The first few weeks of a puppy's life can be difficult; when they leave the mother's womb, the little ones need to reach her to feed, they must stay warm, have their bodily functions taken care of by the mother, while, during this period, they will be more susceptible to diseases and injuries. It's a tricky stage for puppies, but the mother should be able to pay attention to them; still, in some cases, you will need to help the weaker ones, who are not being so well cared for.
Part 1 of 2: Identifying a Puppy in Need
Step 1. Make sure the mother is taking care of all the puppies
Sometimes she will “ignore” one of the puppies, pushing it away rather than approaching it, and this is cause for concern as it will not get the food and warmth it needs to develop.
Step 2. Look for signs that there are problems
The newborn can weaken quickly, in a matter of hours; there are some signs that should be checked to know if the little one has a problem, such as:
- Feeling cold when touched or cold mouth;
- When placing your fingertip in his mouth, the sucking reflex is weak (disabling breastfeeding);
- Weak or flaccid muscle tone, with head hanging down and legs that don't go backwards when pulled slightly;
- Inability to breastfeed;
- stools on the back, which can indicate diarrhea (a serious symptom);
- Discharge in the umbilical stump;
- The puppy cries incessantly.
Step 3. Pay attention to the weight of the puppies
It is important to weigh the little ones on a suitable scale twice a day; kitchen ones will do, as long as they are cleaned after the procedure or if they are intended exclusively for this purpose. Weight can be measured in grams as long as it is always consistent; puppies cannot lose mass, but gain 10% of what they had at birth (after the first day of life). This indicates that they are drinking an appropriate amount of milk.
Record weight measurements in notebooks or spreadsheets so you can analyze progress during the first two weeks of life
Part 2 of 2: Caring for a Weakened or Neglected Puppy
Step 1. Warm the weakest newborn
When considering that one of the puppies in the litter needs special care, the first measure is to ensure that it is well warmed up, as the little one will not be able to feed and may become dehydrated and hypoglycemic (very low and dangerous levels of blood sugar).
- To warm it up, use a water bottle filled with very hot (not boiling) water, which should be placed in a cardboard box or shoebox and covered with a towel. Then place the puppy on the towel, covering him with a cloth or light towel and closing the top of the box.
- If you prefer, take the puppy in your arms and leave it under your clothes until it is warm. It's a good idea to wrap the animal's back with a clean piece of cloth so it doesn't urinate or defecate on you! Though small, his claws will be sharp, so be prepared to take some scratches.
- Using thermal pads is dangerous as they can end up overheating the newborn even at the smallest settings. The ideal is to warm it up little by little for one to three hours; if the process is faster, the puppy may overheat. There are pet-specific thermal pads that don't heat as much, but the dog cannot be placed directly on them. Cover the pillow with a towel or fleece to avoid thermal burns.
- If the puppy is sweating with his mouth open, he is hot.
Step 2. Measure the puppy's temperature
Once you think your baby is warmer, use a pediatric digital thermometer to measure her rectal temperature. Apply some lubricant to the tip and insert just that part into the rectum, very carefully.
- If the body temperature drops below 34.4 °C, the gastrointestinal tract will not function properly. However, do not allow the rectal temperature to exceed 37.2 °C in puppies less than seven days old to avoid overheating.
- Record the temperature in the same notebook or spreadsheet where the weight is being recorded.
Step 3. Help the puppy feed
Once he's more active and warm, it's time to feed him; make sure the mother allows the puppy to be breastfed. Newborns need their mother's first milk, which has several important antibodies for their immune system to develop.
It may be necessary to get the weakened puppy to feed on its own. Leave the others in the same room as the mother, but away from her body while this newborn tries to get the milk
Step 4. Increase the amount of glucose in this puppy's blood
If your baby is warm but still weak and unable to breastfeed, low blood sugar could be the problem. Put two or three drops of corn syrup on the puppy's tongue to correct this problem. Specific signs of hypoglycemia in newborn dogs are:
- Weakness and lethargy;
- Tremors and spasms. Normal newborns even have spasms, but this should be looked at in conjunction with other signs of hypoglycaemia to differentiate between normal and abnormal spasms;
- Not responding to stimuli or being unconscious.
Step 5. Supplement the puppy milk feed
If he is warm and wants to feed, it may be necessary to give him a formula when the mother will not let him feed or be unable to breastfeed. Buy a formula to replace milk at a pet store or by going to a veterinary clinic, giving the food through bottles or syringes.
Mix the formula as instructed and make sure it is warm but not peeling, as if it were for a baby
Step 6. Feed the puppy regularly
Debilitated newborns should be fed every three to four hours, including at night. Divide the total daily feeding (written on the formula label) by the number of times you feed him each day.
- For example: when feeding it every three hours, it will be eight “meals” a day. If you give the formula every four hours, it's six times a day.
- It is important that the formula is fresh and warm with each feeding.
Step 7. Encourage the puppy's physiological needs
Newborns need stimulation in the genital region to be able to urinate and defecate correctly; usually, the mother performs this task, but it can be left to the owner, when the little one is ignored by her.
- Take a clean cotton ball and moisten it with hot water. Gently rub it on the puppy's genital area so that it urinates and defecates after stimulation.
- Clean the genital area with a clean cloth to remove dirt and discard it along with the cotton. Wash your hands very well.
Step 8. Take the puppy to the vet
If he's not responding to your attempts to warm up or get him to eat, you need to take him to the vet to have the puppy treated. Dehydration is dangerous and puppies can quickly die if they don't get adequate food.
Take the dog to the vet if he has diarrhea, a runny nose, or if there is any other health-related concern. Early treatment is very important for newborns; if you wait too long, he could die
- Keep an eye on the newborns, but discreetly, without irritating the mother. Review them individually at least three times a day.
- The mother's health must always be good during pregnancy; to do this, feed it correctly, administering the vaccines and dewormers at the right time.
- The mother must give birth in a warm (not too hot), clean and draught-free environment so that the puppies are healthy from the first minute of life.