How to Care for Puppies After Delivery

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You probably heaved a sigh of relief after your dog finished delivering all of her pups. Don't get too relaxed though as there is plenty of work ahead for both you and the mom. Newborn puppies require vigilant and dedicated care during the first few weeks of their life.

The Whelping Box

Prepare your dog's nesting box several weeks before the puppies make their appearance. You can purchase a ready-made whelping box or construct one yourself. The box must allow the mother to enter and exit at will, while keeping the puppies safely inside. The ideal dimensions depend on your dog's size, so don't hesitate to call your vet to ask about best width and height for your pet. Situate the nest away from foot traffic and out of reach of other pets. Some mother dogs grow nervous when separated from their owner, so you may need to move the box to your bedroom if she is agitated over your absence.

A Safe Nest

Keep the puppies in dim light for most of the day. You can remove a few bulbs from the ceiling lamp or draw curtains around the box to shield it from bright light. The temperature in and around the box should be between 85 and 90 degrees until the pups are 4 to 6 days old. You can lower it to around 80 degrees after a week, then to 72 degrees by the end of the first month, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

Observing the Pups

Check on the newborn pups every few hours throughout the day. Make sure all of the pups are able to feed. Take note of any who are crying or acting strangely compared to the rest of the litter. Avoid touching the puppies unless it's necessary during the first few weeks of their life and encourage children to keep some distance, according to Hilltop Animal Hospital. You should gently move pups back to mom's belly if they are isolated in the box, but be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling any of the babies.

Taking Care of Mom

The mother dog may be reluctant to leave her puppies for even a moment, but it's important that she still goes out to use the bathroom and take a short break. Take a minute to check her stomach and backside before returning her to the nest. Look for inflamed skin or discolored swelling on her belly, especially around the teats. Contact your vet if you spot bad-smelling discharge, as it could indicate a serious health issue.

First Vet Visit

Your mother dog and her puppies should be seen by a veterinarian within 48 hours after delivery. Contact your vet shortly after delivery to schedule an appointment in the next day or two. You also can take the opportunity to ask about safe carriers or a portable nesting box suitable for your dog's size and number of puppies. Drive slowly and carefully when you transport them in the car, and keep the air warm during the trip. It's a good idea to weigh pups every day or two at home to ensure they are all growing properly. Household food scales are small and accurate enough to handle the task.

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