Caring for Your Newborn

Congratulations - you're a grandparent!

Your dog or cat has just delivered a wonderful litter of puppies or kittens. Even though the new mom will probably do a great job caring for her babies, there are some things you can do to help her while she continues to nurse.

Is it warm enough for these babies?
During the first few weeks of life, puppies and kittens are unable to maintain their body temperature and may easily become chilled. Usually, they snuggle up to their mother. If the mother is ill or absent, you can help keep the newborns warm by keeping the whelping box environment around 85 degrees Fahrenheit for the first 5 days. Indirect heat provided by a heat lamp or warm water bottles can also be used. Over the next few weeks, slowly reduce the temperature to around 75 degrees.

Snuggle Puppie
Thermo Pet Mat
Heated Whelping Nest

How do I know the babies are getting enough to eat?
Well-fed puppies and kittens sleep contentedly after nursing and have full (not bloated) bellies. Excessive crying or restlessness, especially after nursing, indicates a problem. It is a good idea to weigh the newborns daily to ensure there is a steady weight gain.

Portable Veterinary Scale

During the first few weeks, the mother will stimulate elimination by cleaning and licking her babies. If the mother isn't able to, you can help by gently rubbing a warm moist cotton ball on the anal and genital area every 4 hours.

How do I keep these precious babies healthy?
Help the mother keep the environment clean by changing the bedding daily. Watch for weight loss or continual crying. If the mother seems to be neglecting certain newborns, those babies will need your help to survive. If you notice any problems, contact a veterinarian right away.

The first vaccines are given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age in puppies. In kittens, the vaccines are given at 6 to 8 weeks and every 3 to 4 weeks thereafter until 14 weeks of age. Booster shots are recommended annually.

Don't forget about worms!
Internal parasites are very common in kittens and puppies. Take a fecal sample when the babies are 4 to 6 weeks and check for parasites.

Nemex 2

With your help, the new mother will get her newborns off to a strong, healthy start. Enjoy your new arrivals! Puppies and kittens grow quickly!

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

Return to Articles


We take care of people who take care of pets