Getting a puppy can be a lot of fun but also be really draining! Puppies are the most adorable things in the whole universe but they are also a bunch of work, constantly needing supervision, always messing up, and getting in trouble.
The recommended age for a puppy to leave its mother and litter is eight weeks. However, if some emergency circumstances require you to care for a puppy younger than eight weeks, you’re in for a tough time!
Puppies often get abandoned, or their mother goes missing. Young puppies, especially before they are weaned and onto solid food, need round-the-clock care, and potentially bottle-feeding.
Here are some tips to take care of very young puppies, some of whom leave their litters before they are ready.
If the puppy is weaned off its mother and onto solid food, you’ll just have to feed puppy food that is super high in nutrients. Note that a puppy that is between the ages of six to eight weeks might be already weaned but not be able to eat pure solid food yet, so soften the kibble with milk or some natural broth.
A puppy even younger than that might need bottle feeding multiple times a day. Puppies are notoriously messy eaters, and bottle feeding can be a more hygienic option than bowl feeding, especially when multiple puppies are sharing the same bowl.
When bottle-feeding, you can control the flow of milk, so there’s less risk of your puppy drowning or choking. Plus, you can bond with your puppy while they feed. Here’s a step-by-step guide to bottle feeding your puppy:
- Warm the milk to body temperature. You can do this by placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
- Hold your puppy in your lap or in a sitting position. Gently insert the nipple into their mouth and tilt the bottle so the milk flows into their mouth.
- Allow your puppy to drink at their own pace. Once they’ve had enough, remove the nipple from their mouth and let their stomachs settle. If their stomachs start gurgling, slow the feeding rate down and give them more time to digest their liquid diet.
- Repeat until your puppy is full. Be sure to clean up any spillage and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
Prepare Your Home
If you’ve taken up the responsibility of caring for a young pup, you’ll need a few supplies.
Gate or Playpen – You’ll need to confine your puppy so that it doesn’t get into trouble chewing up things that can be hazardous like electrical cords, or get underfoot where he might be stepped on and hurt. Alternatively, baby or pet gates can cordon off certain areas and keep the puppy area completely safe.
Leash and Collar – Once your pup is fully vaccinated, you’ll be able to take poochie out on a walk. Puppies need to get out and explore the world, so get out as much as you can!
Cleaning Supplies – Puppies will mess up. A LOT! Get an arsenal of cleaning supplies in preparation for the new arrival. Potty training a puppy takes loads of time and in the meantime, you’ll want to manage the cleanliness of your home.
Food and Water Bowls – These should be made of high-quality, BPA-free plastic, stainless steel, or any other material that doesn’t contain any chemicals that could hurt a vulnerable puppy’s sensitive system. Make sure to give your puppy access to plenty of fresh water!
Grooming Supplies – You’ll need shampoo, a nail grinder or clippers, and a brush. Long-haired dogs might need conditioners, and thick, double-coated dogs might need undercoat rakes. The sooner you start grooming your pup, the more used your pup will be to being handled and groomed.
Poop Bags – Whether your pup goes potty in the yard or outside, you’ll need to clean up after your pooch. Use biodegradable bags, and never plastic, as these bags eventually end up in landfills and you’ll want them to decompose quickly and naturally.
Your puppy is at the most vulnerable when he leaves the litter, and before he is fully vaccinated. When still on mother’s milk, puppies are protected by the antibodies in their mom’s immune system. And when they are weaned off milk, they are no longer protected.
The last round of vaccinations is typically done at about 12 weeks. Be sure to keep up to date with your pup’s vaccination schedule and limit contact with other dogs and humans until then.
The first shots are critical in preventing serious illnesses in puppies such as distemper and parvovirus.
While no pup should have to leave their moms and littermates until about eight weeks, sometimes longer, extenuating circumstances sometimes force them into difficult situations.
With these tips, you can adequately take care of a very young puppy and ensure that it gets a chance for a long, happy life with you.