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Why Is My Newborn Puppy Crying? 

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A newborn puppy cries to communicate a need to its mother. It can be hungry, tired, or needs to urinate or defecate. It is not normal for a puppy to cry excessively. This may be a sign that it is dangerously cold, unwell, and in medical intervention. 

A healthy, well-fed newborn puppy is quiet and sleeps when it is not feeding. A puppy that cries often is a sign that something is wrong.[1] 

Puppies cry in different scenarios: when sleeping, feeding, if they’re cold, and so on.

Each circumstance is different.

Read on to find out why newborn puppies cry, how you can help and when you need to call the vet. 

Why Is My Newborn Puppy Crying?

A newborn puppy cries when it’s hungry, cold, needs to urinate or defecate, and when it is exhausted or ill. You need to take action if you notice that the puppy is not eating enough, getting cold, or is ill.  

Here are 5 reasons why newborn puppies cry: 

  1. Hunger 
  2. Cold/hypothermia 
  3. Need to urinate or defecate 
  4. Needs attention or sleep 
  5. Illness 

1. Hunger 

Newborn Puppy Crying due to Hunger

A well-fed puppy starts with a relaxed, healthy, and well-fed mother. 

A bitch’s milk can dry up if she is not eating enough or becomes anxious. Feed the mother well and reduce her stress by ensuring the whelping box is clean, comfortable, and quiet (the box in which the mother and puppies live for the first weeks).[2]

The mother’s diet need to include higher fat content[3]  and contain 2 to 3 times more calories than usual. [4]

Crying puppies during or after eating can indicate a lack of milk. 

Make sure the crying puppy is not getting pushed out the way by siblings, that the mother is being fed enough, and check the mother’s teats for signs of mastitis.[5] 

Mastitis Reduces Milk Supply for Puppies 

Mastitis is a bacterial infection of the lactating glands. It causes the mother pain and reduces the milk supply. It can be caused by a blocked milk duct, an infection, or a scratch from one of the puppies.

A mother who snaps at her puppies when they feed and has hot, dark teats can be suffering from mastitis.

Mastitis requires medical intervention, so call the vet if you suspect that your dog has this infection. Do not let puppies feed on an infected teat.[6] 

When Can You Supplement A Puppy’s Feeds? 

Supplement a puppy’s feed as advised by a vet if the mother has mastitis, her milk dries up, or if she abandons her pups. 

Puppy formula from a vet is recommended over cow’s milk when hand-feeding pups. Cow’s milk provides almost double the nutrients the puppy needs. Overfeeding a puppy can cause it to grow too quickly and incur growth defects. 

2. Cold 

Newborn Puppy Crying due to Cold

Puppies can not maintain their body temperature for the first 4 weeks of their lives.[1]  They are typically kept warm by their mother, but in her absence puppies need to be kept warm by other means. 

Newborn puppies have a weak, developing immune system. Being cold puts stress on their immune systems and makes them more susceptible to illness. A low body temperature can also harm a pup’s ability to nurse and digest food.[3] 

An ambient room temperature of 85-90°F (29.5-32°C) is required to keep newborn puppies warm enough for their first 4 days. The temperature can be slowly decreased over the next 3 to 6 days to 80°F (26.7°C). [7] 

3. Need to Urinate or Defecate 

Newborn puppies need help urinating and defecating, crying for their mother’s help. She then licks her puppies to stimulate elimination. 

An abandoned puppy needs a gentle massage around the anal region using a cotton ball dipped in warm water. [4]

4. Attention or Exhaustion 

Newborn Puppy Crying in need of Attention

Similarly to human babies, puppies cry when tired or in need of attention. In response, the mother affectionately licks her tired puppies to reassure and soothe them. 

If you are hand-rearing an orphaned puppy, try giving it a daily gentle body massage by stroking its sides and back with a soft cloth. Massage is a way to show affection, soothe a tired pup, and stimulate its circulation. 

5. Illness 

Newborn Puppy Crying due to illness

Crying, restlessness, listlessness, and weight loss can all be signs that a puppy is unwell. Orphaned puppies and low birth weight puppies are more susceptible to illness. 

An orphaned puppy misses out on the mother’s protective antibodies passed through her milk. In the absence of a mother, an orphan also needs help staying warm. 

Puppies with a low birth weight have an 81% chance of dying in the first 48 hours.[8] 

Here are conditions to watch out for in newborn puppies: 

  • Neonatal bacterial septicemia 
  • Weight loss 
  • Dehydration 
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) 
  • Hypothermia

Neonatal Bacterial Septicemia 

This bacterial infection can be fatal if not treated quickly. Prolonged delivery, formula feeding, stress, low birth weight, and low body temperature can make a puppy more susceptible to bacterial septicemia. 

Symptoms of Neonatal Bacterial Septicemia in Puppies 
  • Reduced weight gain
  • Failure to suckle
  • Blood in urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Unusual and increased crying 
  • Abdominal swelling and pain

Call your vet if you notice any of these symptoms. Treatment includes broad-spectrum antibiotics, supported tube or bottle feeding, keeping the pup warm, and replacing fluids if it is dehydrated.

Weight Loss 

Healthy puppies gain weight daily. Weight loss can be an indication of an illness or a lack of nutrients. 

Weight needs to be monitored and recorded daily. To identify the difference between puppies in a litter (for weight monitoring purposes), tie a different colored ribbon loosely around each puppy’s neck.

Dehydration 

Puppies can become dehydrated in low humidity environments or if they are not getting enough milk.

Signs of Dehydration in Puppies: 

  • Loss of skin elasticity: If you gently pull a puppy’s skin, it snaps back into place, but in a dehydrated pup, it doesn’t return into place.
  • Sticky gums: A dehydrated pup’s gums will feel tacky to the touch. 

To reduce the risk of dehydration, set a humidifier to 85 – 90% humidity or put a warm wet facecloth in a corner of the puppies’ box. Remove the cloth once it has cooled so it doesn’t make the puppies feel cold.[9] 

Newborn Puppy Crying due to Dehydration

Hypoglycemia 

Puppies need to feed shortly after birth to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) because their glycogen stores are depleted.

A puppy can also suffer from low blood sugar if it has missed a meal or not eaten enough. 

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia in Puppies:

  • Legaric or excessively sleepy 
  • Muscle twitches 
  • Seizures

If you notice these symptoms you can save a puppy’s life by giving it a few drops of corn syrup using a dropper.

Hypothermia

Newborn puppies can get too cold and develop hypothermia at a seemingly normal room temperature. 

All newborn puppies are susceptible to hypothermia, but low-birth-weight puppies are particularly prone to it.[2] 

Symptoms of Hypothermia 
  • Increased heart rate, followed by a slow heart rate. 
  • Slow reflexes. 
  • Fast breathing, followed by slower and shallower breathing. 
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Loss of consciousness. [10] 

If a puppy is cold, increase the ambient heat gradually. Warming a puppy up too quickly can have devastating health implications, including death.[9]  

Place low birth weight and cold puppies at the hind teats for feeding. These teats give the most milk. This helps puppies that don’t get enough to eat as they are usually pushed aside by their siblings. [10]

If the mother leaves the puppies during the day or has abandoned them, you need to provide an alternative heat source. 

The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends using a heat lamp rather than a heating pad since heating pads are more likely to burn puppies.[3]  

What to Do if a Newborn Puppy Is Crying

First, let the mother attend to crying newborn puppies. If the bitch can’t help or you’re hand-rearing an abandoned puppy, check if the puppy is cold, hungry, or needs to defecate or urinate. Call the vet if you notice any signs of illness. 

If a puppy is cold, hungry, or requires affection, it will soon stop whining once its needs are met. 

Call the vet for advice if the pup continues to cry despite having all its needs met. Excessive crying is not normal for a newborn puppy and can indicate a serious health condition.  

Related: How to Get A Puppy to Stop Whining

What to Do if a Newborn Puppy Is Crying

When To Call a Vet for a Crying Newborn Puppy

Contact a vet if a newborn puppy is crying and seems restless in the first 72 hours, despite appearing to nurse. 

Here are other symptoms that need to be reported to a vet urgently: 

  • The mother has separated a puppy from the rest of the litter. 
  • A puppy has trouble nursing. 
  • A puppy is lying on its side instead of on its chest. 
  • A puppy is lying with its mouth open.  
  • A puppy moves a little in comparison with the rest of the litter. 

If newborn puppies are crying excessively, call a vet to examine the litter and mother urgently. Newborn puppies can die within a few hours of becoming ill.

Conclusion 

Newborn puppies should rarely cry. It’s expected that a new pup will cry at times, but a newborn puppy that won’t stop crying is irregular behavior. 

Do not hesitate to call a vet for advice if neither the bitch nor you can help a crying puppy. Excessively crying can indicate illness. A speedy medical intervention can save a young pup’s life. 

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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