Directions to Build a Puppy Incubator

Updated February 21, 2017

A puppy incubator, or puppy box, is useful to help puppies get off to a good start in the first few hours of their lives. According to the American Kennel Club, puppies are unable to regulate their own body temperatures in the first few days after birth. Newborn puppies need to be kept in a moist environment with a steady temperature close to 35 degrees C. In normal situations, the body warmth of the mother provides these needs. In situations where keeping the puppy close to the mother's body is not possible, such as the first puppy in a litter, an incubator may be useful.

Line a wooden or cardboard box with styrofoam insulation. You can build such a box out of plywood and nails or glue. The size of the puppies anticipated will determine the size of the puppy incubator. A dog owner whelping Pomeranians, for example, might need a 12-inch by 12-inch by 6- or 8-inch deep box. Someone whelping Great Danes could use a box twice that size. The box needs to have the capacity to contain the entire litter under worst conditions. The top of the box and one side should be removable to allow access to the puppies for both the owner and the mother dog.

Place a controllable heating pad in the box, wrapped in a towel. Control is vital. The AKC says the ideal temperature for puppies during their first five weeks of life is between 29.4 and 32.2 degrees C. Monitor a thermometer placed in the box to maintain the proper temperatures.

Place a small dish of water in the box. Puppies won't be drinking water at this time, but the humidity created by the water dish next to the heat pad is important. Because the skin of newborn puppies is not fully developed, it can dehydrate quickly. The ideal relative humidity for the incubator is 65 per cent. Place a humidity gauge in the box and monitor it closely while the puppies are in the box.


The incubator can be used to maintain the early puppies in a litter while the mother dog continues with the birthing process. The puppy incubator should be kept in the whelping pen so the mother can watch over the puppies in the incubator. In this situation, one side of the incubator should be removed.


Puppies need to suckle milk from the mother as soon as possible after birth. The milk produced by the mother during the first 36 hours after giving birth includes antibodies that help prevent disease.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden or cardboard box, or plywood to build a box
  • Styrofoam insulation
  • Heating pad
  • Thermometer
  • Water pan
  • Humidity gauge
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About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.