Breeding, Facility Management, Newborn Care Tips, Puppy and Kitten Care

4 Main Causes of Newborn Puppy Illness and Death

There are four main causes of early neonatal puppy illness and death. Once the pups are breathing well, managing these four parameters can make the difference between life and death for your pups. The four are all intertwined, without managing one well, you will struggle to manage the other three. They will be discussed as the 4Hs for this reason.

Hypothermia in Newborn Puppies

Hypothermia in puppies is low body temperature. Hypothermic pups have a four-fold increase in risk of death. Since a puppy cannot regulate his body temperature well until he is three weeks old, use a rectal thermometer and weather station to monitor the temperature and humidity. Avoid feeding until the puppy has an appropriate rectal temperature for one hour. If a puppy has a low body temperature, increase surface temperature and avoid use of a heat lamp due to risk of dehydration. A good guide to different newborn puppies’ temperature:

  • Room temperature = 75° F
  • Surface temperature = 90° to 95°F
  • Rectal temp 94°F to 96°F for the first 24 hours
  • Rectal temp 96°F to 98°F for the first week

The PuppyWarmer® system incubator allows for more intensive care and precise warming of hypothermic pups.

Hypoglycemia in Puppies

Hypoglycemia is low blood glucose or sugar. Hypoglycemia in puppies is caused by lack of adequate nutrition and using too many calories for staying warm and moving around. Puppies with a glucose of less than 90 gm/dl have a four-fold increased risk of death. To manage hypoglycemia, use a glucometer and a foot pad stick to diagnose the low glucose. Start or increase calorie intake by tube or bottle feeding. Glucose can be given orally or by IV administration. Doc Roy’s® Forti Cal can be given orally if injectable glucose or dextrose is not available.

  • Glucose of 90 mg/dl or higher at 24 to 48 hours of age= normal

Hydration for Puppies

Hydration is the fluid balance in the body. Dehydration is the lack of adequate fluids, usually taken in as milk during nursing. Monitor hydration by looking at urine color collected by stimulations on a dry white cotton ball or tissue. Hydration can be managed by increasing nursing, bottle feeding, tube feeding, or by injecting fluids subcutaneously (SQ). Electrolytes such as Breeder’s Edge® Puppy Lyte are useful for puppies showing signs of dehydration, or for puppies who are vomiting and/or having diarrhea. These are to be given orally.

Hypoxia in Newborn Puppies

Hypoxia is oxygen deprivation or low blood oxygen. Hypoxia in newborn puppies can be managed by putting the puppy in an oxygen chamber. An oxygen tank or oxygen concentrator will improve oxygenation of the pup’s blood. Room air is 20 percent oxygen, oxygen concentrators provide 95 percent oxygen and oxygen tanks provide 100 percent oxygen. By increasing the oxygen in the pup’s environment with a face mask, blow-by, or in an oxygen chamber/incubator, you will improve the chances of the pup’s survival until they are breathing strongly enough to survive on room air.

The PuppyWarmer® Oxygen Concentrator system, paired with the PuppyWarmer® Incubator is the single best product on the market to manage hypoxia. Hypoxic puppies have blue to gray gums and are seen to be struggling to breathe.

Pulse oximeters are a medical device that can measure the oxygen in the blood of a puppy or adult dog by use of a clip on the toes or lip. They are widely used in human and veterinary medicine during anesthesia or in the case of respiratory distress. Pulse oximeters can also be used on newborn pups to assess their ability to move and use oxygen.

If you have any questions on how to care for newborn puppies, please call one of our Pet Care Pros at 800.786.4751 and they will be ready to help you.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.