Fostering newborn pups and their moms

Last week we shared what it is like fostering rescued moms-to-be and described the lead-up to and delivery of the puppies. Now that the litter has arrived, and each newborn has been given a different colored Velcro collar for identification, what’s involved in caring for them before they’re adopted?

For the first couple of weeks, your main concerns will be keeping the puppies warm, fed, and clean. Newborns can’t regulate their body temperature, so the whelping box is kept at about 80 degrees F using heating lamps and pads provided by FTF. The puppies need to eat every 2 hours round-the-clock, with their weight—which usually doubles in the first week—recorded daily. Mom also requires frequent protein-rich meals (at least 4 times/day) and access to a full water bowl at all times. While she usually takes care of cleaning her babies, keeping the whelping box clean is your responsibility.

Ten to 14 days after birth, the puppies’ eyes and ears open, and they transition from crawling to walking. At this point, the whelping box is removed, and the pups are confined to a pen lined “wall-to-wall” with potty pads and towels and scattered with blankets, small beds, and toys. At age 3 to 4 weeks, mush is added to their diet and fed every few hours, although the pups will continue to nurse for another 3-4 weeks before being weaned from breast milk. Per Illinois law, puppies cannot be adopted until they are 8-weeks-old (we wait 10 weeks or more for smaller breeds like chihuahuas, who develop more slowly). During this time, the socialization process continues, and Fetching begins reviewing the 10 to 20 puppy adoption applications it receives each day after announcing a new litter.


These are the basics, and every litter is different. But what’s a day in the life of an FTF volunteer puppy raiser really like? No one knows better than our fosters. Here are some of their comments about one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever love:


  • Doreen W: You don’t get much sleep during the first few weeks. Fosters who take on a mom and her pups should be home most of the time or have someone who can babysit when they have to go out.

  • Kristina W: For the first couple of weeks, I sleep on my couch near the pups. I’m constantly counting them and making sure the larger ones don’t squish the smaller ones. When the puppies are a little bigger, I switch them out when they’re nursing—usually placing 4 on mom at a time—so everyone gets enough milk.

  • Katie K: Puppies are a 24/7 deal. It’s constant watching and interacting with them. And nonstop cleaning—I can easily go through a pack of 100 potty pads in a week.

  • Karen E: Puppies sleep most of the time, eat when they’re not sleeping, and play in between. There’s lots of poop to clean up, tons of laundry to do, and times where you’re absolutely exhausted. There’s also lots of laughs, thousands of puppy kisses, and many moments of pure joy. There is a special bond you build with momma as you become her partner in taking care and raising her puppies. You put many things in your personal life on hold because the puppies and their mom come first. Always.


Summing up, Doreen W says that puppies are a lot of work but so much fun! “Seeing them grow and develop their individual personalities, then matching each one with the right forever home is very rewarding. While it breaks out hearts to let them go, the excitement of their new families helps ease the pain.”


Have these blogs made you want to learn more about fostering pregnant moms and helping raise their puppies? Then please contact Doreen to join our puppy team: doreen@fetchingtailsfoundation.org The 2 litters currently in our care could use some new toys and supplies, so visit our wishlist to send them birthday gifts: https://rebrand.ly/ftf-wishlist


Written by: Michele G

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