How to Handle Newborn Puppies

Newborn puppies should be handled on a limited basis until they are three weeks old.

Newborn puppies should be handled on a limited basis until they are three weeks old.

Newborn puppies are adorable, and most people cannot resist the urge to hold them as often as possible. However, if their mother is unable to tend to their needs, it is vital to understand how to handle newborns in order to keep them safe and healthy.

Keep the newborn puppies in a safe area away from small children and other animals. As their adoptive parent, it is your job to keep them warm. Use a heating pad wrapped in a thick, soft towel and place it in a nesting box. A sturdy cardboard type should do the trick. Keep the area temperature between 90 to 95 degrees during the first week. A fish aquarium thermometer should work well as a gauge. As they grow older, reduce the temperature by 5 degrees per week until they are five weeks old and can tolerate normal room temperatures of about 70 degrees.

Feed the puppies a canine milk replacement every two hours for the first week of life. A bottle is the simplest method of feeding and helps to measure the amount the puppies consume. Heat the milk to 98 degrees by placing the bottle in a warm bowl of water. After this period, reduce the feedings to every three hours during the day and every four hours during the night. By the second week, increase the intervals between feedings by one hour.

Help the puppies learn to urinate and defecate the way their mother would if she was available. Take a warm, moist cloth and wipe around their genital and anal region. This will stimulate the puppy to relieve herself within a couple of minutes. Clean the area with the cloth afterward. This should be done after each feeding. If the puppies are not relieving themselves, consult a veterinarian right away.

Refrain from picking up the puppies for the first two weeks unless feeding or cleaning. By the third week of life, senses such as vision and hearing begin to sharpen and you should carefully begin to handle the puppies a few times per day to get them accustomed to their environment and help them to develop socially.

Begin to offer dry puppy food soaked in milk replacement or water three times each day at the third week of life. Moisten just enough to make mushy. This will gradually wean them to solid food by the age of eight weeks. Continue to bottle feed during the entire eight weeks.

Items you will need

  • Nesting box
  • Heating pad
  • Temperature gauge
  • Puppy feeding bottle
  • Bowl
  • Soft cloth
  • Dry puppy food


  • Every breed has different nutritional needs in terms of feeding amounts. Follow the amounts recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Feeding bottles are readily available at most pet stores or your veterinarian’s office.
  • Weigh the puppies everyday. Keep a written record of how many ounces are consumed with each feeding to be certain the pup’s are consuming the amount recommended for their size.
  • Take the puppies for a veterinarian check-up when they are six weeks old.


  • A healthy puppy should add at least 10 percent of its original birth weight each day. If proper weight gain is not occurring, seek the help of a veterinarian.
  • Always feed the puppy while she is lying on her belly, not her back.
  • Monitor the heating pad closely to ensure the puppies are not getting burned.
  • When in doubt, always seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

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About the Author

Yvonne Ward began her professional writing career in 2004. She wrote a true-crime book published in 2010 and has two more underway. She also has a strong background in business, education and farm living. Ward is pursuing a Master of Arts in history and culture from Union Institute and University.

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