If you’ve found yourself with an unexpected litter of puppies on the way, it can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking time!
To take some of the stress out of your new bundles of joy, we’ve put together this guide on newborn puppy care to tell you what to expect at each stage and what you can do to help them on their way to growing into healthy and happy adult dogs.
Newborn puppy care week-by-week
From the initial checks at one week old to preparing them to go to their new home when they’re eight weeks, here’s the complete newborn puppy care week-by-week guide.
At one week old newborn puppy care will be relatively simple. They’ll sleep most of the time and when they’re awake, they’ll be focused on feeding – growing is hard work after all!
Check them over
It’s important not to handle them excessively during this stage and that you give them time and space to bond with their mother and litter mates. We encourage checking them over though, it may sound obvious but look for two eyes, two ears, correctly formed facial features, four clean limbs and a straight spine. If you spot a cleft palate, take them to the vet ASAP as they’ll be unable to nurse properly.
Ensure they’re feeding
Make sure they’re feeding properly during their first week. Puppies get colostrum from their mothers’ milk which contains antibodies to protect them during the early stages of their life.
It’s a good idea to start weighing them early on and keep a weight chart and update it each day to ensure they’re gaining weight at a good rate. By 10 days old they should be double their birth weight!
Keep them warm
Newborn puppies can’t regulate their body temperature very well. They’ll receive warmth from their mum, but she may not spend all of her time in the whelping box, especially if she’s very bonded to her family.
Her absences from her puppies are fine providing she’s keeping them well fed and happy, but you may need to find another heat source for when she’s out and about. Speak to your vet about your options.
Clean the whelping box regularly
Make sure you’re keeping the whelping box clean! Regularly change the bedding and pads and keep it smelling and looking fresh for mum and her pups.
Start turning the heat down
At this point the puppies are getting better at regulating temperature, so if you’re providing an extra heat source you can begin turning it down until it reaches about 26 degrees Celsius.
Keep monitoring their weight and make sure they’re still gaining. Weight gain may not be as quick as the first week at this stage, but they should still be gaining.
Part of the newborn puppy care process at two weeks is to begin the deworming process! If you’re unsure about where to start, how much or what to give, consult your vet for guidance.
During the first two weeks of their lives, your puppies won’t be able to support their weight and will crawl around on their belly, but at two – three weeks, they’ll start to walk – albeit a bit wobbly! Around this age, their ears will open up too and they’ll start to hear the world around them. Milk teeth will begin to develop at three weeks of age.
Handle them more frequently
Now the exciting part of your newborn puppy care process begins with more frequent handling. To get them used to it pick them up carefully, hold them for a short while, then place them back in the whelping box. This part is key in helping them understand that people aren’t scary.
It’s important to keep weighing them but at this stage you can reduce the frequency from every day to around every three to seven days.
Lower the heat
If you’re providing an additional heat source, it’s time to reduce the heat to around 23 degrees Celsius.
Start offering water
You can start offering your puppies water at this stage. Get a shallow, puppy-safe dish and pop it in the whelping box with them to see what they make of it.
At four weeks your puppies should be walking quite confidently and it’s likely they’ll be tearing up your house with their antics!
Check their development
Look at their walking gait and their limbs – are they able to support their own weight properly? Do all their limbs look properly formed?
Keep an eye on behaviour
Puppies generally aren’t afraid of anything at this stage, they should be socialising confidently with their mum, siblings and you and interacting with the world around them. If they seem withdrawn or timid, this may be a sign that something’s wrong and it’s a good idea to get them checked out by your vet.
Start introducing soft foods
You can start introducing soft puppy food at this point, but make sure it’s not too solid or hard as they’ll still have their milk teeth.
Puppies should be dewormed fortnightly until they’re 12 weeks old so when they’re 4 weeks, it’s time to deworm again.
At five weeks you’ll have a litter of quite independent pups on your hands and they’ll be confidently investigating everything and will be full of energy.
Spend lots of time with them
Handle your puppies lots and make time for plenty of playing and cuddles.
More solid food
Mum will likely have naturally reduced the amount she feeds them by this stage, so it’s time to bring in more solids. Ensure you’re choosing a good quality puppy food that’s intended for growth and remember they’ll still have their milk teeth so if you’re giving them kibble, soften it with water.
Six – eight weeks
At around this stage your puppies will lose their milk teeth and the fear period will develop where they’ll learn to be afraid of things. It’s helpful to introduce them to as many household sights and sounds that they’ll likely experience throughout their lives prior to this point.
Puppies will be ready to fly the nest at around 8 weeks old, so this part of the newborn puppy care schedule is all about getting them ready for their new homes.
Time to vaccinate
The first puppy vaccinations will be given between 6 – 8 weeks old where they’ll be inoculated against canine distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus and rabies.
Get them registered
If you have a purebred litter and you’re intending to register them, you can do so now.
Puppies should be wormed again at 6 weeks old and again at 8 weeks, continuing fortnightly until they’re 12 weeks.
A fully solid diet
The weaning process should be fully completed by this stage and your puppies should be eating a fully solid diet.
If you have any concerns about the development of your puppies, always consult your vet. Remember at the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
That’s our newborn puppy care week-by-week guide! Looking for some more kitten advice? Read our article on helping your kitten with diarrhoea, next.