The newborn puppy is very different from the adult dog and has different needs. So, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on the litter to ensure that they grow into healthy adults.


The first thing to do is to make sure you can identify each pup! Make note of any coat pattern changes, colour changes, or anything else that differentiates one from the other. You can even use nail polish or a non-toxic permanent marker to mark puppies that look the same.

Weigh your pups!

All the puppies should be weighed at birth as soon as the mother will allow it. Why is this important? Puppies need to put on at least 10-15% of their birthweight in the first 15 days of life. Since even weak newborns can appear to be nursing normally, it’s very difficult to notice signs of illness in them. Failing to put on weight can be the most obvious sign that something is wrong with a puppy. So weigh your pups!

Keep them warm

Newborns cannot regulate their own body temperatures, so even a short stint of cold can be extremely bad for their health. The room they are kept in need to be warm and cozy. Keep a thermometer at home and learn how to take a rectal temperature from your vet. Signs of low temperature include dullness and refusing to move or nurse. Contact your vet immediately if something seems off.

Make sure all the puppies are being fed

In large litters, all the puppies may not find a treat to latch on to at the same time, and some may go hungry. Puppies have pretty weak metabolisms, and can’t stand hunger even for a short time, so it’s important to make sure all the puppies are drinking milk. Keep a watch at feeding time, and rotate pups if necessary to make sure that all of them are fed.

Identify the runt  

On the topic of feeding, in every litter there will always be a weak puppy (known as the runt) which, if left on its own, will not get enough milk because it’s not strong enough to compete with its siblings. You need to identify this pup and make sure it’s getting enough to drink. The teats closest to the hind limbs usually have the most milk, so place the weaker puppies there, so that they can have their fill. Make sure that you keep the teat area as clean as possible by wiping it down with warm washcloth or non-scented antiseptic wipes frequently.

What if there’s not enough milk?

Sometimes, if the litter is too large, or the mother is unable to produce milk, you’ll need to find an alternative. There are milk replacers specifically for dogs available in the market. Ask your vet for a recommendation, and use one of those. NEVER use cow’s or goat’s milk directly without dilution for newborn pups. This can cause diarrhoea, which can soon turn fatal for their tiny bodies.

Can I make a milk replacer at home?

If you google milk replacer for dogs, you’ll find plenty of sites which advocate plenty of homemade recipes for milk replacers. However, unless given a verified veterinary professional, it must be avoided. Newborns are super delicate, and the wrong ingredients can spell death for them. If you’re in a pinch and need an emergency milk replacer, I suggest using human baby food for very small pups and moist and diluted puppy food for anything above a month of age.

Deworming and vaccinations

Deworming can start as early as one week of age, so contact your vet for a schedule and an appropriate dewormer. Same for vaccinations, which can start as early as one month of age.So, there you have it, a quick how-to on taking care of a newborn litter! Remember to contact your vet for any emergencies or queries.