Most mother dogs do a good job of feeding their newborn puppies. If something happens to the mother, or the litter is especially large, the babies might not get enough to eat. If any puppy isn't getting sufficient food, you'll have to remedy the situation.
During the puppies' first weeks of life, you must check on them regularly to make sure mother and babies are doing well. Mother and babies also should pay a visit to the vet within a day after birth to make sure all is well, including whether mama produces enough milk for her litter. Newborn puppies must consume colostrum, the thick first milk produced by their mother, within their first 24 hours. It's chock-full of antibodies for puppy protection. For the first seven days, puppies should nurse at least every 2 hours. While they'll nurse less as time goes on, mother's milk is their only food until they're about a month old.
If the newborn puppies are constantly crying, that's a sign that they're hungry. VCA Animal Hospitals recommends placing crying newborns on the hind teats, as they are the ones that generally provide the most milk. Check to ensure that other puppies aren't driving the crying babies off the nipples. Watch for smaller, weaker puppies. They might not have a sufficient sucking reflex to take in sufficient milk. Ask your vet if you should bottle feed the weak ones, at least until their sucking reflex becomes more developed.
A puppy's weigh should double in the first week of life, according to the American Kennel Club. Weigh each puppy every couple of days to make sure it continues to gain weight. If any of the puppies fails to gain or actually loses weight, contact your vet. You might need to supplement that pup's milk with bottle-feeding.
If the mother becomes sick, dies or can't feed her puppies, you'll probably get a crash course in puppy bottle-feeding. You also could ask your vet if she knows of any nursing dogs who could take on another puppy or two. If you're feeding newborns, your vet should supply you with commercial or frozen colostrum for the puppies. After the first 24 hours, you can switch to a commercial puppy milk replacer. Because they're so small, feed newborns with a syringe, and switch to a bottle when they're a little larger. Have your vet show you how to hold your puppy when feeding. After feeding, you'll also have to burp the pup, holding it much as you would a baby for the same purpose, with the head over your shoulder. Rub the puppy's back gently until it burps.
Urinating and Defecating
After the bottle-fed puppy eats, you'll need to stimulate him so he pees and poops. The mother does this by licking his genital area. Take a soft, warm washcloth or gauze pad and rub the genital and anal region gently. Ask your vet to show you how this is done, as it's extremely important. By 3 weeks of age, puppies usually eliminate on their own.
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.