Puppies are the ultimate little bundles of joy.
As tiny and as fragile as they are, it can be very worrying when you find that your newborn puppies are not pooping regularly like they should be.
Don’t fret though- this is actually quite common and can be easily explained! Puppies up to two weeks of age are still unable to do many basic things for themselves- including going to the toilet.
This is usually taken care of by the puppies’ mother, who will not only stimulate bowel movements but also clean up the puppy afterwards too.
Luckily, even if the mother isn’t around, it is easy to copy what she does so that you can help newborn puppies to poop. All you have to do is take a warm, damp cloth and gently rub the area between its genitals and anal area in an up-down motion.
Done long enough, it should encourage the puppy to relieve its bowels.
There are usually two possible reasons why your newborn pup doesn’t seem to be pooping normally.
Firstly, newborn puppies are exactly that- born completely new into this world. This means that their internal organs and processes are all just getting started up for the first time. Their digestive system is no exception, and because of that young puppies need a little help at first to pee and poop.
This is where their mother comes in!
Out of pure instinct, a canine mother will know that she needs to help her newborn puppies to defecate. She knows that in order to help her puppy’s bodily functions operate properly, the muscles that control the particular action need to be stimulated.
The mother dog will do this by licking the stomach, genital and perineal area of her puppy. This gentle motion helps to stimulate the puppy by exercising and moving the muscles from the outside. Once the areas have been stimulated enough, the puppy will naturally feel the urge to defecate.
The second reason why you may think that your newborn puppy is not pooping (even after eating!) is because you don’t see any urine or droppings in the pen.
The explanation for this is simple and rather gross.
After a canine mother has stimulated its puppy to defecate, it will usually also clean up the puppy. It accomplishes this by licking the backside and genitals of the puppy so that no feces remain. She will also clean the nest area by eating any puppy poop that she finds.
There are a couple of theories as to why a mother dog will do this. The first is that cleaning the nest area of droppings and urine will prevent puppies from rolling or walking in it by accident. This will help to keep the nest tidy and hygienic. Rolling in urine can also make the puppy wet, and since puppies get cold easily, this could lead to it getting sick.
The second reason leads back to instinct and basic nature. By licking up any leftover pee or poop on the puppy, there will be less of a scent that may alert predators to the puppy’s presence. As you can see, a mother will do anything to protect her offspring- even eat poop!
Newborn puppies tend to defecate very regularly and often. Newborn puppies might eliminate every 30 to 45 minutes, and usually either before or after every feeding. Add it all up, and a puppy may need to poop or pee up to 10 times a day!
As they get older, puppies will need to feed and poop less frequently each day. By the time they are a week old, puppies may only need to defecate every 2 or 3 hours.
A newborn puppy may not defecate as often if it is not stimulated properly by its mother or if it is constipated.
In these scenarios, it is important to identify the problem early on so that you can step in and help the puppy. It can be dangerous for a puppy if it is unable to excrete waste for a long period of time.
As unappealing as it might sound, it is always important to keep an eye on a newborn puppy’s faeces. Make sure that you monitor any changes in color, size or texture of the puppy’s droppings, as this can be the first indication that something is wrong.
When a puppy poops for the first time ever, the substance will be dark green or black, greasy and sticky. This is the meconium, which is made up of cells, proteins, fats, mucus and bile that the puppy ingested while in its mother’s womb.
After this first substance, a newborn puppy’s droppings should gain a dark yellow or brown color and have a consistency like paste.
If you notice that the poop is green, it could mean that the puppy or mother has an infection. If the faeces are hard and dry, or if the urine is a dark shade, it could mean that the puppy is not getting enough nutrition.
If you do notice anything that seems to be wrong, take the puppy to your vet. When it comes to newborn puppies, the margin of risk should be set very low. This will ensure that it has the highest possible chance of survival.
Now that you understand why newborn puppies have difficulty with bowel movements, you will be able to help them! This will be necessary if the mother dog is not present, able or willing to do what it is supposed to do.
The first thing that you will need to establish is whether the newborn puppies really are not pooping.
This will rule out the potential situation where the puppies actually are pooping but are then being immediately cleaned up by their mother. If this is the case, then there is no problem present and everything is as it should be.
To monitor the situation properly, you have to take some time to wait and watch the puppies in their daily movements.
Especially in the period after they have fed, see if the puppies are stimulated to defecate normally. If they are, also observe if the mother cleans them, as well as the nest area.
If the mother is not stimulating her puppies to poop, or if the puppies are not otherwise defecating, it’s time to move to step two below.
There are a few different ways that you can stimulate your newborn puppy to poop. Which method you use will depend on the urgency of the situation and the condition of the puppy.
The best, easiest way is to copy what nature does. In order to stimulate a newborn puppy’s bowel movements, you have to imitate what a canine mother would do.
Picture in your mind how a dog mother licks its babies and the motions that it would make on a puppy’s body.
Using a warm, wet towel or cotton ball, rub the area between the puppy’s genital and anal area firmly but gently. Make sure that the towel is not too hot so that it won’t burn the puppy. Have another warm cloth ready to be used for cleaning after the puppy relieves itself.
An additional method that you can try is to use two fingers to gently massage the puppy’s belly from top to bottom. This will help to stimulate the area of the digestive system and trigger the elimination reflex.
A warmed, lubricated rectal thermometer can be used to take the puppy’s temperature. Oftentimes, this will provide enough stimulation for the puppy to begin to eliminate.
Finally, if you find that all of the above methods are ineffective, it may be time to take the puppy to the vet for a checkup. He may find that the puppy is well and truly constipated, in which case stool softeners or laxatives such as lactulose may be given.
He may also advise for an enema to be done, such as in the video tutorial below. Be sure to consult your veterinarian and only act on what he advises in these more serious situations.
It can be a frightening time when it appears as if your newborn puppies aren’t pooping properly. This concern is warranted as any discomfort or pain in newborn pups can have a fatal effect if not resolved.
Luckily, it is a relatively easy task to stimulate a puppy’s bowel movements.
After making sure that it really isn’t defecating, a warm, moist cloth is all you need to emulate the tongue of a mother dog. The bowel reflex should be triggered once you stroke the genital and anal area for a short period.
If the problem seems more serious, take your puppy to the vet as soon as you can.
By three weeks of age, puppies will be able to regulate bowel movements without any more external stimulation and you’ll have done your job as a human parent!
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.