The care involved in hand-raising a puppy varies depending on the young dog's age. The first two months of life are spent by his mother's side, so a puppy yet to wean is going to require some amount of tender loving care from you.
Keeping a puppy warm is a priority. Puppies swaddle each other and are warmed by their mom's body heat. Without her and the litter, your little one needs a heat source to help maintain a healthy body temperature. A hot water bottle or heating pad tucked safely under a blanket or towel should do the trick. Newborns need to be kept in an environment around 90 degrees Fahrenheit; cool it down to the mid- to high-70s or low 80s until about 5 to 6 weeks old. After this, the puppies can handle a room-temperature environment, but you should keep drafts and breezes to a minimum and supply a warm blanket for them to snuggle in.
Newborn pups need a feeding every two to three hours; the frequency drops to four times a day between 2 weeks and 3 weeks of age. You'll need a special bottle with a nipple and puppy milk replacement formula. Don't feed cow's milk, as this can upset your puppy's digestive tract. You'll need to warm formula to body temperature, testing it inside your wrist to make sure it's not too hot. Feed the puppy the amount recommended on the milk replacement packaging. You'll need a scale that's accurate to the ounce and weigh your pup to find the correct feeding amount.
Human babies have diapers; puppies have their mothers. While it undoubtedly has a yuck factor for you, you need to stimulate the puppy to pee and poop after every meal. The momma dog licks the undersides of her babies to do this, but you can use a slightly moistened cotton ball to gently rub her lower abdomen and around her anal region. Gently wipe away anything that comes out. Rub your puppy gently with a moist, soft washcloth all over her body after every feeding and whenever she needs it. Not only does this clean the pup, it also stimulates her. After 2 weeks old, the puppy will begin eliminating on her own; you'll just have to keep her undersides clean.
Weaning certainly makes a mess of whatever area you're feeding your pup in. Around 3 1/2 weeks, start making a gruel for your puppy. A gruel is a dry puppy food moistened with warm water or warmed puppy milk replacement formula. Allow the dry kibble to soak up the milk replacement or water until it's soggy, then mix it up to the consistency of oatmeal. Place the gruel on a flat or shallow saucer on the floor and dip your finger in it. Hold your gruel-covered finger to the puppy's mouth or nose. She should follow your finger to the saucer. The mess comes when she discovers the saucer of yummy gruel: She'll dive right in trying to lap up as much as possible. Eventually mix dry food into the gruel, and gradually increase the amount of dry food while decreasing the amount of milk replacement or water until she's eating only dry puppy food. The transition should take two to three weeks.
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.
With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.