How Long Can A Newborn Puppy Go Without Eating Before Dying?


New life is beautiful, miraculous, and incredibly fragile. This rings true for humans and our four-footed fur kids.

If your pooch is on the verge of giving birth, you might be wondering if she’s ready for this new adventure and what you, as the human guardian of these tiny new lives, are in for.

What happens if something goes wrong and she can’t feed her precious newborn puppies? How long can they survive? What should you do? Let’s find out.

What Could Go Wrong With Newborn Puppies?

Pregnancy and birth can be filled with complications. Just like humans, mommy dogs can get super freaked out by this crazy process, causing our brains and bodies to short-circuit.

Suddenly, the genetic programming that somehow lets a new dog mommy know how to care for her newborns goes haywire, and she rejects her precious bundles of joy.

Or, she has some medical ailment that causes her not to produce enough milk for them. In severe cases, complications could even cost your beautiful dog her life while she’s giving birth to her offspring.

Sometimes, mommy dogs need to give birth through a caesarian section, especially if it’s a toy breed or bulldog. After this, the mommy may be unable to feed her babies, in which case you need to step in.

She might also suffer from mastitis, making nursing extremely painful. If this is the case, she may bite at the pups or run away when they’re trying to feed. A breech birth is another potentially serious complication.

Here, one or more of the puppies are in the wrong position, so they can get stuck in the birth canal. This is potentially fatal for both mom and pup.

If anything goes wrong, know that your newborn puppies can survive for several hours after birth, since they still have some nutrients from the womb in their bodies. This allows enough time to get them to the vet or administer appropriate feed to them. Even though this is a scary thought, at least you should be able to pull them through.

Note that newborn puppies can’t regulate their own body temperature. Under normal circumstances, snuggling up to their mom while suckling keeps them warm. So, if your mommy dog cannot snuggle with her little ones, keep them warm with blankets.

Also, the longer they go without a proper feed, the greater the risk of dehydrating and developing hypoglycemia (extremely low blood sugar levels), both of which could be fatal.

In short, many things can go wrong during birth. When your dog nears the time for giving birth, prepare a birthing box for her with lots of blankets to keep everyone snug and warm. Also, have your car and cellphone ready since an emergency trip to the vet could be on the cards.

How Often Should a Newborn Puppy Feed?

Newborn pups need frequent feeding, at least once every two hours. That’s because their tummies are so small that they can only take in a little bit of milk at a time. At this young age, they can only sleep and suckle. That’s it. Some of these tiny little fur kids nurse for up to 50 minutes at a time. Poor mommy pooch! In the early weeks of her small babies’ lives, she really doesn’t get a break.

Newborn Puppy Feeding Problems

Puppies jostle each other when it comes to feeding time. They’ll jockey for the best spot, racing each other and trampling over each other to get where they want to be. This is perfectly normal. When the jostling becomes intense, and they’re continually trying to find a new teat, there might be something wrong, though. If you notice this, call the vet.

It might be that your mommy dog isn’t producing enough milk and that the pups are hungry. In this case, your mommy dog might require more nutritious food or supplements added to her diet. Or, there could be something else wrong. Either way, the precious puppies may need some bottle-feeding to help them along.

What is Fading Puppy Syndrome?

Sometimes, puppies are born seemingly normal, but their condition deteriorates in the space of two to ten days, leading to an early death. This is called fading puppy syndrome and is frighteningly common, unfortunately.

In some cases, the mommy dog picks up on this and rejects the tiny puppy, which is often the litter’s runt. If you pick up on this early enough, you can step in and still save the puppy. Remember, in nature, it’s survival of the fittest.

In the wild, animals don’t have the resources to nurse a sickly or dying puppy back to health, so they reject them. But, your newborn puppies weren’t brought to life in the wild. They’re right there, with you, and you can intervene and save a precious life.

While it’s often hard to tell the cause of fading puppy syndrome, but there are four factors that are generally present in these cases: hypothermia (low body temperature), dehydration, hypoglycemia, and not getting colostrum quickly enough (AKA missing the golden window). Here, knowing what to look for, spells the difference between life and death.

If you notice that your pup is cold to the touch or lethargic, he might be suffering from hypothermia. Warm him immediately, but gradually, using blankets or your own body heat. Warming him too fast will shock his fragile little body and could be fatal.

Some pups can’t suckle properly, which means they won’t drink enough milk and become dehydrated. A further risk of this is a severe drop in blood sugar levels, leading to hypoglycemia, which can also develop when feeds are too far apart.

If you’re worried that your precious newborn puppy could be dehydrated, check his mouth. If his mouth is dry and his saliva is sticky, he’s dehydrated and in need of urgent help. Offer him fluids (milk replacer or sugar water) every two hours from a small bottle or eyedropper. 

Hypoglycemia is a severe complication that can kill a puppy within a few hours of its onset. Its host of symptoms include loss of appetite, trembling, lethargy, weakness, and seizures. When you notice these, offer your pup sugar water from a dropper every 15 minutes – three parts water mixed with one part sugar, served warm.

Getting enough sugar into his little body will help balance the glucose levels again, giving him a shot at survival.

No, we get to colostrum. This is the special milk your mommy dog produces straight after her pups were born, and it is crucial to good puppy health. Colostrum passes antibodies from mom to pups, strengthening their immature immune systems. The clock is ticking, though. Your puppy’s intestinal walls can only absorb colostrum within the first 12 hours after birth. After that, he missed his shot, which could have permanent repercussions for his overall health and survival.

What Can I Feed Newborn Puppies?

If anything goes wrong during the birthing process, or one of your puppies cannot suckle, you need to help them. Knowing what they can and can’t ingest is important since feeding them the wrong stuff could also be fatal.

If your puppy can’t get colostrum from his mom, you should use a colostrum substitute. Check the label before you purchase, though. A good one should contain probiotics, glucose, immunoglobulins, and essential fatty acids. Use a small dropper or syringe (without the needle) to drop small amounts of this onto the back of your puppy’s tongue. Wait for them to swallow – it may take a few moments.

Dehydrated puppies need milk replacer or sugar water. Ensure that you use boiled water since this kills all the germs. You don’t want to introduce any unnecessary germs to an already struggling puppy.

What Is The Survival Rate For Newborn Puppies?

While puppy fatalities aren’t always reported, some statistics do exist. The recorded puppy mortality rate shows that 8% of puppies die within the first 8 days after birth, of which 4.3% are stillbirths. Some breeds show a higher mortality rate than others. 

This figure is relatively low, so your pups have a good chance of survival.

In Closing

A plethora of things can go wrong during pregnancy and birth. If your mommy dog’s labor pains are imminent, it’s best to be prepared. If anything goes wrong, know that you have a few hours to step in and administer the necessary interventions. In some cases, your mommy dog can’t feed her pups, or if there’s a little one that struggles to suckle. Here, you should administer a colostrum substitute within the first 12 hours after birth, after which a milk replacer should do the trick. If, at any point, you’re not sure of what to do, or don’t feel confident in administering the necessary treatment yourself, call your vet for help. They’ll know what to do.

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!