Whether your mother dog is very young or temperamental, an older dog that has milk failure or perhaps there are runts in the litter, you may have to step in to take care of newborn puppies. Feeding them, keeping them warm, helping them potty and developing their social skills are essential when caring for newborn puppies.
During the first four weeks of life, the mother's milk provides all the nutrition a newborn puppy needs to flourish. If mother's milk is unavailable or you have runts, you will need to bottle-feed the newborns with a commercial canine milk replacer. Nursing bottles and replacer are available through pet stores or your veterinarian's office. Feed the puppies while they are resting on their stomachs, not upside-down like a human baby. Feed the puppies a small amount and often. Normally, puppies nurse every two hours. Your veterinarian can suggest the amount according to the breed of your puppies.
Because newborn puppies can't keep themselves warm, you will need to provide them with warmth, especially if they are orphaned. Create a nesting box using a cardboard box large enough for the puppies to turn around. Line the box with clean towels and place the box away from any drafts and windows. Wrap a pet heating pad with a towel and turn it on low. Place it in one section of the box so the puppies can move away from the heat if they want. Avoid using a heating pad for humans because it can be too hot even on the low setting. You may want to add a stuffed animal for them.
Handling and Socializing
During the first two weeks, handle the puppies only when feeding them, cleaning them and helping them potty. The mother helps them potty by licking the anal and urinary regions. If the mom is not available, you can help them potty by massaging the regions with a washcloth dipped in warm water. Massage them after you feed them. Begin the socializing process at 3 weeks of age. Start handling them a few times a day for short periods to help them acclimate to human touch.
Begin to transition the puppies to solid food at 4 weeks of age. Mix the milk replacer with puppy kibble soaked in water. Mix to the consistency of gruel. Begin by dipping your finger in the gruel and letting the puppies lick your fingers. They will soon learn to eat from a bowl. Make sure they have clean water, as well. At 5 weeks of age, the puppies can begin roaming in a larger area. Make sure paper is available for them to potty on. You will want to guide them to the area after eating, play sessions and after they nap. In addition, plan on a veterinary visit for a checkup and deworming. Vaccinations should begin at 6 weeks of age.
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.