Responsible Breeding Steps
16 - Keep your Puppies Warm, Fed and Clean
Temperature. A newborn puppy cannot control its body temperature and
must be kept in a warm environment. Chilling will stress the puppy and predispose
it to infectious disease; overheating can kill it. The environmental temperature
can be controlled with a well-insulated electric heating pad or a heat lamp.
But make sure the puppies have a cooler place to crawl to if they become too
The immediate environmental temperature should be kept between 85 and 90 degrees
for the first five days of life. From the seventh to the tenth day, the temperature
can be gradually reduced to 80 degrees; by the end of the fourth week it can
be brought down to 75 degrees.
Nursing. The first milk produced by the bitch after whelping is called
colostrum. Every puppy needs to ingest colostrum as early as possible after
birth, and certainly during the first 24 hours of life. Colostrum contains
a number of substances that are beneficial to the puppy, including immunoglobulins
that protect newborns from the infectious diseases to which the mother is immune.
Some bitches eat very little for the first day or two after whelping. Then
their appetite and need for all nutrients rises sharply and peaks in about
three weeks. During this entire period, adequate calcium, phosphorous and vitamin
D must be fed to avoid the onset of eclampsia. Optimal amounts of these nutrients
are already present in a high-quality diet, so further supplementation is unnecessary.
Eclampsia causes nervousness, whimpering, unsteady gait and spasms. Although
very serious, it is readily cured by prompt veterinary treatment.
After whelping, the bitch ideally should be about the same weight as when
she was bred, but not more than 5 to 10 percent heavier. For three weeks after
whelping, she will need two or three times more food than her normal maintenance
diet, to help her provide nourishing milk to her puppies. This food should
be divided into three or four meals. The composition of the food should be
divided into three or four meals. The composition of the food should be the
same as it was during the last third of her pregnancy; only the amount per
day should change.