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Management Prevents First-Week Puppy Loss

How do I know if my one-week-old puppies are healthy? Is it normal to lose newborn puppies? Before weaning, 50 percent of puppy loss occurs within the first seven days (Dr. Peterson, Small Animal Pediatrics). To make an impact in saving these first-week puppies, we need to prevent the causes of newborn puppy death. The big three are respiratory issues, gastrointestinal issues, and malnutrition.

Newborn Puppy Respiratory Problems

Preventing respiratory problems in newborn puppies starts with ensuring they are born quickly. Puppies deprived of oxygen during birth tend to be more lethargic, congested, and ineffective at nursing. Slow birth can lead to aspiration of amniotic fluid, increasing the risk of respiratory issues and malnutrition. Puppies that nurse well maintain their energy levels, while those that don't have little energy to fight infections.

Exhausted mothers can also contribute to first-week puppy loss. Ideally, whelping should take six to nine hours; 24 hours is too long. Tired mothers are less effective at caring for their puppies. Ensuring timely delivery and effective contractions can significantly reduce respiratory issues.

GI Issues and Diarrhea in Newborn Puppies

Gastrointestinal issues and diarrhea are the second major cause of loss in the first week. To prevent first-week puppy diarrhea, give probiotics to the mother two weeks before and after whelping. Puppies are born with sterile guts, and by day three, their guts are populated with bacteria from their mother. Giving probiotics to the mother ensures she passes only good bacteria to her pups.

For the first 24 hours, allow puppies to have only colostrum. From day two through seven, give puppies a probiotic once daily to hasten the population of the gut with good bacteria. Use probiotics that bypass the stomach to ensure bacteria reach the small intestine, where they are needed.

In cases of active diarrhea, antibiotics may be needed alongside probiotic gel. Parasites can also cause diarrhea, so treating the mother with fenbendazole from day 42 of pregnancy to day 14 of lactation is recommended for parasite control.

Puppy Malnutrition

Malnutrition can overlap with respiratory and gastrointestinal issues. Ensuring puppies are born fighting to live and mothers have ample milk supply from birth is crucial for survival. Puppies are born with all the red blood cells they will have until six weeks old, so adequate iron and prenatal vitamins for the mother are essential.

Milking involves a complex process of glandular development in late pregnancy and prolactin signaling at birth. Mothers that don’t go through labor may not start milking properly. Herbal supplements like Fenugreek and Chaste tree fruit can promote milk production if started one week before the due date.

Preventing First-Week Puppy Loss

Preventing first-week puppy loss involves getting mothers as healthy as possible and ensuring newborns are fighting to live. Monitoring and managing respiratory issues, gastrointestinal health, and nutrition are key to keeping puppies growing and thriving.

For more information on caring for newborn puppies and ensuring their health, visit

First Week Puppy Management
First Week Puppy Management


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