“Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot little puppies.” – Gene Hill
Puppies are very cute and warm creatures. They symbolize hope, excitement, and a new life. It is a welcome addition to any home that owns a female dog. These cute and cuddly fur babies are nice to look at, but they require special treatment and care. There are several important things that you must know to make sure that these newborn fur babies stay healthy as they grow up. This is one of the most exciting milestones in your life as a pet parent, but the excitement can be filled with challenges depending on how you look at it.
Pre-delivery orientation for the family
If you live alone, you can skip this part. However, if you live with other members of the family, especially young children, you should be able to acquaint them on what should be happening. Young children can get very excited and just grab the puppies and you don’t want to go with the finer details of a potential disaster.
Let them know that they can see and touch the puppies only when they have an adult with them to mutually protect the children and the puppies from accidents. Mommy dogs may undergo certain behavioral changes, and can become more aggressive than usual that young children may get scared.
The orientation should be similar to the older members of the family as well. Sometimes, we just want to touch them, and touch them a lot because they are so irresistible. These can introduce injuries and trauma to the puppies’ little bodies, so it is better to let them know about these things.
Prepare a nursery
It does not need to be extremely extravagant and posh. The factors that make a nursery suitable to sustain proper puppy care are warmth and safety. Experts have exclaimed that there are nursing mommy dogs that prefer to take care of their puppies, while there are mommy dogs that do not care as much. This behavior is not static to a specific dog breed or classification, it just occurs in some dogs as part of their personality.
The nursery should be a safe space that promotes warmth good enough to prevent shivering, but not hot enough to overheat the puppies. Like humans, puppies are born helpless and their eyes are still closed, so it is very important for us to provide support to promote their well-being. The mother and puppies should have enough room to fit in to the nursery that you have prepared. There can be blankets, soft pillows, and a heating pad which is essential especially when your dog gave birth during the colder months or if you live in the colder states.
Re-orient the family members
Overexcitement can make you forget things so make sure to remember the things that have been discussed while you and your family are preparing for the big day and revisit the stuff that needs to be done. Reiterate the importance of careful handling, reduction of stressors, and proper guidance. In addition, one important thing that young children tend to forget is to introduce solid food morsels to day-old puppies.
This should be reminded to them to prevent the puppy from choking and blocking its airway due to the introduced solid food pieces and non-edible objects such as toys.
Simmer down the noise
This is very important especially if the location of the nursery or den is in a common area. Excessive noise from your sound system can lead to agitation of both mother and her puppies. Such noise inhibits rest and can promote behavioral changes for the mother dog. You can advise the other family members to talk, play, or listen to music to another area of the house.
Cleanliness goes a long way
Dogs that delivered at home will create a little bit of a mess with some of the bloodstained floor and cloth that you have used as its padding. This should be cleaned as soon as possible, or if the nursery is another designated space in the house, you can transfer the mother and the puppies there and clean the original birthing spot right after.
Cleanliness not only removes the stains and dirt, it also inhibits the possibility of harboring infection and accumulation of microorganisms. Puppies, as well as young children have weaker immune system exposing them in a more increased risk to have an infection. It is better to be safe and clean than experiencing the worse.
However, for first time pet parents that are too eager to clean, bear in mind that you should not bathe the puppies until the veterinarian gives you the permission to do so. They still have poor temperature regulating mechanism, and giving them a bath not only will expose them to cold, it can also harbor infection especially when the water gets into their immature respiratory system. Maintain cleanliness, but do not overdo it.
Be wary of pests
Your prepared nursery can be spotless, but there can be pests that are walking around. The most common of these are ants, and they are attracted to the dried milk that has accumulated around the den. Because puppies are defenseless creatures, they cannot completely fend this on their own. Mommy dogs cannot remove these as well. Ants can inflict a nasty sting to the puppies that may agitate them due to the pain and itching. In worst cases, ants can literally pile up on the puppy and block its respiratory tract.
Cleaning often is a good idea, because ants keep on coming back. It is a bad idea to spray an insecticide because it will contaminate the articles that are in the den, and may end up poisoning the puppies and the mommy dog after licking her babies. Do not consider the use of pest repellants for safety purposes.
Another pest that is common in the house are ticks that are around the house for quite some time, or is a stranger that came from the yard. Since ticks are quite easy to identify and is visible to the naked eye, you can check the nursery often to inhibit them from reaching the puppies. If the mommy dog is kept outside during her pregnant days, there is a good chance that she got some ticks. You can remove them several times a day, but the frequency should not induce untoward agitation and stress to the mommy dog.
Keep the mommy dog and the puppies together
It is a normal reaction for us pet parents to be concerned that accidents might happen that is why some dog owners isolate the mother to the puppy and they just reunite them during breastfeeding. This is a safe bet, but it can actually pose more disadvantages over advantages. If you are unsure on how the mommy dog will behave around her puppies, observe her actions. If her actions are too unstable and might injure the puppies, add a safety barrier into the nursery or den but do not completely isolate her.
Isolation leads to depression or to the other end of perspective, aggression. It is part of their normal instinct to take care of their young, and this is something that you should be aware of. The mother’s presence sustains its puppies especially when they are first born. At any circumstances, the mother and the puppies should not be separated.
On the first few hours, it is very important that the mother and the puppies should not be disturbed. This allows both the mother and the puppies to have enough time to rest. Agitation can inhibit the mother from producing milk, which is very important as a source of nourishment and immunity. The first breastfeeding session usually initiates within the first twelve hours, and occurs every two to three or four hours thereafter. Puppies cannot tolerate solid food until they are about a month old, and breast milk is their only source of nutrients.
Reminder: During the first 48 hours, you can observe if the mother dog is properly lactating. If this is the case, notify your veterinarian immediately to prepare a nutritional support for the undernourished puppies. It is highly likely that the veterinarian will prescribe a formula feeding plan, as well as a medication or supplement that improves lactation because it is very important for the puppies to receive natural dog’s milk.
Poor lactation is not an uncommon scenario, especially for first litter because the breasts can be either underdeveloped or they are not completely functional to produce the required amount of milk at the right time.
Alert: Do not, in any way, attempt to substitute dog’s milk with any kind of milk that you have in the house. Milks that have been prepared for humans should not be introduced to newborn puppies. The formulations of current formulated milks are not completely suitable for puppies.
Check puppies for signs of sickness
Hypothermia, respiratory distress, and underdevelopment are some of the most common problems that show up within the first hours of a newborn puppy. It is very important to observe for any signs of sickness or distress, and make sure to contact your veterinarian if there is any. Other symptoms that you can look for are rejection of the mother, isolation, excessive agitation and crying, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Behavioral differences of the puppies can be a good or bad indicator of a problem. When a puppy is not feeding as well as the others, or its sucking reflex is not as strong, there might be a problem that the puppy is weak or distressed. Also, a puppy that is flushed or turning bluish are warning signs for ventilation and temperature regulation problems.
Check the mother for signs of sickness
After observing the puppies, you should check the mommy dog for signs of sickness as well. Bleeding that does not stop, respiratory distress, lack of appetite after several days, and other untoward manifestations should be reported to the veterinarian to provide prompt medical management. In general, there is no size confinement in experiencing pre and post-delivery problems in dogs.
The risks are basically equal across almost all breeds, except some that are anatomically-challenged and surgery might be the better option to ensure the safety of both puppies and the mother. Pre-delivery problems are usually addressed by the veterinarian, and he may have already suggested surgical intervention even before the due date if the risk is to high to proceed with normal delivery.
It is very important during this phase to maintain the well-being of the mother. Make sure that she is comfortable, and well-hydrated and properly nourished because she has lost and is continually losing fluids due to breastfeeding and elimination. Smaller but a little more frequent feeding is better for nursing mommy dogs, compared to fewer but heavier meals. This prevents the chances of bloat and indigestion due to the sudden increase in stomach load that agitates the internal organs and the breast tissues.
Contact your veterinarian
It is very important for expectant pet parents to notify monitor the progress of the pregnancy with the veterinarian. The guidance of your veterinarian will come in handy, because it will be an easier endeavor to deal with. Your veterinarian may recommend several things and items that should be prepared or bought to prepare you when the big day comes. He can also discuss other factors that may affect the outcome of the delivery. This way, you are more aware on what to expect once it happens.
There will be a series of communication between you and the veterinarian that will involve collaborative management. These include regular checkups, initial and future vaccination schedules, supplementation, and proper feeding regimen are just some of the items that needs to be prepared. Do not hesitate to ask; even the questions that you may think don’t make any sense. It is better to have all sides covered, especially if this is your first time. Your veterinarian will be more than happy to answer questions for you.
Do not forget the others
For pet parents that own several dogs, it is important to pay attention to their needs as well. There is a tendency to miss their needs or if their health is falling, because we have been busy attending to the needs of the mommy dog and her puppies. Remember the basic needs – food, water, exercise, and grooming should be done on a required basis. If having a newborn puppy will inhibit you from buying your other pet’s needs, it is better to stock up a week before the expected date of delivery.
This prevents additional trips to the pet store to buy dog food and other pet supply needs.
It is okay to ask for help
The art of caring for newborn puppies is a very rewarding experience, especially for those who have been doing it for quite some time already. However, this can be a nightmare for pet parents who are not very confident about it, because they feel that they cannot do it correctly. It is okay to ask for help from your veterinarian or friends that are more experienced pet parent than you. There are also communities on and offline that can provide emotional support in your journey. Do not forget to breathe. Do not overwhelm yourself.
Do not tolerate over-excitement
Over-excitement is a bit common, but it should not be tolerated. As we already re-oriented others about the first few days, do not go overboard about the walking progression, or taking the young puppies outside. Everything will go as scheduled in due time. What is important on the first few weeks is that they grow healthy with proper management, nourishment, and care from their mommy and pet parents.
You can do all the things that you want once they start walking on their own, which will happen after several weeks. It is not a long wait if you enjoy the moment with your newborn puppies being small and fuzzy with their cute little eyes still closed.
Enjoy the moment
Do not overthink about caring for newborn puppies. This is one of the milestones that overcritical pet parents miss. They think too much and miss those little things that could have been experienced and become some of the most memorable parts of being a pet parent.
Take pictures, record a video, enjoy the moment because it is meant to be enjoyed as it is. It can be a busy and challenging responsibility for some, particularly the first-timers, but it should not drown you from the things that make the experience a truly rewarding one.
Caring for newborn puppies is such a rewarding experience, but it can be such a problem if you are not prepared for it. The very essence of being a part of nurturing a living thing is a truly heartwarming moment, and is something that promotes bonding, compassion, and lots of fur baby love. Caring for a newborn puppy is something not every pet parent can experience, so cherish it and immerse in the moment.