(Warning: Pictures Of Cute Newborn Puppies inside!)
Hi everyone, this newborn puppy guide is something that we have been working on with a good friend of Kohepets (Who is currently living overseas). She has recently become a mother to these newborn puppies due to their mother passing away shortly after giving birth.
We thought it might be a great idea to come up with a guide on how to provide basic care for newborn puppies for people who would want to know-along with some products of ours that she found useful!
Newborn Puppy Guide – Meeting My Puppies
We’ve all gushed over adorable videos of tiny puppies and wished we had one too. However, most of us don’t realise that as much as we want to foster or adopt a newborn puppy, it actually isn’t as easy as it looks. That’s what I realised 5 weeks ago, when I took the responsibility to care for two orphaned puppies at merely 7 days old.
For anyone who has had a dog, it is common knowledge that puppies should not be separated from their mother and their litter till at least 8 weeks of age. However, that’s only the ideal situation; sometimes – as in my case – the mother may fall ill during or after the birth and expire soon after. In this case, it falls on you to take care of these puppies like their mother would, and the process is not only complex, but it is also extremely stressful and can rightly be called a full-time job, at least for a couple of months!
When I decided to care for these puppies, they were tiny little furballs and even had their eyes and ears shut.
With no prior experience with caring for puppies this young, I had to resort to extensive online research and professional advice to go about the process. Here is what I’ve learned!
The Daily Life of Newborn Puppies
This might come as a bit of a relief: newborn puppies sleep between 16-20 hours a day! While they don’t sleep at a very long stretch, they will normally be asleep for 2-3 hours before they wake up and need to be fed. Their digestive systems are quick at this point and they will excrete almost immediately after being fed, will play for a few minutes and will be back asleep in no time! At this stage, it certainly does help to have two or more puppies, since they will resort to each other for keeping warm and for playing. If you are caring for one newborn puppy, the job certainly becomes a little more difficult.
These first few weeks of a puppy’s life will eventually determine whether they live or not; while the numbers of newborn puppies surviving without their mothers are low, it certainly isn’t impossible if given the right care. When you first get your puppies, it is important to have a professional look at them. If they are too young to be taken to a clinic, it is advisable to schedule a home visit from a trusted vet.
If neither of the above two options are possible, resort to talking to your vet in detail over the phone and note down any important guidelines and special instructions on how to care for your newborn puppy.
The Life-stages Of A Newborn Puppy
These are some examples of how I had to take care of the newborn puppies by age.
At this age, your puppies will have their eyes shut. They will begin to open their eyes towards the end of the second week, and will have them fully open by the beginning of the third week (If you don’t know the exact age, this is a good measure!). During these three weeks, it is extremely important to take care of a few major things.
Body temperature is extremely crucial in the first 3 weeks of a newborn puppy’s life; they are unable to regulate their body temperature at this point. When they are with their mother and their litter, the cumulative body heat keeps them warm. Now that they don’t have their mother, this is your job. Ideally, puppies should be kept in a room with the average temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Their own ideal body temperature at birth is 96-97°F, which should increase up to 100°F towards the end of the third week of age.
The first thing you need to do is to create a decent place for them to sleep. When I first got the puppies, I didn’t have a dog bed, so I resorted to finding two medium-sized cardboard boxes; I cut off one side as the ‘entrance’ point, and stuffed both boxes with warm and fluffy pillows, topped with blankets. Eventually, I invested in warm and comfy beds for the little puppers. My favourites are the Ferplast Siesta Deluxe Plastic Pet Bed and the machine-washable Fuzzyard Reversible Bed.
Even after you have a warm bed, you need to keep your puppies wrapped up in blankets. Even this might not be enough, and it is often essential to use a heating pad or a hot water bottle under the blankets. This makes sure they stay warm even if they crawl out of their blankets when they’re asleep.
Milk and Feeding
Puppies this small need to be bottle-fed, so you will immediately get a milk bottle. You may get one made for human babies for the time being, but it is advisable to invest in one made specifically for little animals, like this Ferplast Nursing Bottle, since these have longer nozzles and make the feeding process easier; you’ll be surprised at the amount of milk puppies spill! You can also get a syringe feeder or human baby bottle with a slow-flow teat from any pharmacy.
Many people make the mistake of feeding cow milk to newborn puppies. This is an absolute NO! Dogs are lactose intolerant and with their sensitive stomachs at this age, this will only harm them. It is essential that you buy milk replacer formula, since that is closest to the mother’s milk. I ordered some immediately when I got the puppies, but since it was going to take some time to arrive, I resorted to a homemade mix for the day.
For the closest (but definitely not long-term alternative), mix equal parts goat’s milk with water, and add 3 drops of olive oil for every 30ml. The water will mitigate the lactose content while the oil will help avoid possible constipation or other stomach problems. Another thing to keep in mind is the temperature of the milk; it must be lukewarm and can be tested by dropping some on your wrist.
Newborn puppies that are up to 3 weeks of age should be fed every 2-3 hours – yes, even in the middle of the night! The formulation and quantity will differ from formula to formula, so make sure you follow the instructions given on the packet; it will give you a clear idea on how much to feed during a 24-hour period, based on the weight of your newborn puppy. Simply divide this by the number of the feedings.
Excretion and Cleaning
This is probably the one part you didn’t think about before getting a newborn puppy and yes, it can be gross. However, if you want to properly care for your little pupper, their cleaning and excretion is extremely important to take care of.
You might be surprised to know that puppies this young don’t know how to pee or poop! Usually, the mother does the job for them by licking their private parts after every feeding, thus stimulating them to excrete. You must now do this by stimulating them a damp and warm cotton ball. After every feeding, gently rub the cotton ball on their private parts. They will pee and excrete almost immediately. Once they are done, clean them up and wrap them back into their blankets.
Remember that puppies don’t have any bladder control at this point and their digestive systems are rather fast, so they will eliminate after every feeding or at least after every two feedings. If this is not the case, you may need to gently massage their tummies until they eliminate. If this doesn’t work either, it is essential to consult your vet. However, don’t be too alarmed, since young puppies are prone to constipation. It is likely that your vet will prescribe laxative drops to be added to their milk. You can also olive oil instead, since it performs the same function as laxative drops. If your puppy has diarrhoea instead, however, you can supplement their feeding with Nutravet Nutraflora Intestinal Support Supplement.
By the time your puppies are 3 weeks old, they will begin to eliminate without your help. This also means that they will be making a mess everywhere! While this can be frustrating, it is important to remember that they are too young to potty train. The good thing is that they won’t eliminate in their bed.
Since they will also be walking and perhaps running by this time, make sure it is easy for them to get in and out of their bed without help, so they can eliminate outside. You can make the cleaning process easier for yourself by using a potty-training aid spray and pee pads. These products give off a scent that can attract puppies and tell them where to pee. However, you will have to be patient with this, since it is difficult to teach them anything until they are older.
For more information on how to toilet train you dog / puppy, you can read: How To Toilet Train Your Dog
This is when things start getting easier for you. You can now increase the intervals between feeding and feed your puppies every four hours. By the end of 6 weeks, they will also learn to eliminate in a specific place, making it easy for you to clean up the mess. While it is hard to train them at this point since you can’t give them solid treats, make sure you praise them every time they pee in the right place.
At this point in the puppies’ lives, you need to focus on three main things: weaning, playing and grooming.
By the time your puppies are 4-5 weeks old, you can begin to start weaning them. This is the process of bringing them off of the formula milk and on to solid food. Since their stomachs are sensitive, the transition should be made over two-three weeks.
- Shift to a bowl – Start by shifting the milk to a bowl from the bottle, and see if the puppies can drink it without making a mess and stepping into the bowl. Do this for a couple of days and help them keep their paws out of the bowl and drink without bathing in the milk! The Go-Slow Anti-Gulp Bowl is a great choice to use at this point.
- Mix milk and solid food – Once they’re getting used to drinking out of a bowl, start by soaking some kibble into the milk and seeing how they respond. Since this is their first time chewing on food, give them time to get used to it. Since this is a crucial age, you might want to invest in the best quality food for your puppies. I prefer the Wellness Complete Health Grain Free Puppy Dry Dog Food, since it contains real chicken and farm-fresh ingredients only. I ordered a small pack at first to see if my puppies liked it, and eventually switched to the budget-friendly larger pack.
- Transition to solid food – Over the next two weeks, gradually increase the amount of solid food and decrease the amount of milk. By the time your puppies are six weeks old, they should be eating solid food mixed with very little milk. It is important to make sure that you don’t overfeed them; puppies don’t know when to stop! Also start leaving out a bowl of fresh water at this point.
By now, your puppies will be spending slightly more time awake and will be highly charged when they are up, so you will need to provide for toys to channel their energy. Since they can’t be left outdoors at this point, toys and indoor play times are the way to go. Since puppies are not vaccinated yet when they are too young, they can quickly get sick if they eat sand or mud, or even play in it.
Note that when you do eventually take your puppies outdoors, make sure the weather is warm and that you keep a close watch on them.
Puppies need toys for teething and chewing and they get bored easily, so it is a good idea to keep a few things at hand and give them one at a time. The Kong Teething Stick and the Puppy Ball are common favourites. My puppies love soft toys, so I got this cute little All For Paws Plush Dog Toy. Another favourite of theirs is this KONG Tug Dog Toy for when I’m playing with them!
If you get your puppies in the summer, you may be able to bathe them towards the end of week 6, since their body temperature are regulated by this age. However, it is generally not advisable to introduce them to large amounts of water at this age.
A better idea is to use wet wipes to clean them all over, and then use a towel and blow-dryer to dry them immediately. I use these Espree Aloe Puppy Wipes to clean them, and use Espree Puppy Gentle Waterless Bath spray every week; it keeps the skin clean and makes the fur glossy without having to wet the puppies.
If your puppies are a long-haired breed, they will begin to grow out the hair at this point and it is important to brush them. One of the easiest ways to groom them is to use the Kong Zoomgroom Brush For Small Dogs & Puppies. It keeps them calm because of the massaging effect, while also catching all the stray hair and keeping them brushed and neat.
A slightly pricier but revolutionary grooming product to invest in is the HandsOn Grooming Gloves. These will cost more but will de-shed brilliantly. They are also extremely durable and will stay with you for the years to come, so it’s a smart purchase you won’t regret!
At this age, puppies are on their way to begin exploring the world. If you have more than one puppy, you will see that they spend more time apart and are curious about the objects around them. They will also start sleeping less and run around a much more, so it is essential to use puppy gates to confine them to a certain area in the house. You can use a playpen like the Dogit Playpen, or a gate like this Marukan Mini Gate to keep them out of trouble.
7 weeks old is also when your puppies will be dewormed and will have their first vaccination soon after. At 8 weeks, they should have transitioned completely to solid food and water separately. By this time, you can reduce feedings to 4 times a day, every 6 hours.
This is the prime time to start introducing the not-so-newborn puppy to a leash and collar, so it becomes easier when you start taking them out for walks later – ideally after their second vaccination. My puppies are 8 weeks old at the moment, and I personally love this cute bowtie i bought for them; it looks adorable and it will ideally get them used to the feel of a collar, so I can soon invest in a collar and leash.
By 8 weeks old, you will see that your puppies are smart and quick to learn. You can now begin giving them treats as rewards and start training them on basic commands, though you must be patient.
The hard part is now over, and if you make it through, this is where you will feel the happiest! Bringing puppies up without their mother is no easy task. I personally feel ecstatic that these puppies made it through and that too in the harshest of winters. Harvey and Hazel are now happy and healthy, and are growing so fast it’s almost alarming!
Good luck to you with taking care of your puppies and let us know how the experience goes for you!