How to Take Care of Newborn Puppies Without a Mother

By Britt Kascjak

Newborn puppies are highly reliant on their mother for care in the early days. Caring for these puppies if their mother isn’t present is a lot of work!

Not only do you have to feed newborn puppies, but they need to be kept warm, taught to go to the bathroom, and introduced to the world around them.

You are stepping in and replacing the most important role in their lives.

This can happen if your puppies are unfortunately orphaned. Or, in some cases, the mother simply isn’t interested in caring for puppies, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Whatever the reasons, you have a lot of work ahead of you. If you recently found yourself in this situation, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started.

How to Care for Orphaned Newborn Puppies

Pay Attention to the Temperature

In the early days, puppies are extremely sensitive to the temperatures around them.

The mother usually controls the temperature of her puppies by providing radiant heat. Without this body heat, you will need to take steps to keep your puppies warm.

Choose a place to care for your puppies that is safely tucked away from windows, vents, or other drafty areas.

You can use hot water bottles or heat lamps to increase the temperature and keep everyone warm. But, pay careful attention not to make it too hot.

In the first 4 or 5 days, the temperature should be kept around 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

This environmental temperature can slowly be decreased to 80 degrees over days 7 to 10. It will need to be controlled at 80 degrees until the end of the fourth week.

When your puppies reach 4 weeks old, they can now survive comfortably in 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Feeding Newborn Puppies

Much like human babies, newborn puppies will need to be fed frequent small meals. They need to eat every 2 to 3 hours around the clock.

As they get older, this feeding routine can be scaled back to provide 6 to 8 meals spread out over 24 hours.

If you have a puppy that is smaller than he should be or is weakened for any reason, more meals may be needed. Contact your veterinarian for a specific plan for these high-risk pups.

In the beginning, your puppies will need to be fed with a commercial puppy milk replacer. Like human formula, these milk replacement products offer the high nutrition of their mother’s milk.

Feed this milk replacement in a syringe or baby bottle while your puppy is laying on his stomach.

Be extra careful not to allow the fluid to go down your puppy’s windpipe. They don’t have a well-developed gag reflex to protect their lungs at this age.

Like a baby, make sure to gently burp your puppy after each meal.

Resist the Urge to Invite Visitors

It can be tempting to invite all your friends and family to see the adorable puppies at this age. But, newborn puppies are highly susceptible to disease and illness.

Limit the number of people who handle the puppies. Each person should wash their hands before touching them.

If you know that someone has been in contact with a sick dog or been to a local shelter, they shouldn’t even enter the room. Diseases like parvo are often fatal in young pups and easily transmitted.

Gentle handling and attention to detail in their care will help you raise happy, healthy puppies.

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Britt Kascjak
Britt Kascjak has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering, and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. Her ‘pack’ includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx.