All puppies are born before they are fully developed. They are born with their eyes closed until they are around 7-10 days old, they cannot hear until they are around 14 days old, shortly after which they will begin to walk, and they cannot toilet themselves and need stimulating. Because the puppies are not fully developed at birth, they are fully dependent on their mother, along with the breeders close supervision to make sure each puppy is healthy and developing well.
You need to make sure each puppy is getting milk and has good suction when feeding. The following will show you if each puppy has a proper latch on:
• Their tongue around the teats
• Little pits on the side of their face (cheeks sucked in)
• Check each puppy for cleft lip / palate:
Puppy with cleft palate
Puppies who have cleft lip and/or cleft palate will not be able to feed properly (more on helping these puppies to survive further on).
All puppies need colostrum (first milk) within 12-18 hours after being born. This gives the puppies the protection of the mother’s antibodies. Best to buy some in ready, in case there are any weak/small puppies or, if for any reason, the mother has problems feeding the pups.
Having other supplements in, such as a puppy stimulating paste that contains colostrum is advisable for the same reasons.
A puppy’s temperature is only 94-97 Fahrenheit (compared to adult dogs normal temperature between 100-101 Fahrenheit) so they need an external heat source such as a heat pad. When they are feeding, they will get heat from their mother. The puppies will pile on top of each other to stay warm. Make sure there are no drafts. Puppies can chill and die. Never feed a cold puppy.
Weigh the puppies daily and watch out for any puppies losing weight. They should be double their birth weight at around 8-11 days old. Put slow gainers on larger, fuller teats. As an example, if there 5 puppies and 8 teats, make sure the smaller pups get to drain 2 teats a few time a day. The bigger pups will ALWAYS get to the teats and drain them before the smaller puppies get to feed.
After all pups are born, get rid of all soiled bedding out of the whelping box. Clean the whelping box down with an enzyme cleaner (odour eliminator) as this eliminates urine, faeces, blood etc. Change the bedding at least once a day, although several times a day is recommended to keep everyone clean and fresh.
Puppies cannot have a bowel movement/urinate on their own until around 3 weeks of age. The mother stimulates elimination by licking around the genital area. If she doesn’t do this for her puppies, or if you are hand rearing the puppies, you will have to stimulate them. You can do this by gently rubbing a cotton ball or paper towel moistened with warm water around the anus and genitals. The puppy should have a bowel movement within one to two minutes. Newborn puppies should be stimulated after every feed.
Electrical stimulation causes the puppies muscles to twitch. This stimulates the muscles to build them so over the next few weeks the puppy can begin to stand on their feet and begin to walk. Twitching is a key indicator that the puppy is healthy and developing normally. If twitching stops, the puppy is not developing in some important ways, and is likely to be in critical danger.
Unless you have weak, small puppies, there is no need to intervene when the puppies are pushing each other off the mother’s teats. Stress and struggle during nursing is natural and learns the puppies to gain motor coordination and find the teat, build muscle and deal with frustration.