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The Newborn Puppy

In a normal, healthy litter, each newborn puppy finds its way to the source of milk shortly after birth. During the first one or two days of its life, a puppy absorbs from its mother's first milk (colostrum) the protective antibodies necessary to see it through its first six to ten weeks. Most puppies feed from their mother for the first few weeks of their life (make sure the whole litter is suckling properly). After this you should decide on the best time to introduce solid foods and begin weaning. The bitch keeps the puppies clean and also cleans up their faeces, although you should change the newspaper in the whelping box regularly.


Puppies are both blind and deaf at birth. Their eyes open at around 10-14 days, although it is another seven days before they can focus properly. Their hearing starts to function as the ear canals open when they are between 13 and 17 days old.


Nail trimming
You may need to trim the puppies' nails at 14-21 days. The "kneading" movements they make while feeding can scratch the bitch's underside. Use baby nail scissors.


Sleep and rest Newborn Labrador Retriever Puppies
Just like babies, puppies have an amazing capacity for sleep.Well-fed puppies do little other than sleep and suckle for the first week of their life. After this, their activities increase until, by three weeks, they are wobbling around, exploring the whelping box. Up to the age of 12-14 weeks, you'll notice that periods of incredible activity are interspersed with periods of coma-like sleep - you'll be glad of these at times!


Keeping the puppies warm
Temperature is something you need to watch carefully and in which you'll need to play an active part. Puppies develop within the uterus at 38.50 C and, despite a drop in the bitch's body temperature just before whelping, their wet arrival into the world comes as a shock. Wet puppies chill easily but may not show any signs for up to 48 hours, by which time an infection may occur which they are unable to resist.
Newborn puppies can't shiver properly and until they are seven to ten days old, are unable to make their hair stand on end in order to trap an insulating layer of air. So puppies heat regulation is very poor, and their body temperatures tend to rise and fall with that of their surroundings. After six or seven days, they develop some control over heat regulation but it isn't particularly efficient until four weeks of age. This is why you should provide supplementary heat for at least the first two weeks, even if the puppies are in the bitch's box, and longer if they aren't (orphan, rejected or some hand- reared.puppies).


Keep the room temperature at around 30.30C (puppies can tolerate slight variations on this for short periods). An alternative plan is to keep the room temperature at a minimum of 210C and to provide extra heat for the actual bed. The room temperature can be allowed to drop by 30C each fortnight until the normal ambient in temperature is reached. It's important to take great care over how the supplementary heat is provided. As a puppy's heat regulation is so inefficient, direct heat applied to one area of its body isn't properly dissipated and can damage the skin.


Ways for providing heat and warmth


For the room
Radiators or fan heaters.

For the bed
Well-wrapped hot-water bottles.
Proprietary heater pads placed under bedding.
Infra-red or dull emitting bulb lamps.


Don't let puppies come into direct contact with heater pads - they may get burned.

Don't place infra-red lamps too close to puppies - they can cause localized overheating or even burns.