Raising Puppies in the First Few Weeks

You'll have to play "momma dog" for newborn puppies if, for whatever reason, their real mother can't take care of them. During the first few weeks without a mother, you'll need to mimic everything she would do for them. This includes feeding, bathing and helping them eliminate. This is an around-the-clock job, as newborns need to be fed every two to three hours. Thus you may want to enlist the help of an assistant.


Items You Will Need:

• Puppy milk replacement
• Eyedropper or nursing bottle
• Bowl
• Bottle warmer
• Heating pad or hot water bottle
• Blankets or sheets
• Cotton ball
• Soft washcloths


1 - Heat up the puppy formula, often called "milk replacer," to a lukewarm temperature by placing the formula in a container and then in a bowl of hot water. Boiling water will be too hot and microwaves can be uneven. You can also use a bottle warmer if you have one handy. Just as with checking formula for a human infant, test it on the inside of your wrist to make sure it's not too hot.

2 - Put the formula in a specialized nursing bottle or an eyedropper. Before feeding her, make sure that the formula doesn't run out of the nipple by turning it upside down -- if it does it means the hole in the nipple is too big. This could result in drowning or other problems for your baby pups.

3 - Hold the pup with her belly on your hand or forearm and gently cradle her head. then put the nipple to her mouth. Do this every two to three hours throughout the day for the first week or two, then reduce it to every six to eight hours after the third week.

4 - Mix the formula with wet or dry puppy food when the pups reach 3 to 4 weeks old. Place the mixture on a flat saucer. The consistency should be similar to that of oatmeal. This will start the weaning process. Put some of this mixture on the tip of your finger and hold it to the puppy's mouth then slowly move your finger to the saucer of food.

Warmth and Hygiene

1 - Place a heating pad or hot water bottle under a blanket or towel in the puppy's nesting box. Mother dogs keep their babies warm by nuzzling them and keeping them close. The heating source mimics this. During the first week, the ideal temperature should be around 85 to 90 degrees. You can drop this to 80 degrees for the next month or so. Puppies over 6 weeks can handle 75 degrees.

2 - Dip a cotton ball in warm -- not hot -- water and gently rub their anal region and lower abdomen with it. This will help stimulate elimination, as puppies won't do this on their own. Don't rub too hard or for too long; a couple of minutes suffices.

3 - Wash the puppies' bodies with warm water after elimination, either urination or defecation. Wash with a very soft washcloth to do this. Urine can cause skin burns similar to diaper rash, while feces may cause infection or invite parasites.

4 - Massage newborns gently all over their body with your fingertips or a soft, dry cloth to help stimulate them and mimic their mother's love.

Warning: Call your veterinarian if any of the puppies are crying for extended periods of time, not gaining weight or if you suspect anything is wrong.

By Jasey Kelly

Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital: Orphan Puppy & Kitten Care
American Kennel Club: Responsible Breeding Steps 17 - Care For Orphaned Puppies
Brightwood Animal Hospital: Raising Orphaned Puppies

About the Author
With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.