Breeding, Newborn Care Tips, Puppy and Kitten Care, Vet Minute

How to Help a Weak Newborn Puppy

In this Vet Minute, Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, talks about some common newborn puppy problems. From a newborn puppy struggling to breathe to a newborn puppy too weak to nurse, Dr. Greer shares the most common reasons a newborn puppy is weak and what important steps you can take immediately after birth to help.

Caring for Weak Puppies

Why is My Newborn Puppy So Weak?

Puppies can be born weak for a lot of reasons. Typically it’s either a prolonged delivery or a difficult delivery, so the puppy has some sort of oxygen deprivation during the birthing process. The ideal situation is for puppies to be born fairly quickly after the placenta detaches they need to be born quickly enough that they still have adequate blood flow that provides oxygen to them during the birth process.

What Do You Do When a Newborn Puppy is Weak?

Once they are born, the important thing to remember are airway, breathing, circulation and dry and warm. So the A,B,C,D. A is airway. So we wanna make sure that the placental fluids are off the puppies face as quickly as possible. That’s a little bit harder when the puppies are born rear end first, it’s normal for puppies to be born 40 percent of the time with their back feet first, that is not a breech, that is a normal delivery. Head first is 60 percent of the time. That does give the female or you a better chance to get the membranes off the puppy during the birth process if you’re present. So we wanna clear the face of the membranes so that the puppies first breath is taken into the air and not into the membranes. The second is to make sure they are breathing.

How Do You Revive a Newborn Puppy?

You wanna make sure that if they’re not breathing that you give the puppy supportive care. That’s going to include the DeLee Mucus Trap or the bulb syringe to help get the puppy started breathing. The C, ABC is for circulation. So you wanna make sure that they have a heartbeat. So grab your stethoscope, see if they have a heartbeat, if they don’t then we need to talk about puppy CPR. And then the fourth is the D for dry and warm. So airway, breathing, circulation and dry and warm. So all those things have to happen in a very short time period after birth. Within a few seconds to a few minutes of the time that the puppy is born. Whether it’s born by dog C-section or by vaginal birth, those things have to happen.

So at that point if we have a puppy that is breathing, it has an open airway, it’s got a heartbeat and you’re keeping it warm and drying it off so it doesn’t chill, then we can start talking about some other puppy supportive care. Karo syrup is a great way to get some glucose in them if they seem a little bit weak, caffeine tablets we use those frequently in our practice to help with the puppies circulation and with the strength of their heart contractions. So you just take a caffeine tablet and dissolve that in some water and put a drop on the puppies tongue, then if they’re still struggling a bit, you can get them into oxygen. So we carry the Puppywarmer Oxygen Concentrator and Incubator and that’s a way to deliver oxygen to the puppy in a controlled environment where it’s warm and you have oxygen at a 95 percent rate with regular room air only being 20 percent. And then once we get that far down the road, we’ve got a puppy that is breathing, it’s strong enough that we can start talking about supportive care with nutrition, then we can start talking about tube feeding puppies.

If you need help or have other questions on how to save a weak newborn puppy, call us at 800.786.4751.

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.