How to Take Care of a Weak Newborn Pup

Updated: May 16, 2022

Just when you thought your responsibility has ended when mama dog gave birth, I can tell you that this is just the beginning because now you have baby newborn puppies. Whether you're assisting mama dog or playing as a substitute parent, it's always best to constantly check on your litter. It'll be a blessing to know they're all healthy and growing well. But there are trying times and it's always a good idea to be prepared for an emergency and know how to keep a weak newborn puppy alive.

baby newborn puppy gasping for air, struggling to breathe, newborn dog

"If you notice a newborn pup gasping for breath, take the pup with its head down and just gently (but firmly) swing the pup up and down between your legs."

Newborn Puppy Birth Emergencies

Here are ways on taking care of weak newborn pup to help them thrive and survive.

Newborn Puppy Gasping for Air

Though the majority of dog births progress without any problems, there are times that some pups will be having trouble breathing or won't be breathing at all. A newborn puppy breathing with their mouth open can be a sign that they are not getting enough air. A newborn puppy gasping for air will need immediate assistance. If you noticed a newborn pup gasping for air or struggling to breathe, use a suction bulb (breeders should have one on hand) to gently clear their noses and airways.

Your newborn puppy struggling to breathe will be able to bring air into their lungs. Stimulate them vigorously by rubbing them with your hands. If this does not help and and your puppy continues to have difficulty and even stops breathing, you may have to give your newborn puppy CPR. Compress your puppy's chest with your fingers once per second, positioned right behind their front legs. You can also perform mouth to mouth resuscitation. Continue until breathing resumes or your vet is able to take over. Please take time to train yourself in performing neonatal CPR prior to puppies being born as it is easy to injure these little ones.

Newborn Puppy Hypothermia

Puppies aren't capable of generating their own body heat and are at great risk of developing hypothermia. If you find a newborn dog cold and barely moving, they might be experiencing hypothermia. According to VCA Hospitals, hypothermia or chilling in newborn puppies can traverse to vital death rates. A newborn pup will drop far more body heat per pound of their body weight compared to a fully-grown dog.

how to take care of a weak newborn puppy

Baby newborn puppies rely on the rest of the litter and their mama dog to be able to keep them warm. This is the very reason why newborn pups must always stay warm. In fact newborn puppies will need a whelping box that is approximately 85 to 90 degrees fahrenheit at birth. After approximately a week, the puppies will be comfortable with a gradual decrease to a whelping box around 80 degrees. Around one month, you can gradually decrease again to 72 degrees (room temperature).

You can put on some heating pads in the whelping box, far enough so that it won't be messed around (and burn any newborn pup) and near enough to keep everyone inside warm and comfy. VCA Hospitals further states that a newborn puppy is not able to regulate their own body temperature and depends upon heat from their mother's body to aid in maintaining their body temperature. In the absence or loss of the mother, different means of providing external heat, such as heat lamps, incubators, or warm water bottles may be utilized. Be very careful not to overheat puppies and that heating sources are used safely to prevent fires or burns.

Use Pet Parents® Washable Dog Diapers for mama dog and put on Pet Parents® Pawtect® Pads as a whelping box bedding. These are washable dog pee pads that can act as the perfect whelping box lining to absorb moisture and provide extra padding. In this case, your female dog and her litter will have lesser chances of spoiling the bedding and lesser chances of them getting wet and dirty. You can also lay down a Pawtect® Blanket in the whelping box for extra comfort and warmth. These blankets are waterproof and easily machine washable so that your mama dog and puppies can stay dry, warm, and cozy. 

Nursing Difficulties for Baby Newborn Puppies

For the first few months of life, puppies will considerably depend on mama dog's milk for necessary nutrients and vitamins for them to grow healthy and strong.

According to Pets WebMD, the normal birth weight for puppies depends greatly on what the breed of the pups is. Throughout the first few weeks of life, a healthy pup’s body weight will increase to up to two to three times. Newborn pups who don’t gain sufficient weight or lose significant weight during these specific weeks have lesser chances of survival.

How to Help Keep a Weak Newborn Puppy Alive: Nursing Tips

  • If a pup can't nurse well because mama dog isn't producing enough milk for all or if something happened to mama dog, a puppy milk replacer is your new best friend. Puppy milk replacers are available commercially. Remember to make only feedings that can be consumed within 24 hours as this can get spoiled easily. Also, keep in mind that before purchasing, you should consult with your veterinarian first. They are able to help you with which milk replacers are best and which ones should be avoided.
  • Newborn pups require feeding every two to three hours as they easily get hungry. You will know whenever they are hungry and starving because they will begin to move around and cry, but it is best to feed them on a schedule.
  • If you are acting as a substitute parent, make sure the newborn pups won't be able to suck air while bottle-feeding. If they do, you'll have to burp them by gently putting them on your shoulder (just like how humans burp newborn babies).
  • Mama dog will regularly start licking her litter to initiate pee and poo time but if you are acting as a substitute parent, you won't really lick the pups, will you? Kidding aside, what you have to is you'll have to stimulate the newborn pups by gently rubbing their private areas with soaked cotton or soft cloth to make them pee and poop.
  • Pet Parents® Multivitamins SoftSupps®to help boost her overall health while recovering from giving birth and whelping her litter.
  • Pet Parents® Calming SoftSupps®may also be beneficial for your mama dog. Taking care of a litter can be stressful, especially for first-time mama dogs. Our calming supplements will help keep your furbaby calm and relaxed all throughout the whelping stage and even beyond that.

Note: Talk to your vet first before giving supplements to a dog that has recently given birth.

Caring for Sick Newborn Pups

Although it is easy to tell an emergency, like a newborn puppy gasping for air, some potential problems will not be as easy to spot. Even if everyone looks fine and seems to be doing well in the first few days after birth, any pup can get sick all of a sudden. Crying means a pup is hungry or uncomfortable and that is completely normal. But if the pup has been fed well, kept warm, and still cries, this may indicate a problem.

They might be in pain or might be experiencing some underlying illnesses that can be causes of concern. Take them to the vet immediately and do not ever self-medicate especially when you're uncertain and doubtful of what the newborn pup is going through.

The things mentioned above are just some of the many instances of what you can do whenever you encounter a particular situation with weak newborn pups

It is true that taking care of a weak newborn pup can be stressful and overwhelming but there are always ways to make things better that will help them grow into happy and healthy dogs. Once you help your weak newborn puppy recover, you can focus on raising your puppies through their fun and exciting development.