How to Care for Newborn Puppies

They're cute, but they're a lot of work.
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Newborn puppies are adorable, but they're vulnerable. They need constant care from their mama. If mama isn't around, or if she needs help caring for her babies, the responsibility falls on you. Consult your vet for guidance on caring for these little lives to help them grow and stay healthy.

Step 1

Keep them warm. Newborn pups cannot regulate their body temperature and need to snuggle up with their litter mates and mama to stay nice and toasty. Keep the ambient temperature between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first four days of the puppies' lives, using a towel-covered hot water bottle or a carefully monitored electric blanket. Gradually lower the temperature to about 80 degrees by the time they're 10 days old, eventually getting down to 72 degrees by the time they reach their first month.

Step 2

Keep them fed. Eating is pretty much the only thing on puppies' minds in the early days of life. Give your puppies canine milk replacement in a bottle if Mama's not available. Ask a vet for specifics on the correct amount and way to feed puppies, as offering too much could cause harm. Weigh the puppies every day to ensure they're gaining weight regularly. The specific amount they should gain daily depends on their breed, but generally speaking they should put on between 10 percent and 15 percent of their total body weight every day.

Step 3

Help them "go." Mama dogs stimulate their puppies' bathroom duties by licking the little pooch's nether-regions. Use a warm, wet washcloth to accomplish the same thing and to clean away the resulting poo or pee. Attend to bathroom duties after every feeding. When your little ones reach 3 or 4 weeks of age, they should start going without this assistance.

Step 4

Keep their bedding clean and dry. Babies are messy, and newborn puppies are no different. Change the blankets and bedding materials in the den area regularly to always provide a clean, dry environment for your pups to snooze in.

Step 5

Contact your vet at the sign of any trouble. Healthy, well-fed puppies typically snooze quietly and seem content to snuggle together. Call your vet if any puppies seem particularly vocal or fussy, or if they're not gaining weight every day. Trouble sets in quickly with puppies this young and fragile; waiting too long to get help could end in tragedy.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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