Under normal circumstances, neonatal puppies depend on their mom to maintain
their body temperature. But your situation is far from normal. Without
external heat, it doesn’t take long for a puppy to become chilled
Newborn puppies can't generate their own body heat until they develop the
shiver reflex at around two and half weeks. At birth his body (rectal)
temperature should fall between 95° and 99°F. If it drops below 94°F, your
puppy could be facing life-threatening hypothermia. Over the next three weeks,
his body temperature will slowly rise until it reaches 99° to 100°. Eventually
he’ll sustain a normal temperature of 101.5°.
Until his little body can produce its own heat, mom (or in her absence, you)
must provide warmth. If mom can care for her brood, let her keep the babies
warm. Under normal circumstances she shouldn’t need additional heat. Without
her, it’s up to you to keep the room temperature according to the chart below.
Newborn to 7 days
85º to 90ºF
Day 8 to 14
80º to 85ºF
Day 15 to 21
75º to 80ºF
Day 22 to 28
70º to 75ºF
Despite our instinct to want to immediately feed a puppy in trouble, warmth is
far more critical than food. Cold puppies can’t nurse or digest food. Their
heart rates drop, and the circulatory and respiratory systems collapse. They
don’t last long.
But you don’t want to warm a cold puppy too quickly because that, too, can be
fatal.You have to find that happy medium between having a chilly dog and a hot
dog. The safest way to warm him is old school—using your own body heat. Don’t
rush it; warming him too quickly could send him into shock. Hopefully, in a
couple of hours you should feel him wiggling and moving around. Then it’s
safe to prepare the bottle.
When you’re ready to set up the nest, place clean towels or puppy pads in a
cardboard box positioned well away from drafts like air conditioning vents,
windows and doors.
Position the box half-on half-off a heating pad (rather than placing the
heating inside the box.) This way the puppy can crawl off the heat source
should the pad grow too hot. Cover the floor with a towel, blanket or puppy
pads. If you must put the heating pad inside, make sure the puppy can’t come
in direct contact with it. If he’s open-mouth panting, the box is too warm.
A litter of puppies can help you gauge their comfort level easier than a solo
pup. Cold puppies will cry and they’ll collect in a pile to help keep each
other warm. Hot dogs will separate and sleep apart.
You can keep your puppy warm using:
Heating pad. Manufacturers of heating pads made for people do not recommend
them being used on animals. Even set on “low”, temperatures can soar to
dangerously hot levels, requiring almost constant monitoring. Pads made for
animals don’t get as hot and usually have a low voltage power supply.
Hot water bottle. Or improvise one out of a shampoo or mouthwash bottle.
Wrap a thick towel around the bottle so the puppy can’t come in direct
contact with it. As with the heating pads, make sure he can move away from
the bottle if he gets too hot.
Heat lamps will warm him up, but they can be dehydrating and hard to
regulate. He can easily become overheated with no way to escape.
In an emergency you can fill a heavy sock with ½ cup uncooked rice. Heat in
the microwave for 60 seconds. The rice-filled sock should stay warm for
three hours. Check it to make sure it’s not too hot. You may need to wrap it
in a towel.
Whatever heat source you provide for your puppy, make sure he doesn’t become
overheated or suffer burns.