Few things are as heartwarming as a newborn litter of puppies, but as content as they may seem, they’ll need a thorough exam from your veterinarian shortly after delivery. Your vet will also want to evaluate the mother at the same time to ensure she's healthy enough to care for her fuzzy infants. Plan ahead and form a relationship with your vet. That way when the time comes, it’ll go as smoothly as possible.
The First Checkup
You should have your furry brood and your new mama dog checked out by your vet within 48 hours of the birth, suggests VCA Animal Hospitals. This is especially important if your pooch is a first-time mom and may be a little unfamiliar with how to take care of herself and her babies. Of course, if anything seems off, notify your veterinarian right away.
Watch for excessive discharge from your mother pooch’s hindquarters. Greenish-black discharge after delivery is normal, although if it lasts for more than a day or two or if she is bleeding, you’ll want to call your veterinarian immediately. He may need to evaluate her before her scheduled appointment. During her checkup, your veterinarian will look at her vaginal area, watching for signs of infection such as tears, pus or abnormal bleeding. He’ll also check her mammary glands to look for abnormalities and see if she's producing sufficient milk. This is imperative for your puppies’ development, since you might not be able to tell if they’re getting enough to eat.
He’ll also evaluate each newborn to check for birth defects, such as difficulty breathing, cleft palate or an abnormal heart rhythm. If he notices that one of the newborns seems smaller than the others, he’ll probably suggest giving this pup a little extra care. The teats between your mother dog’s hind legs typically give the most milk, so your vet may suggest making sure the smaller pup latches on to one of these teats to give him direct access to the maximum amount of nourishment. Your vet will also weigh each pup to keep tabs on its growth. Ideally, newborn puppies should gain 10 to 15 percent of their birth weight each day for the first weeks of life, according to the ASPCA. Your veterinarian might be able to give you a more specific daily weight-gain goal, depending on the breed of your pint-size canines.
Because safely moving the entire whelping box and the mother -- who is probably a bit sore -- can be a challenge, you might want to opt for a vet who does house calls. That way you won’t have to worry about stressing out your entire furry family or risk putting them in danger. Ideally, you should develop a relationship with your vet before the birth, so he can explain what to do if something goes awry and go over any hazards in your home.
By Melodie Anne Coffman
About the Author
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.