-7 weeks they’ll be fully weaned from their mother.

Don’t forget to make sure mum is kept well fed with several small meals a day of suitable dog food. Ask your vet for advice on which brand to choose.

A warm place

You’ll need to keep your newborn puppies nice and warm in the first month as they cannot regulate their own temperature. Make sure they are kept somewhere heated and without drafts. They will snuggle up with their mum and each other to stay warm, but you may want to consider getting a heat lamp. It’s important to set it up properly and not place it too near your dog and her puppies to avoid them becoming overheated. Take advice from your vet about setting this up and the correct temperature. For the first few days after they are born, it will need to be very warm. You can then drop the temperature throughout the first month until it is not needed anymore.

Look after their health

Spend time watching your newborn puppies and observe whether they are suckling or eating. If they are struggling, they will become weak very quickly and you will need to intervene. If they cannot stand or you see signs of vomiting or diarrhoea you need to seek veterinary help straight away.

Newborn pups can be vulnerable to parasites, such as fleas, so ask your vet about appropriate parasite control. Their mother’s milk should provide most antibodies for the first few weeks of life but once they are fully weaned you will need to take them to start their vaccinations.

Good hand hygiene should be performed by any humans handling the newborn pups in the first few weeks. It will help to prevent spreading any harmful bacteria to them.

A clean environment

When choosing a puppy pen or box, bear in mind this is where the newborn puppies will spend their first few weeks. Make sure it is big enough for mum to lay flat without squashing her puppies. She will need to be able to leave the pen whenever she wants to without the puppies escaping. You’ll need to keep it clean and change the bedding daily. At first, your dog will clean any faeces or urine from the puppies by licking them.

As they get a little older and more mobile, they will need more space to play in. Mum will stop cleaning them up, and this is where you will take over. A pile of old newspapers and puppy pads may come in handy!

It’s hard work raising a litter of newborn pups, even though you have their mum to do most of the work. But before you know it, it will be time to find them new homes. Give them the best start in life possible and enjoy the pups while you can!

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