The excitement is undeniable when you have a litter of newborn puppies in your care. So, too, is the responsibility. The early days and weeks of puppies' lives are crucial for ensuring their healthy futures, so make sure you provide everything they need -- from the correct nourishment to shelter.
A clean and comfy nesting box is a must for mother dogs and puppies. Make sure it's spacious enough to easily accommodate mom and her entire litter. Cardboard boxes work well for this purpose as long as the edges are high enough to prevent the little ones from falling out. At the same time, they also need to be low enough to permit mama to go over them safely, quickly and efficiently. These boxes get dirty quickly from the puppies eliminating in them, so switch them out as necessary. Line the interior of the box with newspaper, and make sure to have plenty of soft blankets, towels and cloths on hand.
If the mother dog is present, feeding duties are not your responsibility unless she cannot nurse for any reason, such as illness or low milk production. If the puppies need you to handle feeding, do so using a syringe or bottle. Only feed them commercial puppy replacer -- formula that is made solely with puppies in mind and which copies the nutritional value of a mother dog's milk. Never feed them cow's milk or human baby formula. Talk to a veterinarian immediately if you have any questions regarding suitable puppy formulas and feeding procedures.
Wee pups cannot manage their body temperatures effectively. They often can stay sufficiently warm due to cuddling up to their mother and littermates, but additional heat is still imperative, at least until the youngsters are a minimum of 2 weeks in age. Heating pads designed for canine use are suitable for these purposes, as long as the puppies have plenty of space to get away from them if necessary. Hide a heating pad under a towel or cloth in the nesting box, for example, and ensure that at least half the floor is free of its presence. Turn the pad to its lowest setting.
Consistent growth is key to thriving puppies, and you can make sure things are plugging along nicely by keeping track of their weights on a daily basis. Either a postal or kitchen scale can be a handy tool for noting the little ones' size and progress.
Food for Mom
Although pups don't require solid commercial puppy food until they reach weaning age -- roughly 3 weeks -- the mother dog needs to eat much more than usual. It's crucial to make sure that mom has constant access to food and clean water at all times, day and night. With nursing responsibilities, mama dogs have to take in a lot of sustenance -- maybe three times as much food as normal.