You’ve helped mom through the whelping process and now you are surrounded by a litter of adorable newborn puppies.
Colostrum for Newborn Puppies
After birth, puppies should go right to mom and start nursing. During the first three hours following birth, puppies should nurse several times. If a puppy is having trouble latching, rub its muzzle sideways over the nipple, not up and down. You want to get mom lactating on day one and puppies nursing so they get the necessary colostrum they need.
Why is colostrum so important? Colostrum not only contains antibodies, it also tells the puppy’s gut to digest milk. One way to ensure your moms are ready and producing milk on day one is to give Breeder’s Edge® Oxy Momma™ three days to one week before the due date or planned C-section. If you have to use a colostrum replacer such as Breeder’s Edge® Nurture Mate, don’t give it on the first day if they are nursing. If they aren’t nursing, give Nurture Mate. Puppies need colostrum at least once a day for two weeks.
Puppy Umbilical Cord Care
Once you ensure the puppy is breathing and eating, it’s time to care for the umbilical cord. Trim the umbilical cord to ½ to ¾ inch and dip it in a seven percent iodine such as Breeder’s Edge Clean Cut Iodine to sanitize it. That also helps dry up the umbilical cord and keeps mom from trying to clean it off the tummy. Over cleaning by mom can open the belly wall and cause an emergency trip to the vet.
What Should Puppies Be Doing At Two Weeks?
Puppies should eat and sleep around the clock during the first two weeks. If they are crying or fussing this means they are either cold, hungry or sick. They should gain weight and double both their size and body weight during the first week. If you weigh daily and he does not gain for two days it’s time to see your veterinarian.
In days two through seven, wipe Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics Gel or Breeder’s Edge Nurture Flora newborn probiotic supplement on the roof of the puppy’s mouth daily. The gel melts at body temperature and there is no danger of aspiration with it. At birth, the puppy’s gut is sterile and we want only good bacteria populating it.
When Do Puppies Need Vaccinations?
When it comes to vaccinating puppies, follow a general vaccine schedule. It also helps to consult your personal veterinarian for vaccine instructions specific to your unique situation and geographic area. Remember to boost every two weeks until they are nine weeks old. Keeping vaccines two weeks apart helps prevent vaccine interference.
This is a sample vaccine protocol that begins with a parvo-only vaccine early. Parvo can strike early and it is deadly. The exact timing of first shots will vary depending on your breed, puppy size, exposure threats and other factors. For most breeds, this will be when puppies start the weaning process and weigh around a pound. Five weeks is a general guideline but remember we vaccinate the puppy, not the calendar! The Solo-Jec 5® is a 5-way puppy vaccine that is recommended when the puppy is around six and eight weeks old.
Knowing when to deworm puppies is important since this growth phase of their life is when they are most susceptible. Using two different families of dewormers will avoid resistance developing in your kennel. Be sure to have mom dewormed after day 50 of gestation and before birth.
Deworm at two, four, six, eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Deworm again at six months and one year.
Most issues that arise with newborn puppies can be prevented with management. Here are some common post-whelping problems and tips for managing them.
Mother Dog Not Producing Milk for Puppies
Don’t manage delayed lactation, prevent it. Mom might not come into full milk supply for up to 10 days. Giving Breeder’s Edge® Oxy Momma™ three to seven days before the due date ensures she is producing milk on day one, even after a C-section.
Dog Not Producing Enough Milk
If a mother dog doesn’t have milk for her puppies it’s important to treat mom. Prolactin initiates lactation at birth. Reglan (Metoclopramide) helps release prolactin in the postpartum female. You can give Reglan every six hours, with oxytocin every two hours, to help get lactation started. Prolactin stimulates the gland to produce milk, and the oxytocin lets the milk out of the gland into the duct. You should see results within 12 hours.
Fenugreek and chaste tree fruit are herbal products that also help boost milk production. Both are in Oxy Momma. When there is very little or no milk production, double the dose for three days to jump start lactation.
During this time it’s also important to supplement babies to ensure they get colostrum. If you can’t bring the milk in within six hours, bottle feed with a puppy milk replacer, such as Breeder’s Edge® Foster Care™ every two hours and give Breeder’s Edge® Nurture Mate colostrum supplement at least once a day. As the female produces more milk, transition the puppies back to mom. If the puppy is an orphan, in addition to a colostrum substitute, giving Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics Gel or Breeder’s Edge Nurture Flora once a day is also helpful to help with digestion.
Post C-section Care
Following a C-section, it’s important to treat mom for pain, but leave the rest of the puppy care to mom. Your job is to make sure she recovers well by managing the wound with daily cleaning and topical antibiotic. Most moms will be on an antibiotic for seven days post C-section. Bathe her three to five days prior to a planned C-section with Vet Basics® Chlor 4 Shampoo.
Smaller Baby or the Runt Puppy
If one puppy is smaller than the others and can’t get up to the nipple, feed him and give colostrum twice daily to get him caught up. This puppy will need help. You may need to tube feed to help him grow. Breeder’s Edge® Nurture Mate helps these babies as well. It provides more energy and promotes aggressive nursing.
Start mom on Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics granules two weeks before her due date and give babies Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics gel on days two through seven to prevent diarrhea. Continue giving mom GI Synbiotics daily for two weeks after birth or until recovered.
If you notice mom puts a puppy to the side and does not care for it, chances are the puppy is cold. Prevent this from happening by helping the puppies find the nipple and get a full tummy. Not eating leads to puppies getting cold. If the rectal temperature is below 96°F the puppy is chilled. Once chilled, females will set the puppy aside, not knowing what else to do.
If this happens, take the puppy away and warm him up with a hot water bottle or a heating pad on low. Tube feed warm electrolytes with dextrose for the first feeding, then feed Foster Care™. Warm the puppy slowly over several hours depending on the degree of chilling. Losses are high if the puppy is warmed too fast.
Keep them warm until comfortable and sleeping normally on their side or tummy. We usually warm for a minimum of two hours or relapses are common. Once warm, return the puppy to mom to nurse. After she finishes nursing, return the puppy to the supplemental heat or an incubator. Your goal is to get their body temperature to around 100°F and stay there. A rectal thermometer will help tell you if they are ready.
Eclampsia in Dogs
Moms need calcium post whelping. Signs of a calcium deficiency in mom include shaking, seizing, jitteriness, anxiety, not allowing babies to eat and overprotectiveness and over cleaning to the point of eating their babies. Help avoid milk fever or eclampsia in mom by giving Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus™ Gel when starting labor and repeat after every other puppy. If calcium deficiency has been an issue, keep mom on Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus™ Powder as a daily supplement during lactation so she does not relapse. These girls are good lactating moms and likely require more calcium for lactation than their diet is giving them.
This is the fifth article in our My First Litter Series. Other articles in the series talk about pregnancy stages, breeding and heat cycles and what to know before raising a litter of puppies. Be sure to check out all the articles in the My First Litter Series.
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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.