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Neonatal Care

The care of new born puppies is crucial to their survival. Hopefully mum will do a good job at feeding and toileting the puppies, but there are a few things you will need to do to help. Listed below are a few helpful hints and tips to hopefully make the rearing of your litter a little easier and more successful.

  • Cleft palates – every puppy should be checked for a cleft palate, this is a split down the length of the roof of the mouth. If one of these is present it will greatly reduce the survival rate of the puppy, and it may require tube feeding initially as suckling can prove difficult. If you are unsure what a cleft palate looks like ask one of our vets or nurses for help.
  • Warmth – this is one of the most important factors in the care of young puppies. It is thought that second to the Herpes virus, hypothermia (too cold) is the reason for fading puppy syndrome. People often worry about the bitch getting too hot, however she is more able to regulate her body temperature as she can pant and sweat via her pads, also she is able to move away from the heat. Two heat sources should be provided – one being heat pads under the puppies in one half of the whelping area, so they can crawl off if they get too hot. The other being an overhead heat lamp to warm the environment.
  • Nutrition – puppies require good nutrition which will be come from their mothers milk. It is important that you feed mum a good quality puppy food for at least one week prior to whelping and during lactation as she will require lots of extra calories, protein and fats to pass to the puppies. Supplementing mum’s diet with eggs, chicken and cheese will also be beneficial and lessen the chances of eclampsia.
  • Weight – every  puppy should be weighed daily from birth until 10-14 days old, puppies should starting gaining a little weight every day from about day 3 onwards. In the first 3 days it is not unusual for the puppies not to gain weight, but they should at least maintain their birth weight. The lack of gaining weight in the first 48-72hours is due to the puppies ingesting colostrum rather than pure milk. Weight loss in a puppy even of 1-2 grams is significant and if it occurs on 2 consecutive days, veterinary assistance should be sought.
  • Identification – it is important to be able to tell the puppies apart to weigh and monitor them. The easiest way to do this is with a small dot of nail varnish or tippex on various limbs or body regions!
  • Crying – puppies under 2 weeks only cry if hungry or unwell. If a puppy is crying a lot post feeding it may be suggestive that they are still hungry. In these cases it’s important to check that the bitch is a) producing milk and b) producing enough milk. It is natural to have 1-2 smaller, weaker pups in a litter and these can easily be pushed out of the way by stronger pups. The milk flows better to the rear teats so try to place the weaker pups on the back teats near the hind legs and put the bigger ones on the front teats. If you have a large litter of puppies, mum may not be producing enough milk to satisfy them all, in this case you may need to supplement them with a bottle feed a few times a day. Use a puppy replacement milk along with a human new born anti-colic bottle
  • Constipation – mum should lick the puppies to stimulate toileting. Some young or first time mothers may not do this properly, so if you have a puppy with a large stomach who is whinging and crying it may need help toileting. The easiest way to achieve this is with a piece of cotton wool, dampened with warm water – gently stroke up and down over the genital region to stimulate toileting.