Puppy and Kitten Care
Nursing Puppy Problems – Preventing Loss
August 11, 2022
Nursing Puppy Problems – Preventing Loss
Last updated: August 02, 2016
This article is adapted from Dr. B’s webinar on Nursing Puppy Loss. To watch the free webinar, click here.
Most of the time newborn puppies or kittens need little attention as mom has it under control. Healthy newborns sleep, eat and seldom cry. But, if they are not well, they cry and crawl away from their mom and littermates. When a newborn’s body temperature drops, mom will move that baby to the side and will not care for it. This newborn is in trouble and you must act quickly to avoid death.
When treating a puppy or kitten in the first five days of life, you must remember your patient is a newborn! The two most important things to correct are body temperature and dehydration.
Cause of Death
Chilling is the number one cause of death in newborns. When newborns are cold, their metabolism rate slows down and they do not nurse or digest milk. If not remedied, they will become cold, malnourished and dehydrated.
Chilled Baby Care
All chilled newborns should be warmed gradually. A sudden body temperature change will put them in shock and they will die. The best way is to place them in an incubator at 100º F or cover a hot water bottle with a light towel and place inside a covered box. Place the newborn’s tummy on top of the towel covered water bottle and place cover on the box. In an emergency, tuck them next to your skin beneath a sweater or jacket and use your own body heat to warm until other arrangements are made. If the newborns rectal temperature is approaching 94º F, warming to 100º F and stabilizing them can take two hours. If their rectal temperature is below 94º F losses are high in the warming process.
It’s also important to keep the environmental temperature warm, in order to keep the puppies warm enough. Week one the whelping box temperature should be 86° to 90° F. Week two, keep the whelping box between 80° to 85° F and by week four the whelping box should be 70° to 75°F.
Newborns are 78 percent water. These little guys are not nursing and their kidneys are not functioning. They are suffering from an excessive loss of water and electrolytes. Dehydration requires immediate care.
For kittens or tiny breed puppies, tube or bottle feed 1 cc of a warmed oral electrolyte solution such as Breeders’ Edge® Puppy and Kitten Lyte. For average sized puppies start small as stomach is empty, 4 cc for a puppy weighing one-half pound and increase 1 cc per feeding. Capacity is 18 cc per pound but that is for a healthy puppy so always start low (one-half of maximum capacity) and work up. A warmed solution of a 50/50 mix of Pedialyte® and water can be used and should be in your emergency kit.
Treatment for Chilled and Dehydrated Newborns
- When you find newborn issue, put baby close to your skin until you warm an incubator. If using the hot water bottle method, check the temperature by placing the back of your hand on the towel covered heat surface, if it is okay for you it is okay for the baby.
- After 15 minutes of warming, tube or bottle feed warm electrolytes.
- Put back on heat source and wait 30 minutes. Stomach should be empty. Feed electrolytes and electrolyte solution for second feeding.
- Put back on heat source and in 30 minutes feed milk replacer or if active, place on mom. Puppies search for nipple by weaving sideways. Rub nipple on mouth sideways and they will attach. When full put back on warmth! They chill easily first 24 hours after an issue.
Don’t be afraid to put back on mom. Mom will still take them back once warm and healthy and no one gives better care than a mom.
Healthy moms have healthy babies. Your number one priority is to get mom healthy and keep her healthy. Rarely do healthy moms have problems. But, problems can happen and when they do you need to act quickly to save the baby.
– Dr. B
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.