Caring for a Newborn Puppy

Question: How do I know if a newborn puppy is healthy, and what should I do if the puppy feels cold?

Answer: Healthy puppies should be plump and firm with pink mucous membranes. The heart rate is usually more than 200 beats per minute until 2 weeks of age. Respiration rate ranges from 15 to 35 times per minute. And the rectal temperature of the newborn is 96 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, gradually increasing to 100 degrees at 7 days of age.

Puppies are unable to regulate body temperate for the first two weeks of life. Optimal temperature for a newborn less than 7 days old is 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, decreasing to 80 degrees for 1-4 weeks of age.
Babies that separate from littermates may get too warm and should be checked for panting, red gums and red skin. A dry, lackluster, roughened hair coat is another sign of illness and maternal neglect. Decreased muscle tone is a very bad sign. Any puppy (or kitten) which cries for more than 20 minutes should be checked to see if it is cold, hungry, neglected or ill.

If the puppy is cold, he is unable to digest the mother’s milk because his enzymes have become inactivated. Therefore, give him a sugar solution (two parts sugar or honey to one part water) which can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream without the need for digestion. Warm him gently with a towel-wrapped hot water bottle or electric pad. Mother’s milk can be reinstated when he is no longer cold. If you have to bottle feed the puppies, feeding should be every six hours to encourage adequate time for stomach emptying and rest.


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