Proactive Puppy CareLast updated: April 4, 2018
The secret to healthy puppies in every litter starts before whelping even begins.
Dr. B's RulesThere are two important rules to follow with any pregnancy. The first: Nothing goes into mom that doesn't help the pregnancy. Vitamins and balanced nutrients for mom are important, but in early pregnancy, high calories are unnecessary. In later pregnancy, from day 45 to term, extra calories are needed. In the last week of pregnancy, the puppies will double their weight. Put mom on puppy food since it has more calories per bite and keep her eating to help ensure her puppies are born chubby and with lots of brown fat.
After birth everything must keep the puppy growing and comfortable. This leads to rule number two: Nothing goes into a puppy that does not help him grow. Getting puppies on the ground efficiently and nursing their first meal is the important groundwork for healthy puppies.
Make Whelping Less StressfulThe birthing process is stressful and hard on puppies. Properly managing whelping helps get the first puppy on ground earlier and helps mom not become as tired since she pushes better and recovers quickly between puppies.
Calcium supplementation is the key to a less stressful labor. During early labor, give mom Breeder's Edge® Oral Cal Plus to supplement the calcium that she is pulling out of her bones.
Puppies Are Born… Now What?Warm puppies with tummies full of colostrum from mom is your goal. Colostrum turns on the puppy's gut, provides necessary antibodies and tells the puppy's stomach to start digesting milk. But mom doesn't make colostrum for long. That's why once the puppies are on the ground, get them nursing right away and keep them nursing for the first 12 hours.
During the first four days, watch the puppies and identify who is at high risk. This is especially important for first or second-time moms. Ensure the new mom tucks and cleans her puppies and keeps them stimulated, warm and eating as soon as possible. Be sure to have a bulb syringe on hand to help clear the airway. If the puppy is having trouble latching onto mom, rub his mouth on the nipple sideways.
What is "Blue Belly"?Blue Belly is a systemic infection most often caused by a navel infection. The newborn will become lethargic and eventually die. Oftentimes these newborns are eating so you need to watch for other signs such as a brick red belly and then a blue looking belly right before death. To prevent a navel infection from developing into blue belly, dip the newborns' umbilical cords in strong Iodine 7% or Triodine-7 to seal, disinfect and dry up the umbilical as soon as possible after birth.
Fading Puppy SyndromeFading puppy is caused by us, so that means it is possible to prevent. Always keep in mind that a nursing puppy has a thin skin so she can absorb toxins easily. Chlorine disinfectant is the number-one cause of fading puppy syndrome. Other cleaning agents such as pine oil cleaners and ammonia disinfectants are also dangerous. Instead, use chlorhexidine because it is safe and effective.
When Tube Feeding is NecessaryIf you notice a puppy is an ineffective nurser, you most likely will need to tube feed. Signs of an ineffective nurser are:
- Falls off the nipple.
- Cries and is fussy.
- Mom becomes over-attentive to them early on.
- Can attach and mouth the nipple, but can't pull a vacuum, therefore no milk is extracted.
If the baby is a preemie, tube feed until she is term age. Once they are a few days old, they will usually nurse on mom or you can continue to feed the puppy with a bottle.
How to Identify and Care for a PreemieKnowing how premature a newborn is will help determine what type of care he will need.
If the newborn is four days early, he will have a slick muzzle. He also will not have a suck reflex and will just mouth the nipple. If this is the case, tube feed Breeder's Edge® Foster Care Milk Replacer until they are term age. Also, be sure they are getting colostrum daily from mom and if they are not being cared for by mom, give them a daily probiotic such as Doc Roy's® GI Synbiotics gel. You will notice them take off growing at ages 14 to 28 days.
If the puppy is born seven days early, he will have very little hair on his body. At this age, they are hard to save but it can be done.
How to Help the Snuffed Up PuppyIf a puppy is snuffed up, it can't breathe through his nose. Therefore he can't breathe and nurse at the same time. Saline nose drops given daily work great in this situation. Choose drops either with or without lincomycin. Simply drip in the drops and let the puppy blow it out. Continue to do this until the puppy's nose is clear and he is breathing.
Milk Replacers and ProbioticsWhen selecting a milk replacer, remember a dog's milk is 12% fat. That is like cream. Goat or cow's milk is only 3% fat and is not a good permanent substitute. Choose a milk replacer such as Breeders' Edge® Foster Care that has a high fat content and digestible fat.
Meanwhile, ensure the puppy is getting a proper dose of good bacteria to line their digestive system. Mom's licking will help with most of this, but a probiotic can help too. When selecting a probiotic make sure to use one that bypasses the stomach. Doc Roy's® GI Synbiotics Gel is a prebiotic and probiotic that works well with babies since they can't aspirate gel.
Deworm and VaccinateKnowing and understanding when to deworm is key. Set up a deworming protocol such as this:
When it comes to developing a vaccination protocol keep it simple and start early so the puppy is protected before they see the wild virus. Work with your personal veterinarian to determine what schedule is right for your puppies or give us a call for some general guidelines.
Weaning PuppiesStart feeding gruel when the puppies are interested in food and not content with just milk. This often happens at about four weeks of age. It can be as early as three weeks for large breeds. Start by mixing a milk replacer with rice cereal. Adding GI Synbiotics to this mixture gives puppies an extra boost of probiotics, which helps them better deal with the stress of a new diet.
To create gruel, soak puppy food in warm water for about 20 minutes. Then add water and milk replacer for flavor. Each day, add less and less moisture until the puppies are eating mostly dry food.
Ready For A New HomeIf a puppy isn't eating solid food well, don't move him. Wait until he is ready. When the puppy is ready for his new home, send electrolytes with the new owners to help the puppy stay hydrated during the transition.
And keep in mind, behavior is the number one concern people have with their new puppy. So give new owners the My Puppy Guide to help them better understand how puppies think. That way they can learn how to help the puppy adjust to his new home.
If you found this helpful, be sure to watch Dr. B's free webinar on Proactive Puppy Care. And, if you have any questions on puppy care, don't hesitate to give us a call at 800.786.4751.
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.
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.