After puppies are born, they need to be properly cared for. The mother will feed and care for the puppies for the first four weeks of life. However, during this time, it is important to look after them to ensure that they are getting the nutrition and warmth that they need to survive.
Newborn puppies should be nursing on the mother every few hours. They will eat less often as they grow bigger. If you have one or two puppies that are smaller than the others, you will want to place them on the nipples so they get a head start. This is especially important if the mother has more puppies than nipples. The bigger puppies will crowd the smaller ones and hoard the milk. Puppies grow very quickly. They should be double or even triple their weight by the end of the third week. After four weeks, the puppies can be weaned onto dry dog food.
If the mother refuses to feed a puppy, you may need to take over and provide care for it. The mother’s milk is the best food for puppies. However, store-bought puppy milk is a good substitute. Never use cow’s milk, as it does not have enough vitamins for a growing puppy. It is important to read the instructions on the label to determine the right dosage. You may also want to consult with a vet to make sure you do not use too much or too little. The puppy should gain weight and have feces that are well-formed. Watch carefully for diarrhea, as it can be fatal in puppies.
Newborn puppies cannot effectively control their body temperature. Being too cold causes them to get the chills, which can expose them to infections. At the same time, excessively high temperatures can cause death from overheating. Keep the puppies off cold floors and away from drafty areas. Using a heating pad or heat lamp can help raise the temperature. A blanket put into the dryer for a few minutes can also provide much-needed warmth. The pups should be monitored to ensure they are not too hot. It helps to have a cool area inside the whelping box that the puppies can lie in if needed.
For best results, the outside temperature should be between 85 and 90 degrees for the first week of life. During the second week, it can be reduced to 80 degrees. By week 4, the temperature should be around 75 degrees.
Caring for the mother
For a few days after birth, the mother is so focused on caring for her new puppies that she may lack an appetite. After that time has passed, her appetite will come back with a vengeance. Proper nutrition and vitamins such as Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorous are necessary in order to produce milk for the puppies and prevent eclampsia, which can cause spasms and difficulty walking. The female will need up to three times her normal amount of feed in order to stay healthy. Several small meals throughout the day are ideal. The female should quickly get back to her pre-breeding weight and no more than 10% above that.
One thing to look for in the mother is mastitis, which is a breast infection. It is uncommon, but it does occur. It is often caused by scratches from the puppies, early weaning or some sort of infection. It is most common two weeks after the puppies are born. The breasts will be hot and painful. They will also be dark red or even black. It is important to seek vet care as soon as possible, as the female will lose her appetite and refuse to let the puppies nurse.
Another common condition in mother dogs is diarrhea. Because they clean up the urine and feces from the puppies, they are prone to suffering from an upset stomach or diarrhea. It is generally nothing to be concerned about. Just ensure the female is drinking enough water. You may even want to give her Pepto-Bismol to relieve the pain. However, if the diarrhea persists for more than a couple of days, she should be taken to a vet for further examination.
Warning signs in puppies
Puppies should be strong, at a healthy weight and willing to nurse. Any pup that cries constantly, has breathing problems, refuses to nurse, fails to gain weight or has a low temperature should be taken to the vet for examination. Vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing and lethargy could mean signs of an infection or pneumonia and can be serious or even deadly.