How To Take Care Of Newborn/Neonatal Puppies


If you are one of those people who have adopted a just born orphaned puppy or if the mother has rejected her pup or cannot produce enough milk for all the pups and the care of the pup is up to you, then this post is for you. Neonatal puppies are from the time they are born to about 2- 3 weeks. In this period they are very vulnerable to diseases due to their environment, poor mothering or bacterial infection. Taking care of neonatal/newborn puppies can be tiresome, its better to have someone help you out, even alone is fine but an extra hand is always useful.

Things you’ll need:

  • A small and comfortable bed
  • Bunch Of Towels
  • Cotton Balls
  • Unscented Baby Wipes
  • Baby Oil
  • Small Nippled Bottle/Syringe from Pet Store or Medical Store/Eye Dropper if the pup is too small
  • Pet feed formula/Homemade formula
  • Plastic Sheet
  • Basket/Bed

Things to take care of:

Generally puppies this young are best taken care by the mommy dog. It is her milk which gives them powerful anti-bodies and infection fighting pre-milk colustrum and she maintains their hygiene. But in her absence, things are left to the new foster parent. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Temperature : Neonatal puppies have poor thermo-regulatory capability which means they can get sick if its cold or too hot. It’s better to keep them in a warm and dry place. You can buy a small sized dog bed or a basket lined with towels. Make it warm using a hot water bag with warm water of optimum temperature and cover it with a towel. Take care that it is not very hot for the puppy, check by puting the rice bag or water bag on your skin above your wrist for about 10 -15 secs, same as how you would check water for a baby. If it feels comfortable on your wrist then you can put it on the side of their bed.
  2. Feeding: Feeding can be a challenge. Newborn puppies get colustrum from their mother in the first 24 hrs which is rich in protein antibodies to fight diseases, minerals, electrolytes and nutrients. This milk can be absorbed by the puppy in the first 24 hours, so its best if mother nurses the puppy in that period. It is due to this colostrum that puppies can survive without contracting any diseases till they are old enough to start developing their own immunity or take vaccinations. If the mother has discarded the pup right after birth, plasma or blood serum from healthy dog can be given in the initial 24 hrs of the pup by a veterinarian. In case the puppy misses that time period you can take special care by keeping yours hands, its feeding bottle, its environment sterile so that it doesn’t contract any diseases. Also, if you can afford a puppy feed mixture, I suggest you buy it. There are some dry formulas available for bottle feeding new born pups. But if you are broke college student or live in a place where its not available you can check out some homemade recipes. There are few people who have put up their home-made recipes for puppy feed. You’ll require a syringe, preferably a 5ml to 15 ml syringe and a rubber nipple. You can get these at a medical store. Make a cross shaped hole on the rubber nipple with the help of a cutter or a blade. Put the rubber nipple on tip of the syringe. Make sure the hole is big enough that milk start dropping if you press the syringe a little. If you are using the formula, check the back for proper ratio of powder and water to feed.  If you are making your own, then to give you an idea they would eat about 2-3 ml of formula every two hours in the initial days. This will gradually increase to 5 ml when the puppy is about a week old and 12-14 ml when it two weeks old, around 20-22ml by third week. Though this is just an approximate, a full stomach puppy will have a gentle round or pear shaped tummy. So don’t be afraid to feed it a little bit more in case you feel it is still hungry. A hungry puppy will be crawling around, whining continuously, moving its head side to side, suckling on his foot or objects in his bed.Neonatal puppy care
  3. Burping: After feeding the puppy or sometimes during the feeding if the puppy has problem breathing, take your puppy in your palms and hold him upright. Hold puppy on your shoulder like how you would hold a baby with its face towards you and pat its back till it burps.
  4. Toilet: Neonatal pups don’t know how to do their business. It is the job of the mother who stimulates the pups to urinate and excrete by licking their genitals and rectum. In her absence, we would require some cotton balls, baby oil and warm water. Pups will want to do their business mostly after a meal, however they can also do it before a meal. So few minutes after a meal, lay down the plastic sheet and keep warm but not hot water in a bowl, cotton balls, baby wipes handy. Check the water temperature to see if it is not very hot, same way as above by putting some water on your forearm skin to see if its just warm enough. If you are not very into baby care business, suggest you put on some gloves as things will get dirty. Now hold the puppy in your palm gently such that the puppy’s upper body is between your index finger and thumb and his hind legs on your palm. The puppy legs should not be hanging in the air, hold it in a way that his hind legs are straight and balanced on your palm. Go ahead and dip the cotton balls slightly in the water and rub its bums gently, massaging in round or horizontal motion. Be very gentle as their skin is very delicate. You’ll need patience as it might not do it right away or at all. You’ll have to keep the cotton moist and gently massage their bums till they start pooping. Use the cotton balls to clean up once they start pooping. Use the same method for making them pee.

Last but not the least, thank you for taking up such a selfless job. This is not the complete guide but a starter, do visit your nearest vet at the earliest to get the best possible care instructions. Please let us know in comments about anything extra you would like to add.

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