Ask the Vet: Why Do Newborn Puppies Cry?
Dr. Ivana Crnec
Newborn puppies cry for a variety of reasons. Interpreting those ear-piercing cries can be a challenge, but the the good news is that it is possible to narrow down the possibilities by taking a look at what puppies need to stay comfortable. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana shares several reasons why newborn puppies cry.
A Form of Communication
Much like human babies, newborn puppies cry, whine and yelp to communicate with the environment. Contrary to popular belief, when communicating with the environment newborn puppies are quite loud. Although small, they produce piercing sounds.
However, healthy pups are not supposed to spend too much time in communications (crying). Healthy newborn puppies are supposed to spend most of their time sleeping and eating.
Basically, the crying is considered normal as long as it is occasional and moderate. The crying is considered abnormal when it is excessive, constant, and in situations when the pup actually cries itself to sleep.
Generally speaking, there are several basic reasons why newborn puppies cry. Following are several causes of newborn puppies crying.
Newborn Puppies Cry When Hungry
Not getting enough food is probably the most common reason for crying in newborn pups. The lack of proper feeding can be due to:
· Problems with the mother that lead to inadequate milk production.
· Problems with the pup that prevent it from proper suckling. This occurs in pups that are too weak and not allowed to nurse by the other pups. This also occurs in pups with genetic malformations of the mouth (like cleft palate) that disable vacuum creation and suckling.
When the pup does not receive food, it feels hungry. Instinctively, it starts crying to let the environment know how it feels. It should be noted that newborn puppies are deaf and blind and may need some help to find a free teat to nurse on.
If the pup is constantly crying and it does not nurse, it is important to see a vet as soon as possible. The vet will determine whether the problems are caused by issues with the mother or the pup. Based on the findings, the vet will suggest management options.
If the mother does not produce enough milk, the vet will suggest bottle feeding. Keep in mind that during the first few weeks of life pups need to eat as often as every 2 to 3 hours. For this purpose there are specifically formulated puppy milk substitutes available on the market.
If the problem is a genetic malformation, the vet will create an individually tailored treatment strategy based on the exact type and severity of the malformation.
Newborn Puppies Cry When They are Cold
During the first two weeks of life, puppies lack the ability to regulate their body temperatures. This is why newborn puppies tend to cuddle with their mothers and stay close to their siblings.
Warmth is also important for proper food digestion. Namely, cold pups cannot digest milk which leads to digestive issues and more often than not, constipation.
Puppies that huddle and cry a lot should be examined by a vet. There are several ways of managing cold:
· Keep the litter box away from droughty places
· Place extra towels or blankets in the box
· Slip a heating pad under the bedding (turned on a low setting).
When it comes to heat, do not overdo it. Too much heat can also be problematic. If the pups are spreading out, getting away from the littermates and resting alone it means they are exposed to too much warmth.
Newborn Pups Cry When They Need to Eliminate
Newborn pups do not have control over their elimination needs. That is why mothers lick their rear ends to stimulate proper elimination. If the mother fails to stimulate, pups develop bloated bellies. Bloated bellies cause pain and discomfort.
To encourage the puppy and stimulate elimination, gently rub its rear end with warm and moist gauze. The warmth and moisture of the gauze will mimic the texture of the mother’s tongue and the rubbing will mimic her stimulations.
Newborn Puppies Cry When They Seek Comfort
Dogs are social animals that seek love, attention and companionship. They do not cope well with isolation. That is why pups cry if they are separated from their mothers and littermates.
If a pup must be separated from its litter (bottle feeding, weighing, special care) make sure it has a familiar scent near that will put it at ease and help it relax.
For such purpose you can use a blanket from the litter box or some old t-shirt of yours. Although small, pups recognize your smell and seek comfort in it.
Pups can also cry out of fear, for example when startled by loud and intimidating sounds.
Newborn Puppies Cry When They are Stuck
If you can hear a pup crying but cannot figure out where the cry is coming from, make the mother get up. More often than not, mothers accidentally roll over their pups.
Newborn Puppies Cry When They are Sick
Newborn puppies are particularly prone to several health issues:
· Congenital defects – the most common congenital defects are cleft palate and lack of opening in the rear end.
· Digestion problems – pups are very sensitive and extremely susceptible to diarrhea, constipation and tummy troubles. Digestion problems are quite common among pups bottle fed with cow’s milk.
· Hypothermia – low body temperature that causes fatigue and lethargy and disables proper digestion.
· Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar levels that can develop when the pup is inadequately fed and when it is cold.
The Bottom Line…
Newborn puppies are completely helpless creatures. When they cry, it is either because they want something or to signalize that something wrong is going on with them. Crying is instinctively provoked in pups and pups never cry without a reason.
Hearing newborn pups cry can be quite upsetting especially for first time caretakers. If uncertain why your newborn pup is crying, do not hesitate to consult with a vet. Newborn pups are gentle and fragile and things can go either way really fast.
It is comforting to know that over time, with experience, caretakers can learn to distinguish the different types of crying and act accordingly.
Taking care of newborn puppies is a full time job but it is also a heartwarming and ultimately rewarding experience.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.