How often do puppies nurse a week? Essential Tips

What do I do to care for the newborn puppies?

The mother should spend most of her time with her puppies during the first few days after birth. For the first month of life, puppies require very little care from the owner because their mother will feed and care for them. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, the pet owner should not interfere with the mothers care.

The puppies should be kept warm and should nurse frequently. They should be checked every few hours to ensure they are warm and well fed. The mother should be checked to make certain that she is producing adequate and normal-appearing milk.

If the mother does not stay in the whelping box the majority of the time, the puppies body temperatures must be closely monitored. If the puppies are cold, supplemental heating should be provided but caution needs to be taken to avoid burns as puppies do not have the same reactions to heat as adult dogs do. During the first four days of life, the newborn puppies box and external environment should be maintained at 85° to 90°F (29.4° to 32.2°C). The temperature may gradually be decreased to 80°F (26.7°C) by the seventh to tenth day and to 72°F (22.2°C) by the end of the fourth week. If the litter is large, the external temperature does not have to be kept as warm. As puppies huddle together, their body heat provides additional warmth.

If the mother feels the puppies are in danger or if there is too much light, she may become anxious and not produce adequate milk. Placing a sheet or cloth over the top of the box to obscure much of the light may resolve the problem. An enclosed box is also an excellent solution. Some dogs, especially first-time mothers, are more nervous than others. Such dogs may attempt to hide their young, even from the owner. Moving the puppies from place to place may endanger the puppies if they are placed in a cold or drafty location. Dogs with this behavior should be caged or confined in a secure, secluded area. This type of mother has also been known to kill her puppies, intentionally or inadvertently, presumably as a means of protecting them from danger.

What are the signs that the puppies are not doing well and what do I do?

Puppies should eat or sleep 90% of the time during the first two weeks of life.

If they are crying during or after eating, they are usually becoming ill, are not receiving adequate milk, or the mothers milk has become infected (mastitis). A newborn puppy is very susceptible to infections and can die within a few hours of becoming ill. If excessive crying occurs, the mother and entire litter should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Puppies should gain 5-10% of their body weight daily. When the mothers milk supply is inadequate to support this, supplemental feeding one to six times per day is recommended and should be performed routinely on any litter with greater than five puppies. There are several excellent commercial milk replacers available. They require no preparation other than warming. These milk replacers should be warmed to 95°to 100° (35° to 37.8°C) before feeding. Its temperature can easily be tested on your forearm: it should be about the same temperature as your skin.

Any milk replacer that is used should contain optimal levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a nutrient that is important for the development of the puppies brains and eyes. Goat milk is not recommended as it is far too low in protein and fat. Supplemental feeding may be continued until the puppies are old enough to eat puppy food on their own.

If the mother does not produce milk or her milk becomes infected, the puppies will cry. If this occurs, an entire litter can die within 24 to 48 hours. Total milk replacement feeding using the mentioned products or adopting the puppies to another nursing mother is usually required. If replacement feeding is chosen, the feeding amounts listed on the product should be used. Puppies less than two weeks of age should be fed every 3-4 hours. Puppies two to four weeks of age do well with feedings every 6-8 hours. Weaning, as described below, should begin at three to four weeks of age.

How Do You Know If Nursing Puppies Are Getting Enough To Eat?

While we assume that nature will take its course for puppies that are nursing and that they will get enough nutrients from their mother, this does not always happen.

It could be that the mother can’t produce enough milk, that smaller puppies in a larger litter aren’t getting the access that they need, or that the mother has rejected a pup for some reason. How do you know?

The most obvious sign that a puppy isn’t getting enough to eat is its size and weight. If it is just one puppy in the litter, it will be noticeably smaller than the others.

If you don’t have a point of comparison, newborn puppies should gain between 5-10% of their body weight each day. This means that they should have doubled in size within the first week.

If the puppies are crying during or after nursing, this is also a sign that they aren’t getting enough as they are showing distress. Of course, crying doesn’t always sound that different from the sound that a group of satisfied suckling puppies makes, so pay close attention.

PRO TIP: If your newborn puppy is showing any signs of distress it’s important to talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Newborn puppies are just like any other babies: their time is spent eating and sleeping and being cute. Most dogs are naturally good mothers and will see to the needs of their babies. Typically your only job will be to monitor the puppies physical condition to ensure their health.

Newborn puppies need to nurse roughly every two hours. Their mother will stay with them most of the time, which allows them to eat whenever they need to. As they mature, the time between feedings increases, until at around four or five weeks the pups are old enough to start weaning and transition to solid food.

The mother dogs milk contains all the nutrients that a newborn puppy needs. It is vital that puppies be able to nurse from their mother at least for the first 24 hours of their lives. This is necessary because the mothers milk contains colostrum, a substance that provides important antibodies to the puppies to guard them from infection for the first few months until they start producing their own antibodies.

As you monitor your dogs litter, all the puppies should be nursing heartily and be plump, gaining weight consistently. If you notice that any of the pups dont seem to be gaining weight or nursing enough or at all, you shouldnt hesitate to contact your veterinarian for an immediate visit. Puppies can become sick quickly if they arent getting sufficient nutrition. Other signs that you should consult your vet about are vomiting, diarrhea, coughing or difficulty breathing, and continuous crying.

There are unfortunate occasions when you might need to bottle-feed a puppy, either to supplement nutrition for a small, weak pup or for the whole litter if the mother is unable or unavailable to nurse her babies. In these cases, the most favorable situation will be that the babies were able to nurse for at least their first 24 hours or longer. When it is necessary to bottle-feed, you can get puppy milk replacement formula from your vet or at a pet supply store, along with puppy-sized bottles. You will need to feed the puppy on schedule (every two hours for those under two weeks old), but your vet will be able to provide advice on feeding frequency based on the puppys age and condition. She will also show you how to safely feed your pup from a bottle.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.