Newborn puppies are completely dependent on their mother's milk for nutrition during the first few weeks of life. Unfortunately, if mom has a large litter, she may not be keeping close tabs on every one of her puppies. This can leave one or more puppies vulnerable to poor growth and malnutrition. With close monitoring, you'll know that all the pups are getting milk and growing according to the schedule. If one falls behind, you can jump in and take over.
Watch the puppies following the birth to make sure each finds and drinks from the mother's nipples. If one or more has trouble locating the nipples, point them in the right direction. This first feeding is important because it provides newborn pups with colostrum, which contains most of the mother's important antibodies.
Listen during nursing for sucking and swallowing sounds. Newborn puppies are weak and they may pause or even rest between each swallow.
Check the puppies to see if they have milk on their face or mouth. If the mother's milk supply is adequate, at least one puppy will have evidence on his face.
Place your hand on each puppy's abdomen. It should feel firm and round and the skin should be stretched. This means their tummy is full. Be gentle.
Move any struggling, small or neglected puppies to the hind nipples, as these usually give the most milk. Make sure larger puppies do not push the smaller puppies out of the way.
Weigh the puppies once per day, or as instructed by your veterinarian. If any puppies fail to consistently gain weight, or if any of the new puppies lose weight, speak with your vet right away.
Monitor the puppies throughout the first few days, and then check them periodically over the next couple of weeks. Note if any puppies appear thin, weak or underweight. Also, notice if any puppies are having trouble latching on or if any are crying excessively. All of these signs may indicate a serious problem.
Consult your veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns. He may recommend a milk supplement for some or all of the puppies.