Some new breeders or occasional breeders are having a tough time going through their first litter. Often wondering what a newborn puppy should weigh, how do they look like and what to look out for? We provide below some help to remove that anxiety and, if your luck is back, to at least allow you to detect any problem early so you can take actions and have the vet involved at an early stage and save your sick puppy.
The Three Stages of Normal Dog Labour
- the bitch’s body prepares for delivery with the bitch’s uterus and cervix getting prepared for delivery
- the actual passing of the puppies lasts a variable amount of time depending on the breed and the size of the litter, usually from 2 to 12 hours, with the first puppy usually delivered within 45 minutes
- the passage of the placenta is when you need to check how many placentas have been passed and compared the count to the number of puppies, if there is a discrepancy, you will need to call your vet.
Do not unnecessarily interfere and rather phone your vet if you have any doubts about how things are going. However, once the delivery has happened, you will have to handle the puppies and check they are in good shape and form, including their size and weight.
Right After the Whelping of the Puppies
As soon as your bitch is done with delivery the puppies, there are a few things to check and a few precautions to take to make sure the newborn puppies are healthy, the mother is sound and the whelping box is clean.
Check The Puppies Are Alive And Sound
Once all the puppies have been delivered, you need to make sure each puppy is breathing and sound, you do not need to necessarily touch them, just look at them and make sure you offer a bowl of water and food to your bitch once she finished licking and cleaning her puppies. Have everything she needs close to the whelping box so she can feel comfortable to quickly go and come back, without feeling like it is such an effort.
Don’t Panic: Newborn Puppies Look… Ugly
We say things how they are here at Breeding Business and most puppies, after birth, look dirty and ugly. It is normal. You need to leave their belly button alone even if you feel like cleaning and disinfecting it. There is also no need to cut the puppies’ placenta to avoid risking haemorrhage: leave the placenta how it is and it will dry up by itself.
Hygiene Is Vital – Keep the Whelping Box Clean
As soon as they are cleaner and whenever your feel it is the right moment, change the whole bedding with completely clean towels and lining. It is important to keep her whelping box hygienic, dry, warm and clean as much as possible so regularly check without being too intrusive.
Weigh & Check Each Puppy Daily
Checking on each puppy daily is primordial — as is keeping a log of their daily size, weight and anything worth recording in a spreadsheet that you can bring to your vet every time you consult. Check online and confirm with your veterinary clinic the weight you should expect right after birth and the increase you should witness during the next weeks.
We recommend to use a postal scale to gently weigh your puppies, one by one, each day for the first month. If you are tech savvy, you can visualise it on a chart so it can help you see the trend. After each dog, you must disinfect the scale to avoid transmitting germs, viruses and bacterias from one puppy to the other.
Your puppies’ birth weights usually range:
- from 75g to 350g for small dog breeds
- from 200g to 300g for medium dog breeds
- from 400g to 850g for larger dog breeds
- around a kilogram for giant dog breeds
During the first hours, usually a day, you may notice a loss of few grams but it should quickly stabilise and increase again as soon as they are fed and hydrated by their mother.
Evolution Of The Puppy's Weight
Over the first days, you should watch for a steady weight gain and the daily weight gain should be reasonably even across the whole litter. As a rule of thumb, the puppy’s body weight should double every 7/10 days, giving an average daily increase of 5-10% of its body weight.
Because it is not an exact science, you should not stress if you notice a small loss or slow gain occasionally as long as the puppies remain lively and with appetite. If it persists, call your vet and bring the puppy if need be.
Leave the New Family Rest in their Whelping Box
The new family needs peace and a lot of rest, you have successfully made sure that her labour and delivery go smoothly, it is now time to leave them alone and simply check on them routinely. Inform everybody in the household that everything went smoothly, let them go to have a look and make sure you limit the traffic in the room to the minimum.
Keep The Room Temperature At Around 30°C (or 86°F)
The room temperature is kept around 30°C (or 86°F) throughout the first two weeks while each puppy’s temperature will start from being at 34-39°C (or 94-99°F) on the first few days to increase around 37.5°C (or 100°F) after two weeks. It is unnecessary to take the puppy’s temperature with a thermometer, use your hands and gently handle each puppy, one by one.
A pup should never feel too cold or chilled, contact your veterinary if you think your puppy’s temperature is slightly lower than what it should. A cold puppy will generally be quieter and less responsive than its brothers and sisters. Using microwave heating pads for dogs can be a quick and cheap way to warm the whelping box up by a notch.
Overheated pups tend to get their tongue and ears redder. Again, compare to the other puppies in the same litter and if you have installed the whelping box next to a radiator or a heating lamp, perhaps try turning these off or down to a lower intensity level. Call your vet if the symptoms persist.
If your puppies are kept outside, you do want to invest in a quality kennel heater, especially during the winter’s harsh cold.
In some rare cases, it is highly recommended to call your vet to seek real medical advice because things seem to not go smoothly. For example, contact your vet immediately if:
- a puppy is missing and stayed in the bitch’s uterus
- a puppy does not breathe
- a puppy does not move at all
- a puppy seems to be bleeding
- a puppy has an unusual feature
Common sense is sufficient to know when to call your vet so simply stay attentive, not intrusive, and do not hesitate to call your vet if you have any doubt.