Warmth is critical to the proper health and development of a newborn puppy. Staying warm, feeding and learning social skills are all a puppy's biggest roles in the weeks after birth. If a puppy has a healthy mother who is capable of supplying him with sufficient milk, your main role as a caretaker is to ensure that he's always warm enough.
Body Temperature Maintenance
A newborn puppy relies on his mother for body temperature maintenance. At birth, his body temperature matches mom's. It then instantly falls by a number of degrees based on the specific room temperature. A newborn puppy doesn't have the ability to generate body heat by himself until he's 1 to 2 weeks old. If he remains near his mother at all times, room temperature doesn't have to be a major concern for you. If the mother is away, however, you must do your part to keep him warm. Placing a heat lamp above the nesting box usually works well.
A puppy requires an environmental temperature of between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit for his first four days. Slowly reduce the temperature until it's about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the temperature gets to that point anywhere between days 7 and 10. Then, allow the temperature to reach roughly 72 degrees Fahrenheit once the fourth week of your puppy's life comes to a close. Remember, you don't have to heat the entire room to these specific temperatures, just the section above the nesting box.
Orphaned Puppies and Warmth
Not all newborn puppies are lucky enough to have their mothers around to keep them warm. If you're looking after an orphaned pup, you'll have to keep him warm by using a heat lamp, hot water bottle, heating pad or incubator. Be extremely cautious with the heating. Warming a puppy too quickly can cause heat stress. Be sure to conceal hot water bottles or heating pads using towels so you don't risk burning your puppy's fragile skin, too.
Monitor Your Puppy Closely
Insufficient warmth is responsible for some newborn puppy deaths. Pay close attention to your puppy to make sure skin feels warm and has a pink appearance. Note that newborn puppies don't cry a lot. If your puppy cries, it could be a sign that he's cold. Notify your veterinarian immediately if you suspect there's any problem with your puppy.
If you're caring for a litter of puppies, consider the size. Bigger litters have lower environmental temperature requirements than smaller litters. They also have lower temperature requirements than puppies who are being reared solo. Since puppies nestle closely together, all of the extra body heat gives them more warmth.
Never neglect getting veterinary attention for a puppy who isn't warm enough. Puppies without adequate warmth are susceptible to hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition.
- American Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Newborn Puppy Care
- Hilltop Animal Hospital: Care of Mother Dogs and Puppies
- VetWest Animal Hospitals: Orphaned Puppies - Caring, Feeding, Healthcare
- Puppy Intensive Care; Myra Savant-Harris
- Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook; Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, Liisa D. Carlson, DVM and Delbert G. Carlson, DVM, et al.
- The First Aid Companion For Dogs & Cats; Amy D. Shojai
- Jones's Animal Nursing; D.R. Lane
- Cesar's Way: Caring For a Newborn Puppy
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Caring For Newborn Puppies