How to care for a new litter of puppies

A new litter of puppies has been welcomed to your home and your whole family is ecstatic about it. While mother nature has gifted mother dog with a good amount of instincts when it comes to caring for her puppies, there are various things you can do to help out the new family. A good place to start is ensuring that the litter of puppies and mom have a warm and comfortable whelping box to thrive in.

Check the overall health status of puppies and mom. Keep your veterinarian's phone number handy in case you need to report any abnormalities.

Tie off the part of umbilical cord the mother has not removed. Use sterile thread and tie off 1 inch from the pup's body and snip above the tie using sterile scissors.

Disinfect the remaining umbilical cord with iodine or betadine to prevent infection. The remaining part will dry up and eventually fall off after two to three days.

Ensure mother dog has discharged all placentas. There should be one placenta for each puppy. If the number of placentas does not match the number of puppies, this may be indication that that the dam has ingested it or the missing placenta has remained in the uterus requiring veterinary care to elicit its expulsion.

Have the mother dog eat and drink to gain back her strength. High-quality dog food is recommended. Take her out for a quick potty break.

In the whelping box, maintain the temperature under the heat lamp around 29.4 degrees Cor the first two to three days. Afterwards, it may be reduced to 23.8 to 26.6 degrees C depending on the surrounding temperature.

Weigh each puppy every day for the first weeks. A puppy will normally lose some weight in the first 24 hours but then should start steadily gaining. Weight should double in the first seven to 10 days.


Have mother and puppies checked by a veterinarian within 24 hours of whelping. If the puppy's nails are sharp, clip them during the first days to avoid them injuring the mother while nursing. If puppies are scattered all around the whelping box and away from the heat lamp, it may be too warm. If puppies are piled up on one another and moving a lot, it may be too cold. If you must have tails docked and dewclaws removed, have it done when the puppies are three to five days old.


While being there in case of need is good, too much intervention from well-meaning owners may interfere with the puppy and mother bonding process. Watch for puppies not nursing with enthusiasm, staying away from the others, appearing cold to the touch and constantly complaining. For hygiene purposes and to prevent illness, clean the whelping box once a day and then twice a day once the puppies start eating solid foods. Make sure your whelping box has rails to prevent mother dog from crushing the puppies.

Things You'll Need

  • Vet's phone number
  • Thread
  • Sterile scissors
  • Iodine or betadine
  • Whelping box
  • Heat lamp
  • Scale
  • Nail clipper
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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.