Should I Wake Up Newborn Puppies to Feed?

Proud owners of newborn pups may rejoice when their puppies nurse like there's no tomorrow, but may understandably grow concerned when the pups spend more time sleeping than eating. If your newborn pups appear healthy and sleep around the clock, you may want to abide to the golden rule of letting sleeping dogs lie.


Normal Puppy Behaviors

Don't lose sleep over your pup's sleeping and eating habits; chances are high they're totally normal. Puppies tend to doze off a whole lot during their first week of life. Expect them to spend about 90 percent of the time sleeping and the remaining 10 percent suckling, according to Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. While this may seem like a whole lot of sleeping to you, this is a normal stage of their development.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

The prolonged sleeping patterns of newborn puppies are there for a purpose; indeed, while those pups heavily snooze, they're actually growing. The pronounced twitching and jerking taking place during sleep is actually part of a deep form of sleep known as ''activated sleep.'' Until the pup is 4 weeks old, this form of sleep will prevail, since its main purpose is to strengthen those leg muscles so to later allow the puppy to stand at 14 days and then walk by day 21, according to the website DVM 360.

Special Cases

Normally, newborn pups will nurse at least every two hours in their first week of life; however, in some cases, you'll have to roll up your sleeves and bottle-feed the pups yourself using commercial milk formulas. This often happens when mama dog refuses to nurse or requires medical attention. In such a case, should the puppies be sleeping soundly, it's best to not wake them up to feed them. Wait instead for the pups to wake up, recommends Animal Emergency Centre.

Ensuring Proper Nourishment

Weighing the pups daily is an excellent way to keep track of good eating habits and growth. Normally, during the pups' first weeks of life, expect their body weight to double or even triple. Ideally, healthy puppies should be gaining a good 10 to 15 percent of birth weight daily, according to the ASPCA. Keep a special eye on pups who don't appear to be gaining adequate weight during this time, as they may fail to thrive and may not survive.

Signs of Trouble

A puppy sleeping too much or lying quietly away from his mom and siblings needs help, and so does a puppy who fails to nurse. Ideally, mama dog and her pups should see the vet within the first 24 to 48 hours post-whelping. This way the vet can immediately recognize signs of trouble and can also ensure mama dog is doing fine. Sleeping too much, weakness and lethargy may be suggestive of serious problems, such as low body temperature and low blood sugar, which require immediate intervention.

By Adrienne Farricelli

About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.