Facts & Tips

How to care for a newborn puppy litter?


The puppies are here!! They are so cute, but now what do I do?? Whether a new breeder or an accidental puppy mom, thing just got real. You now have a handful of puppies and you're really not sure where to begin. How do you care for a newborn litter of American bully puppies?

Let's go over the basics: Temperature, Cleanliness, and Nutrition.
Temperature is very important. Newborn puppies cannot keep themselves warm. So you  must keep their room at a even 90*. Some people prefer a heating pad, others a space heater in the room, others a heat lamp placed over the puppies whelping box, or habitat.  It is important to keep them warm but not to over bake them either. The perfect temperature is critical in your puppies survival. Too warm can lead to your puppies dehydrating and inevitably death. If you decide on a heating pad method, make sure it is set to LOW and covered with a towel. This will provide a comfortable temperature.  The important part is to not toast the entire area. Give them the option to waddle closer, or away from the heat source as their bodies need, within their new home.

Immune systems are non existent at this point. The smallest germ can kill your babies. Keep them separated from all other pets in the household (except the mom).I know your first instinct is to show the puppies to every person that comes in your house, because they are just that cute. DONT! No one should be around the puppies at all until they have at least done their first set of vaccines. When personally handling your puppies it is important to wear latex gloves which you will dispose of after each wear. That way you know your hands are clean and free or bacteria that could potentially pass along to the puppies. Also, whether you are keeping them in a whelping box, a laundry basket, or a baby pool, their area needs to be kept immaculate!  The mother will stimulate the puppies to go by licking them and will most likely eat the excrement, so your cleaning of puppy droppings in the beginning will be minimal. However, the mother is expelling and discharging, and this will need to be kept off the puppies. If you are using blankets, wee wee pads, or newspaper, it will need to be changed frequently (multiple times a day) and you will want to wipe down the mothers privates with a warm wet towel to keep her fresh as well to avoid infection.  As the puppies get older and go on their own, you will have a constant job of changing their box or habitat to keep it clean, because as babies, all they do is eat, sleep, and poop.

If you have an absent mother or neglectful mother, you will need to make your puppies go. At a young age they cannot do this on their own.  The easiest method to induce a pee or poop, is to gently rub a warm damp towel over their privates, it will feel just like the mothers tongue and will allow the sensation to make them go. You do not want to use cold water or a soaking wet towel. The goal is to leave the area dry and warm, because as already stated, body temperature is critical!

There is a large variation in the size of American Bully puppies and other breeds so I can not tell you the puppies should weigh 'X' amount on each week. But it is important to keep track of each puppies weight every single day for the first few weeks. You want to see a gain in weight every single day, even if its an ounce. If your puppy is losing weight or stuck on the same weight for several days, their food intake is lower then should be and you need to pay close attention to this. If they are nursing on mom, then you may find that one puppy is not getting enough nipple time, due to stronger more aggressive eaters in the litter. If you are bottle feeding then you simply aren't feeding enough. Speaking of feeding, if your mom is nursing her pups and they are steadily gaining, you have a slightly easier whelping job on your hands. This is not the case in all puppies. For one reason or another, the mother may have no interest in taking care of her puppies, or the mother may be absent from the equation all together, and you are now the surrogate mother of all these tiny fur-balls. If bottle feeding is the route you go, any old milk will not due. Cows milk, or the milk humans drink is NOT good for puppies. Your options for a milk substitute are GOATS MILK, or pre-prepared puppy formulas, such as Esbilac.  Esbilac is pricey but a very good product. Many people will choose the powdered version (just add water) over the liquid, canned, ready to go version because of the cost. This is totally OK! It isn't any less of a product, however make sure to purchase distilled water for the mixture, and DO NOT use tap water. Tap water contains bacteria that could make your puppies sick.

Now you know what to feed, but WHEN do you feed? For about the first 3 weeks of your puppies existence they will need to be fed every 2-3 hours. Yes, it is a full time job. If the mom is caring for them, they will crawl to her on a consistent basis for food whenever they are hungry, which will basically be every time they are awake. If you are controlling their food then you are on a 2-3 hour clock between each meal. (TIP: for bottle fed babies, buy a brand like PLAYTEX as your bottle, avoid the bottles made for pets they are of lesser quality, don't provide the right amount of milk, and the puppies never take to the shape of the nipple and feeding will be much more difficult then it needs to be).

Time for a break!
Your puppies are 3 weeks old and your sleep deprevation is crazy! Well your life is about to get a littler easier, at this point you can begin to space out your feeding times a little more, You can now feed every 4 hours, and believe me that 1 hour extra of sleep is well deserved! By the 4th week your puppy can begin to eat out of a bowl on their own. Once this is happening you will slowly want to introduce a puppy cereal to their milk to make it thicker, and fill their stomachs better, which will lead to longer times of feeling full and once again lengthen the times needed between feedings.

At about the 6th week, you can start adding in Kibble to their milk, soak the kibble for a decent amount of time before you allow the puppy to eat, that way it is soft and easy to swallow. How much of this should you be feeding?  At this point you cannot overfeed the puppy. Since it is eating on its own it will stop when it feels full.

The puppies are 8 weeks now and there is no longer a need for milk of any kind. Your puppy should be solely on kibble or if you are feeding raw, then strictly on raw. Plus don't forget a fresh bowl of water! The puppies will be pretty much walking and running! Most likely they are still confined to a small area which is OK. But at this point you will need to start allowing them to get regular exercise. Most people will allow them to roam a closed off area like a kitchen or bathroom. Learning how to move and jumping and playing is crucial to a healthy puppy.

Socialization Time!
Puppies should be handled daily, given love, attention, and petting. Pre-shots and vaccines remember to wear your gloves. Post shots and still young, just wash your hands with a gentle soap and water. You have gotten them this far, no reason to chance getting them sick, take the few seconds and just wash up before handling.  If at all possible from weeks 6-8, it is important to allow your puppies to interact with an adult dog of good disposition. This will help teach them to abide by rules and learn how to be a good dog. Keeping the puppy with their mother and littermates should be done until they are 8 weeks old, to instill a sense of comfort and security.

I have written a separate blog on a vaccine schedules. Following a vaccine schedule is very important to ensuring a healthy puppy. Please make sure to read our blog on the correct ages, and age appropriate vaccinations for your puppies. http://bullygirlmagazine.com/when-is-my-puppy-due-for-what-vaccine/.
Good luck with your new litter. Whenever in doubt always ASK questions to fellow breeders, and your vet. No question is a stupid question if you are not 100% sure of the answer, little lives depend on you getting it right.

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