As a dog parent, you’re certainly going to agree that puppies are the world’s cutest beings. But when they are born, they are quite helpless and fragile.
If you are one of the lucky ones who need to care for these beings, then here is a guide on:
- The physical and behavioral changes of newborn puppies from 0-8 weeks (0-2 months).
- How to care for newborn puppies.
0-1 Week Old: Newborn Puppies
1. Physical and behavioral changes
Puppies are born with closed eyes, dysfunctional ears and nostrils, and toothless mouths. They’re born hungry as well.
After whelping, their mother goes through the following steps:
- bite their amniotic sacs open;
- lick their noses, mouths, and bodies, so they learn to breathe;
- chew through their umbilical cords;
- push them toward a nipple so they can drink milk.
The first feeding is essential for the future health of the puppies. The milk of a mother dog includes colostrum that offers the puppies with antibodies. The antibodies can help keep the puppies immune from some diseases.
Puppies are also born without the ability to regulate their body temperature. So, they need warmth from their mother and litter-mates.
Puppies spend 90% of their time napping interspersed with 10% nursing. So their weight should double during the first week.
The mother dog does and provides everything that the puppies need. She licks the puppies’ genitalia and anus to stimulate them to pee and poop. She grooms their fur.
Some mother dogs can be quite possessive about their puppies. It is best not to handle the puppies unless you are sure the mother dog will allow you to do so.
At this stage, the best thing you can do is make sure the nest’s lining is always clean. During whelping, blood and amniotic fluids will be discharged. These may carry germs that might affect the puppies or infect them. The puppies are going to pee and poop on the lining every day. So, you have to be vigilant and make sure you meet your obligation.
2. Reasons to handle newborn puppies
Mother dogs instinctively know what to do when they give birth to puppies. Whelping will need human intervention only for the following circumstances:
- If the mother dog cannot bite the amniotic sacs open or chew through the umbilical cords.
Puppies suffocate if they stay in the amniotic sacs for more than 8 minutes after whelping. They need to move around, so cutting their umbilical cords is essential.
If the mother of the dog doesn’t do these steps or can’t do them, you must do it for them. Tear the amniotic sacs apart with clean hands. Using sterilized scissors, cut the umbilical cord and bind it with a piece of string or floss.
- If the mother dog cannot or does not lick the puppies’ to make them take their first breath.
You can follow any of these methods:
- 1. Simulate the sucking of a mother dog by rubbing a clean towel on the puppies. Be careful, but keep the force steady especially on the sides of the bodies of the puppies. In their first breaths, this should make the puppies suck.
- 2. Assist the puppies by wiping off their noses and mouths of any residual fluid. More fluid is likely to be trapped inside the noses of the puppies. One at a time, hold a puppy at an angle so that its head is facing down. Use a bulb syringe to suck out the fluid from one nostril. Then blow some air into the mouth with the bulb syringe. Do the same with the other nostril.
- 3. Do the puppy CPR. Cover with your lips the nose and mouth of the puppies and softly blow. Then blow all the air out at once, without taking a deep breath. Their lungs are still very small and can’t manage a big air rush.
Check for heartbeats of the puppies. If they beat, rub them for about 20 seconds in a towel and repeat the operation of breathing. If they don’t have heartbeats, then you’ll need to press the area close to their hearts to do the CPR again.
It may be better for a vet to do these processes if you do not have the right training. One wrong move might break a bone, push the fluid into the nose even further, or puncture the lungs.
3. Reasons why mother dogs cannot care for puppies
There are many reasons why mother dogs cannot or will not be able to care for their puppies. Some of the most common reasons are:
- The mother dog might be undergoing a very painful or complicated whelping. The pain could be overriding her instinct to care for her pup.
- The time between whelping could be fast. The mother dog might be cleaning other puppies when the next one comes out.
- The mother dog might detect an illness in a puppy and thus reject it.
- The mother dog might die from whelping.
4. Caring for orphaned or rejected puppies
Whatever the reason may be, you will need to take care of the orphaned or rejected puppies. Try to do the following:
- Keep the puppies warm. Prepare a small box lined with blankets. Put a heat lamp near but not over the box. Putting it too near the box might overheat the puppies.
- Give them puppy formula every two to three hours.
Puppy formulas should have high calorie and protein content. Minerals, trace elements, and vitamins should also be present in these. The proteins are particularly essential to help the muscles and organs of the puppies grow.
Do not feed them cow’s milk because this will be too hard on puppies’ stomachs. Many puppies will have diarrhea if they drink this type of milk.
Puppy formulas often contain oils from vegetables and egg products. Highly delicate stomach puppies may have adverse responses to these ingredients. Goat’s milk is the best alternative to cow’s milk as it is less processed and easily digestible.
Try these puppy formulas:
- Esbilac Goat’s Milk contains dehydrated goat’s milk. It also has over 30% protein so it will give puppies what their bodies need. It’s costly though.
- Nutri-Vet Milk Replacement Powder for Puppies contains animal and vegetable fats, dried whey, sodium caseinate, and other ingredients. It is veterinary-formulated. Nutri-Vet is part of the National Animal Supplement Council, which is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the health of pets like dogs and horses.
- Happy Dog Baby Milk Probiotic 30/30 has low lactose content, and it contains whey fat powder, soy protein concentrate, gelatin, skimmed milk, and other ingredients. Its probiotic can stabilize the digestive systems of puppies that have diarrhea.
- Use a warm cotton ball or cloth to stimulate the puppies to pee and poop. The pee is very little at first. The poop should be soft but not watery.
- Massage the puppies very gently to simulate a mother dog’s grooming skills.
- Commercial puppy formulas do not have colostrum. So abandoned or rejected puppies do not have antibodies that fight against diseases. This would mean that these puppies might be prone to illnesses. Take the puppies to the vet for a check-up.
1-3 Weeks Old Puppies: Eating and Sleeping Phase
1. Physical and behavior changes
Puppies continue to focus on eating and sleeping during these weeks.
When Do Puppies Open Their Eyes?
They begin to open their eyes during their second week of life. But their eyesight is still unclear because a gray-blue film covers their eyes.
Their ears begin to work properly, though, when they are 14-18 days old (2-3 weeks).
They cannot walk yet. They crawl on their bellies instead.
They still need stimulation to pee and poop during the first two weeks. They begin to pee and poop on their own during the third week.
Their baby teeth begin to come out.
2. Caring for the puppies
They do not respond to a human’s touch during this time. Even so, keep touching them with clean hands to let them get used to you and your scent.
Introduce puppies into the sounds they’re going to hear in the house. These could be music, plate clinking, or people talking. Slow down the process. The puppies are adapting to a new setting. By introducing them to a loud environment all at once, you don’t want to add to their stress.
Do not punish puppies who accidentally bite you. They might develop an anxiety disorder, and their biting might become worse.
1. Physical and behavioral changes
When Do Puppies Start Walking?
The puppies start to wobble and walk during the 4th week (1 month) of their lives.
Their eyes begin to lose the thin film layer. Their eyesight starts working properly when they are around 8 weeks old.
When the puppies have a full set of baby teeth, the mother dog begins to wean her litter. The teeth are very sharp and can be painful when the puppies suck. Many puppies get completely weaned by 6-7 weeks.
The puppies are not fazed by anything at this stage. They will explore and start wanting to get out of their nest. Their mouths are their primary tool to learn.
They also start to socialize and play with their litter-mates. Play-biting starts at this phase, which is why they need some discipline from their mother.
2. Caring for the puppies
When weaning begins, introduce strong dog food. You can offer puppy food, wet puppy food, or puppy kibble with puppy formula or water softener. The puppies are less likely to nurse as they become more accustomed to eating dog food. Alternate puppy formula and dog food for orphaned puppies.
Consult your veterinarian about the vaccinations of your puppies. Puppies who are not growing as fast as their litter-mates need a special check-up.
Continue exposing the puppies to stimuli of humans and the environment. You can play with them, but do not make them afraid. They might be so surprised by a boisterous sound that they begin to fear any loud noise in the future
Supervise them all the time to make sure they do not eat something harmful. If you cannot supervise them, keep the puppies in an appropriately-sized fenced area. Put toys in this area to keep them entertained.
The puppies are going to be bundles of energy and life force by 2 months. They are going to undergo many physical, cognitive, and social modifications. So the adults around them should provide a lot of help, care, and guidance— whether dog or human. It’s an enjoyable time for them to appreciate every moment as well.