A few things are as cute as a litter of German Shepherd puppies, but the idea of caring for all those bundles of fluff can be overwhelming.
So, what do you do after your German Shepherd gives birth? After the whelping process is over, clean the mother GSD as much as possible, without disturbing her or the puppies. Instead of using soaps and disinfectants, clean your dog using warm water and a washcloth. Remove soiled bedding from the whelping box and replace it with clean towels or blankets.
If your female German Shepherd is about to give birth, you need to be prepared to step in and care for her newborn puppies if necessary! Read on to find out how to take care of newborn German Shepherd puppies to raise a healthy and happy litter.
What Do You Do When a German Shepherd Puppy Is Born?
It may come as a big surprise, but German Shepherds are very self-sufficient during birth. Though your GSD is more than capable of giving birth to puppies on her own, you should still be there to offer her support and help out in case of an emergency.
Your dog will cut the umbilical cord and clean the puppies as best as she can, but it’s your job to check all puppies to see if they are breathing properly.
If a puppy isn’t breathing or appears like it has trouble breathing, take them out of the nesting box and rub them across its backs. Wrap the puppy in a towel and continue rubbing their back to stimulate them to breathe.
But, if a puppy’s nose seems congested with excess fluid or mucus use a baby ear syringe, or a suction bulb to remove the obstruction.
Things You Need When a German Shepherd Puppy Is Born
German Shepherd puppies are born blind, deaf, and toothless and are basically defenseless. Puppies also don’t know how to defecate on their own and rely heavily on their mothers to survive the first couple of weeks (source).
To help your female German Shepherd care for her puppies, you’ll need to be prepared! Here’s everything you’ll need to get ready for the delivery:
Before the delivery, your female German Shepherd will exhibit nesting behavior by searching for a safe and comfortable place in which to give birth to her puppies. It’s important that you provide a safe, clean, and comfortable nest for your pooch to give birth in.
If you don’t create a suitable whelping box, your GSD will find a secluded place inside your home and deliver her puppies there. Keep in mind, delivering the puppies is a messy business and there will be some drainage and waste in the area for the next couple of weeks.
Your best bet to keeping the mom and the puppies clean and safe is to set up a designated nesting box before the delivery. Proper hygiene is the key to ensuring the health and well-being of both mom and her pups.
Clean Sheets, Towels & Blankets
Make sure that you have plenty of clean towels, sheets, and blankets on hand. You’ll need to line the bottom of the nesting box with towels and sheets that can be easily removed and washed or thrown away after birth.
You’ll also need extra towels and blankets to cover the puppies and the mother to keep them warm and comfortable during the delivery phase.
Heating Mat or Heat Lamp
Newborn German Shepherd puppies can’t regulate their body temperature, so it’s up to you to ensure their environment is warm enough. Besides using towels and blankets you can also use a heating pad or a heat lamp inside the nesting box.
If you decide to use a heating pad, choose a quality product and make sure that it is set at an appropriate temperature. On the other hand, if you choose a heat lamp, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and set it up so it can’t cause discomfort or burn your puppies.
Nose Suction Bulb
Sometimes, puppies are born with excess fluid and mucus inside their noses and rely on you to clear their airways and help them breathe properly. Use a baby nose suction bulb to get the mucus out and clear up the puppy’s nose.
Be very careful when using the suction bulb and don’t insert it more than just inside the nostril as you can seriously injure your puppy.
Newborn German Shepherd Puppy Care
While most GSD mothers are more than capable of taking care of newborn German Shepherd puppies, your dog may need a little bit of help. When it comes to caring, here are a few things you’ll need to do:
Cleaning & Hygiene
Keeping the nest box clean is of utmost importance and will ensure that puppies and their mother are healthy and happy! As mentioned earlier, delivery is messy so make sure that the bedding inside the nesting box can be easily removed and disposed of.
During the first few weeks, the mom will clean up her pup’s waste, but if she has a very large litter she’ll need help keeping everything clean and sanitary. Remove the soiled bedding and replace it with clean sheets once a day to maintain hygiene inside the whelping box.
By the end of the second and the beginning of the third week, the puppies will open their eyes and become more active. They will start to explore, move, and poop more which means you’ll need to spend more time cleaning the nest to provide optimal living conditions.
German Shepherd puppies spend their first week of life nursing and sleeping! It’s important for GSD puppies to nurse right away as their mother will initially produce a yellowish substance called colostrum.
This substance is essential for newborn puppies as it contains the mother’s antibodies that will help build the puppy’s immune system and keep it protected against diseases (source).
You won’t have to think about feeding your GSD puppies for the first few weeks as they will rely solely on their mother for milk. However, you should start weaning your puppies when they are around three or four weeks old.
Three weeks old German Shepherd puppies can eat wet puppy food or puppy kibble mixed with water as it is easier to chew.
Keep in mind, a female German Shepherd can stop producing milk at any time, at which point you’ll need to step in and start bottle feeding the puppies. If this happens, have your vet prescribe you an artificial puppy formula to feed to your pups.
Newborn puppies can’t regulate their body temperature and may even die if they are cold for an extended period of time. To prevent the worst-case scenario, you’ll need to keep an eye on the temperature of the room where the nesting box is.
During the first week, keep the temperature inside the room between 86 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In the second week, you can lower the room temperature to 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the puppies turn three weeks the ideal temperature for them is around 71 degrees Fahrenheit.
Besides maintaining the ideal room temperature, you’ll also need to keep the room’s humidity between 55 and 65 percent to prevent dehydration in puppies. Make sure not to exceed 65 percent humidity, since too much moisture can cause diseases.
Use a humidifier or place the nesting box in your laundry room to maintain ideal humidity levels.
Weigh the Puppies
Use a baby scale to weigh your puppies regularly to ensure they are gaining weight. Puppies are generally checked over and weighted two weeks after birth and then again at four weeks of age.
However, you can use baby scales to weigh your GSD puppies at birth and then every other day to see if they are gaining weight and developing as expected.
If your puppy isn’t gaining weight, seems dehydrated, or isn’t nursing, call your vet right away!
What Can Newborn German Shepherds Eat?
Newborn German Shepherd puppies will nurse and drink their mother’s milk for the first three or four weeks. Once their baby teeth start to grow your puppies can start eating wet puppy food, or kibble soaked in water.
By the time your puppies reach seven or eight weeks of age, they should be transitioned to solid food.
Like all other dogs, German Shepherds are very self-sufficient and usually don’t need any help giving birth and raising their puppies. Nevertheless, there is no harm in wanting to be prepared to welcome the new puppies the best way you can.
Caring for a litter of newborn German Shepherd puppies can be a daunting idea, especially if you never raised puppies before. But, don’t worry! With our handy checklist and a bit of preparation, you’ll be ready to welcome your first GSD litter to the world!