Newborn Puppy Care

Newborn puppies are so fragile that they can quickly take a bad turn. Keep a close eye on him and call your vet immediately when you first notice trouble.

Newborn puppy care - Male hands with a small newborn German boxer  puppy on a scale.

A newborn puppy's weight should increase a little each day.

How to Care for a Newborn Puppy

  • Hold a weigh-in each morning. His weight should increase a little each day. It should never decrease.
  • Take proactive steps to keep your puppy (and your own pets) healthy. Puppies have no immunity and are extremely vulnerable to communicable diseases like parvo and distemper.
  • Don’t let him come in contact with your other pets unless they’re vaccinated and healthy.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling him.

Vet Visits and Puppy Vaccinations

When a newborn puppy reaches three weeks, take him to the vet and discuss vaccinations and worming. Because he no longer benefits from his mother’s immunity, it’s vital he receive his shots as soon as possible.

It’s recommended that orphan puppies receive their first core vaccinations (for distemper, adenovirus-2 (hepatitis), parvovirus, and parainfluenza) at four to six weeks of age. He should get a booster every two weeks until he reaches 18 weeks.

Signs of a Sick Newborn Puppy:

  • Body temperature over 103°F or under 99°F
  • Constant crying
  • Decreased appetite
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Continuous diarrhea
  • Losing weight or failing to gain weight
  • Dehydration
  • Bleeding
  • Trauma
  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums
Newborn puppy care - Closeup of a newborn German Spitz puppy held in human hands.

If your newborn puppy shows signs of being sick, don’t put off making a call to the vet.

The Most Common Health Problems Your Newborn Puppy Faces

  • Diarrhea. This is a catchall name for runny or watery poop. It can be caused by parasites, bacteria (or lack of beneficial bacteria), viruses (among them parvo or distemper), changes in food (changed formula, formula too concentrated), stress, or overfeeding. If he’s experiencing a mild case of diarrhea but acts happy and alert, try adding more water to the formula or cut back on the amount you feed him. For repeated bouts of diarrhea, or poo containing blood or parasites, contact your vet. Don’t put off making that call.
  • Vomiting. This could be caused by eating too fast. If the puppy throws up more than two or three times in a couple of hours, contact your vet. This can lead to dehydration. It could also be a symptom of several serious issues.
  • Dehydration. Watery stools, repeated vomiting, or a too-warm environment can dehydrate a puppy, which can quickly turn fatal. You can tell if a puppy is dehydrated by pulling up his skin over the back of his neck. If the skin springs back into place, he’s well hydrated. If he’s mildly dehydrated, you can give him hourly doses of an unflavored commercial electrolyte drink (Pedialyte) or add more water to his formula. For more severe cases, your vet may give him fluids under the skin, and address the underlying cause. Don't put this off as with so many other health issues among orphan puppies. Dehydration is another killer.
    • Signs that he is dehydrated:
      • His skin that stays tented or returns slowly
      • His pee appears dark yellow, orange, or brown (rather than light yellow)
      • His pee feels thick
      • His mouth and gums feel sticky or gummy, not moist
  • Fading Puppy. Occasionally puppies who appear healthy at birth will fail to thrive after a week or two. For no apparent reason, they not only stop growing, but stop nursing, and start to lose weight. He becomes weak and chilled. The mother may nudge him away from the nest. He soon fades and dies. Like the multiple causes for diarrhea, there are any number of causes for fading puppies: birth defects, diseases, or stress in the environment. Sometimes with veterinary intervention (tube feeding, fluids and/or antibiotics), these puppies can survive. Sadly, most of these little guys can’t be saved.
  • Parasites: Fleas. If you found him outside or his mother lives in the yard, the puppy may be sporting a healthy crop of fleas. While fleas only measure 2mm, and individually only consume a small drop of blood, collectively an infestation in a young puppy can cause potentially fatal anemia. Fleas will also give your puppy tapeworms. So your puppy is attacked from outside and from within.When caring for a newborn puppy, only use flea treatments labeled safe for their age and size. You can safely remove fleas from puppies younger than eight weeks by combing them thoroughly with a very fine-tooth flea comb.It can be difficult to see the little crawlies if the pup has a dark coat, but just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not feasting on his blood. Give your puppy a bath with a puppy shampoo. Once you’ve eyeballed the fleas against the suds, pull them out using the flea comb.

Learn more about newborn puppy care in Milestones in a Puppy’s Development.

Hartz Nature's Shield Dog Shampoo
Hartz® Home Protection™ Miracle Guard™ Extra Absorbent Dog Pads 25 count