What To Do After A Baby Dog Is Born?

Providing Warmth

Keeping newborn puppies warm is extremely important for their health and survival. Puppies are unable to regulate their body temperature for the first 2-3 weeks of life and rely on external heat sources for warmth. The optimal temperature for newborn puppies is between 85-90°F during the first week, and can be lowered by 5 degrees each week thereafter until room temperature is reached (Breeding for Dog Owners – Caring for Newborn Puppies, Caring for Orphaned Puppies – VCA Animal Hospitals).

There are several ways to provide supplemental heat for newborn puppies:

  • Heating pad – Place underneath half of the whelping box so puppies can move on and off. Use low setting and monitor temperature.
  • Heat lamp – Position over part of the whelping box. Adjust height to achieve proper temperature.
  • Warm water bottles – Wrap with towels and place around whelping box walls.
  • Blankets – Use several warm blankets in the box and replace as needed.

Caregivers should monitor the temperature in the whelping area frequently, making adjustments as needed. The area should feel warm but not overly hot. Ensuring newborn puppies stay sufficiently warm during the first few weeks is key to their health and survival.


Bottle feeding newborn puppies requires giving them colostrum and milk replacement formulas. Colostrum provides vital nutrients and antibodies that help strengthen a newborn puppy’s immune system[1]. Newborn puppies should be given colostrum shortly after birth and for the first couple of days of life. After that period, switch to a puppy milk replacement formula designed to meet the nutritional needs of young puppies for continued growth and development.[2]

When bottle feeding, hold the puppy in an upright position and insert the bottle nipple into the mouth pointing slightly upward to encourage natural suckling. Avoid squeezing the bottle too forcefully when feeding as this can cause milk to get into the lungs. Gently rub the puppy’s abdomen after feeding to help stimulate digestion. It’s recommended to feed newborn puppies every 2-4 hours in the beginning, slowly increasing the time between feedings as they grow.

Urinating and Defecating

Newborn puppies are unable to urinate or defecate on their own and need help from their mother or human caregiver. An important step after a puppy is born is to help them go to the bathroom by stimulating their genital area.

Use a warm, damp cotton ball, washcloth, or paper towel to gently massage the puppy’s genital area in soft circles. This mimics the mother dog’s tongue and triggers the puppy’s reflex to urinate and defecate. Stimulate the area until the puppy goes to the bathroom. Puppies need to eliminate after meals, naps, and playtime.

Monitor the puppy’s elimination. Healthy urine is pale yellow and the feces should be brown with a toothpaste-like consistency. Constipation or diarrhea can be signs of illness that require veterinary attention (source).

Be patient and keep stimulating. It may take a few minutes for the puppy to go. Clean up any messes right away and sanitize the area.

Monitoring Weight

It’s important to monitor your newborn puppy’s weight daily to ensure they are gaining weight at a healthy rate. According to the Care of Puppies from Birth to Ten Days guide from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, “Weight gain is proportional to breed and birth weight, but a puppy should drink at least 10% of its body weight daily. Puppies should double their birth weight in their first 7-10 days.”

Weigh the puppies at the same time each day on an accurate digital scale. Track each puppy’s weight gain day-by-day. Puppies should gain steadily each day. According to the Caring for Newborn Puppies guide from Nicklin Way Veterinary Surgery, “It is not uncommon for pups to lose weight in the first 24hours, but then they should gain weight thereafter. Pups weight should increase by 10% per day.”

If a puppy is not gaining weight or is losing weight, consult your veterinarian. It could indicate a health problem that needs attention.

Providing Veterinary Care

It is crucial to take puppies to the vet within 24-48 hours after birth for an initial checkup. Most veterinarians recommend bringing newborn puppies in for their first vet visit around this time (1, 2). This allows the vet to examine the puppies and ensure they are healthy, as well as check on the mother dog’s health after giving birth.

During this first veterinary visit after birth, the vet will likely (2, 3):

  • Weigh each puppy and ensure they are gaining weight appropriately
  • Listen to the puppies’ hearts and lungs
  • Check for any birth defects
  • Assess the puppies’ overall health
  • Examine the mother dog’s mammary glands
  • Check the mother dog for any retained placentas or uterine infections
  • Discuss preventative care like deworming and vaccination schedules for the puppies

Bringing the litter to the vet right after birth can spot any potential health issues early. It also establishes a relationship with the vet for continued well-puppy exams and care. While the initial newborn puppy vet visit will likely cost $50-150, it is a valuable investment into helping the puppies start life healthy (4).

(1) https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/caring-newborn-puppy

(2) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/breeding-for-dog-owners-caring-for-newborn-puppies


It is key to start socializing puppies as early as 3-4 weeks old. Puppies go through a critical socialization period between 3 weeks to 16 weeks old, so it’s important to expose them to various sights, sounds, people, and handling during this time. According to the AKC, puppies may start approaching people passively as early as 3 weeks old, so knowledgeable breeders should start socialization early on.

When the puppies reach 6-7 weeks old, start handling each puppy individually. Gently hold them, inspect their paws and ears, brush them, and get them comfortable being handled. Introduce the puppies to a variety of people like men, women, children, people of different ethnicities, and people wearing hats or using assistive devices. The AKC advises inviting vaccinated and healthy friends over to interact with the puppies. Expose the puppies to different sights and sounds – let them experience vacuums, doorbells, cars, bikes, etc. from a distance at first. Keep these introductions positive, calm, brief and monitored.

Preventing Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a common concern in newborn puppies, especially in small and toy breeds. It occurs when a puppy’s body cannot maintain normal glucose levels, leading to weakness, lethargy, seizures, and even death if left untreated. Preventing hypoglycemia in newborn puppies requires diligent monitoring and proper nutrition.

One of the best ways to prevent hypoglycemia is to feed high-calorie supplemental formula. Newborn puppies have very minimal fat stores and struggle to maintain blood sugar between feedings. Feeding a commercial milk replacer formulated for puppies provides concentrated nutrition in small volumes that is quickly metabolized to restore glucose levels. Brands like Esbilac provide whey-based formulas with higher fat and carbohydrate content to meet a newborn puppy’s needs. According to veterinary guidelines, supplemental formula should be fed every 2-3 hours for the first 2 weeks of a puppy’s life.

Frequent small meals of supplemental formula provide an excellent source of energy to maintain blood sugar. By closely monitoring feeding times and amounts, hypoglycemia can be avoided in vulnerable newborn puppies (Metro-Vet, n.d.). With proper nutrition and care, puppies can grow into healthy juveniles.

Metro-Vet. (n.d.). Hypoglycemia in Small Breed Puppies and Young Kittens. Metro-Vet. https://metro-vet.com/references/hypoglycemia-in-small-breed-puppies/.

Keeping Area Clean

It is very important to keep the whelping area clean to prevent the spread of disease among the puppies. The area where the puppies eat, sleep, and eliminate needs to be disinfected frequently.

Replace any soiled or damp bedding at least twice a day. Soiled areas should be disinfected with a non-toxic cleaner safe for puppies. A 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach mixed with 9 parts water) can also be used to kill germs and parasites. Allow it to sit on surfaces for 5-10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

Wash any whelping box surfaces, toys, dishes, and other items with soap and hot water daily. Rinse thoroughly to avoid residue. Allow items to air dry completely before returning to the whelping area.

By keeping the environment clean, you can help prevent illnesses like canine parvovirus, giardia, coccidia, and parasites from infecting the vulnerable puppies. Maintaining good hygiene and sanitation is crucial during this delicate newborn phase.

Monitoring Mother

It is crucial to monitor the mother dog closely in the days and weeks after giving birth to ensure she is recovering well and caring for her puppies properly. Some key things to watch for include:

Nursing – Make sure the mother dog is letting the puppies nurse and keeping them warm and comforted. Check that all puppies are able to nurse and gain access to milk. Signs of trouble include puppies crying constantly, seeming weak or underweight, or fighting aggressively for access to nursing.[1]

Eating and Drinking – Provide the mother with extra water, calories, and nutrients while nursing. Make food and water easily available to her. Monitor her appetite and watch for signs of dehydration like lethargy or dry gums.[1]

Caring for Puppies – The mother should stay close to the puppies, keep them warm, stimulate urination/defecation, and keep the area clean. She should not be aggressive or avoidant. Contact your vet if you have concerns about her behavior.[1]

Postpartum Discharge – Some discharge after birth is normal but excessive bleeding, foul-smelling discharge, or signs of infection warrant a vet visit.[1]

Energy Levels – It’s normal for the mother to be tired initially after birth. But excessive lethargy, weakness, or lack of appetite after several days may indicate a problem requiring veterinary attention.[1]

Signs of Concern

Newborn puppies are delicate and vulnerable to health problems. It’s important for owners to monitor puppies closely and watch for any concerning signs that could indicate an underlying illness. Some warning signs to look out for include:

Fading Puppy Syndrome – This syndrome involves puppies that are born healthy but suddenly stop growing and thriving. Puppies will cry constantly, lose weight rapidly, and become lethargic.1

Respiratory Distress – Labored breathing, coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge can signify respiratory issues like pneumonia. Seek veterinary care immediately if a puppy shows respiratory distress.

Diarrhea – Loose stools in newborn puppies can quickly lead to dehydration. Consult a vet if diarrhea persists beyond 1-2 feedings.2

Vomiting – Repeated vomiting may indicate a gastrointestinal problem and requires veterinary attention to avoid dangerous fluid/electrolyte imbalances.

Lethargy – Extremely low energy levels, inability to nurse, and lack of movement are problematic. Lethargic puppies need medical assessment right away.

Failure to Gain Weight – Newborns should gain 10-15% of birth weight daily. Weight loss or lack of weight gain could signify illness.

It’s critical to monitor newborn puppies closely and contact a veterinarian at the first signs of distress. Early intervention greatly improves chances of survival and health.

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