How to care for a new litter of puppies

Written by adrienne farricelli Google
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How to care for a new litter of puppies
Puppies are adorable but can be vulnerable during their first days. (Labrador retriever litter image by crazy.nataly from

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.

Skill level:

Things you need

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

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  1. 1

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

  2. 2

    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.

  3. 3

    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.

  4. 4

    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.

  5. 5

    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.

  6. 6

    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.

  7. 7

    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.

Tips and warnings

  • 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.

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