If you're overseeing a litter of darling newborn puppies, it's easy to feel a little stressed out. Even if you have lots of experience taking care of adult dogs, puppies are a whole new ballgame. Because puppies are born altricial animals -- unable to care for themselves -- they require a lot of care and diligent attention.
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Newborn puppies have zero need for solid foods during their first few weeks post-birth. If their mama dog is healthy and nursing properly, they have all that they need to grow and develop into strong and thriving doggies. If mom for whatever reason isn't in the picture or isn't capable of nursing, commercial puppy formula generally works well. Young pups don't need to start eating any solid foods until they are old enough to begin weaning, which usually is around 3 weeks old.
Sight and sound
As altricial creatures, newborn puppies simultaneously can't see or hear. Their eyes and ear canals are both closed tightly and don't start to open until several days after birth. For the ears, this process typically occurs when the little ones are 5 to 8 days in age. For the eyes, this usually happens when they're 8 to 14 days old. Newborn puppies always begin with pure deep blue peepers, although in most cases, this changes as they develop.
Unlike sleeping and feeding, crying isn't usually a big thing with newborn puppies. If you hear a wee pup crying inordinately, it could signal an issue that requires immediate veterinary attention. The crying could be a sign of sickness, cold or inadequate milk intake. Newborn puppies are delicate creatures, and it's crucial not to ignore any signs of abnormalities. Contact your vet if your pup cries persistently, or if you observe any other signs that something might be wrong -- think breathing problems, isolation from mama and siblings or lack of movement.
Puppies don't come out of the womb instantly knowing how to eliminate. Their mama dogs -- or human owners -- kindly help them out in that department. After feeding sessions, mother dogs encourage their offspring to urinate and pass stools by licking their rear and genital areas. Human caretakers can do the same thing by rubbing the puppies with warm and damp cloths. It usually takes the youngsters between 3 and 4 weeks to start eliminating without any assistance.
Puppies rapidly grow into tiny balls of energy, although they definitely don't start out that way. The fur balls don't even stand up until they're at least 2 to 4 weeks in age. They also generally start walking during that time period. The classic canine behavior of barking also usually starts to emerge during this age bracket.
Typical birth weights for puppies differ according to breed. A German shepherd pup probably won't weigh the same at birth as a Chihuahua newborn, for example. However, rapid weight gain and development is the healthy norm for neonate pups. If a little guy is increasing his body weight by anywhere between 10 and 15 percent each day, then he's on the right track.
By Naomi Millburn
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Newborn Puppy Care
DogChannel.com: Breeders and Newborn Puppies
The Humane Society of the United States: Puppy Behavior Basics
American Animal Hospital Association Healthy Pet: Caring for Puppies and Kittens
Brightwood Animal Hospital: Canine Raising Puppies
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Weaning
Humane Society of El Paso: How to Care for Orphaned or Very Young Puppies
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.