Once the pups are safely delivered and nursing, what they need is warmth and quiet. If necessary, secure a heat lamp about four feet above the center of the box to keep everyone comfortable. Just don’t have the heat source too close to the pups – you don’t want them to get too hot or to become dehydrated.
Care for New Mothers:
You’ll want to ensure that mom is in fine fettle after the birth. If she doesn’t feel like eating solid food for a day or so afterward, Dr. Mcardle advises giving her puppy milk replacer formula. Feed it to her three times a day until her appetite returns – this keeps her nutrients and fluids up.
Keep a close eye on your dog in the days after the birth. If she seems shaky or weak, or suddenly collapses, go to the vet immediately. She may need a calcium injection if she’s milking heavily and not getting enough nutrients. Check her temperature daily, and if it climbs to 103 degree F, she needs a check up. (A dog’s normal temperature is between 100.5 degree and 102 degree F.) She may have a uterine infection, explains Dr. Mcardle, and it needs to be treated quickly. Also examine her mammary glands to make sure they feel full and warm. If they seem hot or hard, again, you need to visit your vet.
Peace and Quiet:
For mom’s comfort and the pups’ safety, keep noisy kids and curious neighbors away. “You have to check on the family, but you really shouldn’t have people in there looking at them,” Dr. Wilcox says. After the first few days, start picking the puppies up and handling them a few times a day so they become used to the presence and scent of people. Clip their toenails so they don’t scratch each other or injure their mother’s sensitive nipples.
For the first two weeks, the puppies – born blind and deaf – will live in a silent, sightless world, spending their time sleeping, eating and growing. Even in sleep, however, they should be vigorous, their tiny paws paddling as they dream of their lives to come. Their eyes and ears will not start to open until they are from ten days to two weeks old.
As the Weeks Go By:
Spend a few minutes a day keeping the whelping box and living area clean. At about three and a half weeks, it’s time to start the puppies on solid food. When they stop nursing, the mother will probably feel pretty uncomfortable. Your vet may advise giving her a mild diuretic for a day or two to help to reliever the pressure, says Dr. Mcardle. And once the puppies are weaned, cut back on the amount of food you give her.
By this time, of course, the pup’s eyes and ears will have opened. (If you see some discharge coming from the pups’ eyes, Dr. Craft advises that you ask your vet to treat what is likely to be a bacterial infection.) The pups will also be moving around much more, roughhousing and learning to get along with one another. Your family should spend time handling the puppies and playing with them, but Dr. Craft advises against allowing much outside traffic around the litter during the first four to six weeks. “Be very selective about who comes in the house, and make sure everyone who handles the pups has clean hands,” he says.
When they’re about four weeks old, take the puppies to your vet for their first deworming. Use a crate or a large laundry basket or a box with high sides for the trip. Worming should be repeated at eight weeks and twelve weeks. Vaccinations start at six to eight weeks.
Pretty soon it’s time for the pups to go to their new homes. At between seven and eight weeks of age, they are ready to leave their mother, says Dr. Craft. However, with some breeds, especially those that are small, it’s best to wait until ten weeks or so as the pups may have problem with low blood sugar, triggered by stress, if they leave home too young.
“People often let their puppies go too soon,” says Dr. Craft. At this age, the puppies are learning from their parents how to be dogs. This and the interactions with their siblings are crucial. “With my own Mastiffs, I’ve seen that pups that went early to their new homes had some behavior problems when socializing with other dogs. The ones we kept longer were mellower, more confident, and more mature and socialized.”