Many canine owners find their relationship with their four-legged friend so gratifying that they want to continue its bloodline. Raising puppies, however, is not as easy as one may think. It is important that you truly understand the commitment before you register as a dog breeder. Below is a guide on how to care for your puppies from day one.
What to do after birthing
You will have a lot of work to do after your bitch has successfully delivered her litter of puppies. Within 48 hours after birthing, you will need to take the new mother to your veterinarian to have her checked for milk and infection. Her puppies will also need to be examined for any birth defects as well as administered necessary injections and medications.
During the first two months, you will need to clean up after your bitch as often as needed. It is your responsibility to wash her with warm water and a washcloth as well as remove any soiled bedding from her whelping box.
Caring for Newborn Puppies
You must keep your puppies in a warm environment, as they cannot control their body temperature for a week or two after birth. A cool environment can make them susceptible to infectious disease, while a hot living space can kill them. You should keep the environmental temperature between 29.5 and 32 degrees Celsius for the first five days, and then reduce it to 26.7 degrees Celsius from the sixth to the tenth day. By the end of the fourth week, you can bring down the temperature to 22.2 degrees Celsius.
During the first few days of nursing, bitches produce colostrum, a nutrient-rich fluid that contains high levels of antibodies. Also known as the first milk, it guards against infection and supports a puppy’s growth and development. Because of this, puppies must be nursed by their mother for as long as possible. And since puppies depend on their mother for nutrition, it is recommended that you feed your bitch a complete and balanced diet with high fat content. You may consult with your vet regarding the right food for your nursing dog.
After the puppies are born, you should weigh them each daily at regular intervals for the first two weeks. Then, you can weigh them each once a week. There should be a consistent increase of five to 10 per cent in each of their weight each day so that by the time they reach a week old, their weight would have already doubled. Bear in mind that the weight of one puppy should be almost the same as the rest of the litter. A puppy should never weigh significantly lesser than the rest – otherwise, there may be a problem that requires the help of your vet.
Caring for Orphaned Puppies
Puppies that no longer have a mother to nurse them can be fed with a commercial puppy formula using a bottle and nipple. The formula should be warmed to about 37.8 degrees Celsius or near body temperature.
It is advised that you start with less formula until the puppies are finally accustomed to hand feeding. To know if they are responding well, check for a steady weight gain and well-formed feces. Should any of the puppies develop diarrhea, reduce their intake to half and consult with your vet right away.
Keep in mind that newborn puppies need to be stimulated after each feeding for them to urinate and defecate normally. Do this by gently massaging each puppy’s anal region with a cotton ball dampened in warm water. Additionally, stroke each of their sides and back with a soft cloth. The best time to do these is when the puppies have just woken up and are about to receive their formula.
Weaning Puppies from Their Mother
By two to four weeks old, most puppies are ready to wean off their mother. You can start your puppies by giving them puppy formula. You may also combine the formula with dry puppy food or baby rice cereal.
As the puppies get older, you can add more food and less formula to their diet. Just remember to introduce to them all the changes gradually to prevent them from experiencing stomach upsets.