Taking care of newborn puppies

1 day old

Fosters are needed frequently for orphaned new born puppies less than 8 weeks of age. Most people would feel comfortable fostering a 6-8 week old puppy. But some fosters might feel a bit fearful about newborn pups; understandably so, because they certainly are vulnerable. The information provided under this tab addresses important issues which one should take into account while raising new born puppies. Adhering to the following guidelines will support you while fostering these little ones and turn it into the best experience you ever had.

Peace purity and regularity.

Eefje 10 days old

Everything stands and falls with PPR meaning peace purity and regularity. Puppies should sleep, and they should sleep a lot during the first four weeks. We humans tend to give them a lot of attention and cuddles, but too much attention at that stage is not beneficial to the pup. They will become over stimulated which causes nervous dogs. 0-3 weeks is nothing more than feeding every 2-3 hours, urinating and defecating, changing and sleep. These interactions will provide sufficient human contact. After three weeks, you’ll notice a change taking place and the pups will start to explore their world. This is the time to start stimulating them a bit more, little by little, but remember these are still very small babies and they desperately need time to rest.


Billy 1.5 weeks. Holding the puppy in an upright position while bottle-feeding prevents milk from entering the longs.

Proper nutrition is very important. Up till the age of 4 weeks puppy milk will suffice. Proper puppy milk can only be acquired at the veterinarians’ practice in canned form. These cans can be quiet expensive. But we have noticed that cheaper brands tend to cause intestinal problems for the pup which can turn into additional veterinary costs. Start with a new born by bottle-feeding the pup every 2-3 hours. Make sure the bottle and teat are clean and regularly sterilize in boiling water. Follow the instructions on the packaging to blend the milk mixture.

I always add one extra scoop of water to the mix on the first day so the pup’s bellies can get used to the new milk. Heat the milk and drop a small drop on your wrist to make sure it is not too hot. The drop shouldn’t burn your wrist but it shouldn’t feel cold either. That’s when the milk’s temperature approaches body temperature.

Don’t shake the milk too much rather stir with a fork to prevent too much air to build. The first bottle-feedings will feel unruly to the pups, since it doesn’t taste like their mom.

Sometimes you have to “anchor” the pups the first day a little more often so they can get used to the taste and ingest sufficient milk. As soon as they get the hang of it, progress to feeding every 2-3 hours. What you’d like to see is the puppies turning into beautiful pears. You’ll see their bellies swell. A beautiful pear is a happy puppy.

It is important to keep the pup in an upright position while feeding as to prevent milk from entering the lungs. So preferably do not lay on it on its back while feeding. If you have several puppies at the same time you best prepare one bottle of milk and feed and relieve each puppy in turn, one after the other. This will be most efficient. After all feeds, properly clean the bottle and store it in the refrigerator. Never reheat the milk. After the pups have reached four weeks of age you may start with soaked dry food by mixing it into the milk creating a ticker mixture.

During that week, the ratio of milk to kibble is reduced by small steps. Eventually reaching a porridge like composition. While taking this step from pure milk mix to kibble-porridge the opening in the teat should be widened accordingly to allow proper flow-trough.

In principle, it should now be possible to feed every four hours and night feeding should no longer be necessary. You can cautiously start to alternate between bottle feeding kibble-porridge and soaked kibble in a bowl. I would often start the day with a bottle feeding of kibble-porridge followed by a meal of soaked kibble in a bowl every four hours. The final evening meal would be bottle fed kibble-porridge. Convenient times are 6-10-14-18-22 o’clock. When the puppies reach 5 weeks of age a total of four feedings per day is sufficient, slowly changing completely into dry kibble. (For more info click tab 5-8 weeks).

Defecate, urinate, change and sleep.

Janneke and Joos 1 week old, conveniently close to each other.

Puppies can’t properly relieve themselves. Usually they have their mother to help them, by licking their bellies until they urinate and defecate. I would often do this both before the bottle to make a little room, and after the bottle to relieve abdominal well. You can do this with a piece of paper towel, toilet paper or a slightly damp washcloth.

Personally I found using a paper towel easiest because you do not have to wash it afterwards. Softly rub the pee pee and the poo poo this is usually enough to get the flow going. You do not really have to massage the abdomen.

After relieving them you put the puppies back on a clean but solid and quiet place to sleep. Keep in mind that the little ones can not yet regulate their temperature well. They love a jar or bottle filled with hot water covered by a towel, it helps them keep warm, they can lay against the warmth or crawl away if they find it too hot. Beware of moisture and drafts. Then it’s blissful to sleep until the next bottle. Actually just like babies ..

Sometimes you’ll encounter pups that can’t defecate as well, this might be caused by the milk to water ratio and adding a little extra water can help. If this doesn’t help you can try taking the temperature. Just by using the thermometer defecating sometimes becomes a little easier. Of course be careful not to insert the thermometer too deep. Only the iron tip should be sufficient. Is the pup still experiencing difficulty? Always consult with a doctor what to do.

Vaccination, parasites and other creepy crawlers.

The puppy should receive the first vaccination when they are 6 weeks old. And then as scheduled by the veterinarian. Puppies can get sick a little after the first vaccination. It sometimes happens that parvo is activated by the first vaccination, and that the puppy becomes seriously ill. In such cases thee pup had already been carrying the parvovirus. This occurs most often with puppies born during the rainy season. Parvo occurs more frequently when there is a lot of rain, so be careful when placing other not fully inoculated or weak animals together.

Pups must be de-wormed as they are 2-4-6-8 weeks of age. Always get your de-worming product with instructions from the veterinarian.

Fleas can make an appearance early on. The only safe method of prevention for the smallest ones is frontline spray. But again, do not overdose just rub a little bit on the puppy.

Sucking on eachother

Puppies without a mother have a need to suck. Normally they would be satisfied by suckling on mother’s nipple but without a mother present this is not possible. It sometimes happens that the puppies will suck on one another to satisfy their need to suck.

The perfect milk mustache

Sometimes they suck each other’s ears or toes, but unfortunately most of the times each other’s genitals.

Twice as cumbersome because the sucking one takes in urine and feces, because it accidentally activates the puddle reflex and the other puppy’s genitals get swollen by the suction force causing urinating to become very difficult. A dangerous situation for both puppies. You can try and prevent this by giving them a little more food so they are a little fuller.

Make sure to follow the feeding schedule so they do not start sucking each other because they are hungry or if they wake up move them apart a little until feeding time. An additional adverse effect is that they are very dirty and sticky because of each other’s feces.


You should really try to avoid washing them but sometimes it is necessary. Definitely when they are covered with feces and you want to prevent flies from laying eggs on them.

You can wash them but you have to be very careful. They can get sick very easily, they can get cold and even a slight breeze can get them sick. If you have to wash make sure you provide a lukewarm bath and do not use shampoo. Just a quick dip and you are done and make sure to keep the head dry, just rub it clean while drying later on. Dry them very well. Keep rubbing until they are well dried. Finally you swaddle the puppy just like you would with a baby in a fleece blanket and you can even place a hot water bottle besides the puppy for extra warmth. Do not open any windows and be careful with draughts. Usually they fall asleep for a while and when they wake up they are completely dried.

A few pointers

If you have a few puppies it can be hard to keep them apart. Especially in the beginning and when they are all the same color. You can brand them using a tiny point of nail polish on one of the toenails or on a small spot of neck hair. When they grow a bit bigger you can use different colored straps or bows.

When you are giving medicine or feeding it is very convenient to know which one had his turn already. Place all of them together in a laundry basket and each one who had had his turn is placed back to their clean sleeping space.


Feeding while lying on a towel works fine as well

A clean environment is very important. Clean feces and pee continuously and change the towels at least every time you feed, you can also use newspapers as a bottom layer. Clean well daily by using soapy water with Discilin and Clorox. A clean environment helps prevent diarrhea and other inconveniences.

It is best to weigh the pups daily at the beginning. Keep a weight list and check if the puppy is gaining weight. There will always be bigger and smaller puppies in each litter, this is normal. It is important to see a rise in weight every day. One will grow a bit faster than the other but you should se regular growth in all of them.

Do you have a sick puppy or a puppy that is not feeding? Do not wait more tan one feeding before seeing a veterinarian. Puppies are very vulnerable and they can turn from bad to worse very quickly. If the puppy is weak or if it has a fever, if it is not feeling well or if it is squeaking or crying a lot or if it is very quiet when it should have been hungry it might indicate something is off. You’d rather see the veterinarian one time too often.

Mini dehydrated, hanging on a tread

O.R.S is a good means to help the puppy maintain slats and minerals when they have diarrhea. Also puppy’s who have been marked as dehydrated because they have been lying in the streets for too long can benefit from ORS. Veterinaries often recommend Pydialite but this is very sweet and puppy can get nauseous from the sweet taste. ORS is the same thing but the taste is less sweet. It’s on sale at the pharmacy and is sold in little bags which you add water to. Please take notice that Pydialite as well as ORS have a very short shelf life after opening. Do not forget to give a sick puppy ORS every hour also at night. Many very weak puppies have made a recovery thanks to ORS and of course the medication provided by the vet.

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