If your dog is expecting, you might be a nervous wreck. Relax. Most canine births proceed without problems. However, it's always a good idea to prepare for an emergency. If something happens to the mom, you'll have to take care of those newborn puppies. Have your vet's number handy.
It's possible that the mother dog will ignore a particular puppy, or that a newborn has trouble breathing or isn't breathing. If it's the latter, take the puppy and gently but firmly swing it up and down between your legs with its head down, according to Hilltop Animal Hospital. This action allows any fluid in the lungs or mouth to drain. Then wrap him in a towel and rub him briskly. You can also blow lightly into his nose and softly rub his chest with your fingers. If he begins breathing, return him to his mom.
It's crucial that newborn puppies stay warm. Tiny puppies lose heat rapidly. Hypothermia, or death by cold, is common in newborns if their mother won't care for them or isn't available. Once a puppy's body temperature descends below 94 degrees, he can no longer suck and his heart rate speeds up. In this situation, rewarm the puppy slowly to his normal temperature of between 98 and 99 degrees. Don't feed him beforehand if he's cold. You can use hot water bottles wrapped in towels or hot water blankets, but avoid heating pads as they might become too hot and burn the puppy.
Puppies need the rich first milk called colostrum, which contains maternal antibodies to give newborns immunity to diseases for which its mother has antibodies or been vaccinated, as well as essential vitamins and nutrients. If the puppy doesn't receive colostrum, call your vet to see if she has a source available. If your puppy can't feed from his mother, you can also ask her if she knows of a nursing dog that could add another member to the litter. While mother's milk is the best food for puppies, if there's no mother available commercial puppy milk replacer is the next best thing. Mix up only enough milk replacer as you can use in 24 hours. Newborn puppies require feeding every two to three hours. After feeding from a bottle or a syringe, making sure to hold it so the puppy can't suck in air, put him on your shoulder and gently burp him. Then you'll have to stimulate the little guy as his mother would to make him defecate and urinate. Take a soft cloth soaked in warm water and gently rub his abdomen and his privates with it. This imitates the mother's licking, which stimulates him to poop and pee.
Even if mom's fine, it's possible that a puppy in the litter isn't doing well. While some crying is normal in puppies, any pup who continue crying has a problem. He might be trying to tell you he's hungry, cold or in pain. If he's not gaining weight on a daily basis, something's amiss. Many infectious diseases can affect a newborn puppy. Take the puppy to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Some puppies appear to start out fine but then quickly go downhill, known as fading puppy syndrome. Prompt veterinary treatment can save some of them.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.