A 14 Point Checklist For Newborn Puppies

When your newborn puppies arrive, you can quickly assess their health by utilizing the following physical checklist:

  1. Head and neck: check mobility, rooting reflex and position at rest and during movement.
  1. Skull: check size, shape and the fontanelle.
  1. Ears: check size and position.
  1. Eyes, eyelids: check for neonatal ophthalmia. Eyelids may open early: observe carefully for signs of inadequate tear (duct) production.
  1. Nose: check nostrils’ shape; presence of fluids (clear discharge, milk, mucus, blood, pus).
  1. Mouth: check for cleft palate (puppies usually cannot nurse effectively and milk exudes from the nostrils and mouth, and the puppy cries plaintively).
  1. Skin: check for wounds caused by an overexcited dam; hydration, gently pinching the skin directly behind the occiput; the coat and weight for indications of a premature birth; paws for bedding irritation or deformity.
  1. Legs and joints: check for deformity, soft tissue and joint swelling indicative of injury; freedom of mobility range.
  1. Tail: check for deformity, length and mobility.
  1. Spine: check for deformity, body length appropriate to breed; watch for range of motion.
  1. Abdomen: check the skin color, which should be pinkish. Pallor can be indicative of internal trauma or hemorrhaging; check umbilicus for signs of infection (swelling or discharge).
  1. Chest: listen carefully for breathing difficulties; check nursing ability, muscle tone and activity level.
  1. Rectum: check for redness, swelling, diarrhea (which could be signs of infection, overeating or environmental sensitivity). Observe the dam for signs of excessive attention.
  1. Genitalia: check appearance and position; watch for inflammation from excessive maternal attention or inappropriate sibling nursing.