What Is Veterinary Neonatology?

This science takes care of the mother and observes the behavior of the litter in order to prevent the animals from dying.
What Is Veterinary Neonatology?
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 18 November, 2023

Similar to neonatology for children, veterinary neonatology takes care of new-born animals. During their first days of life, this science is studies the basic needs of newborn animals.

A neonatal or newborn puppy requires special care in order to survive. Veterinary neonatology studies the first 15 days of the puppies’ life. They also takes care of  mother and observe the behavior of the litter in order to prevent the puppies from dying.

What Are The Main Jobs In Veterinary Neonatology?

  1. Observation. One of the first jobs of a specialist should do is observe. Not all puppies behave the same way, despite having the same instincts. A puppy will take about a month before they are independent. About 14 days after birth they will begin to open their eyes and develop their hearing.
    Puppies feeding and being observed as part of neonatology
    During the third week, they’ll take their first steps and begin to follow the mother around. Therefore, they’ll also start copying her behavior and learn from her.

    The mother’s behavior has a big influence on the condition of the puppies. A nervous mother will transmit this to her puppies. This might happen due to a problem with one of her newborn puppies.

  2. Controlling weight and size. There are universal measures that show the normal growth of animals. This means an animal’s new development can be observed. The neonatologist will control the puppy’s weight to make sure that they are developing normally according to their breed. Newborn puppies should double in weight during the first two weeks.If this is not happening, they will look at their feeding and hydration. It’s possible that the puppy is having trouble feeding on the mother, or perhaps his brothers won’t give him enough space to feed.

    Space and Hygiene

  3. Veterinary neonatologists are also focus on the hygiene of newborns. This includes cleaning up their feces and making sure that their living environment is clean. The puppies’ living environment must be kept clean to prevent infections and illnesses. As for her personal grooming, the mother will be the first to make sure that her puppies are clean. If the mother isn’t present, puppies can be cleaned gently by using a damp cloth.
  4. The space where puppies are kept during the first days is very important. It mustn’t be too humid otherwise it will cause colds or flu. However, it can’t be too dry either, or they’ll get dehydrated.
    A puppy playing in a field

    The ideal temperature for newborn puppies is between 27 and 32 degrees Celsius in order to make sure the puppies’ body temperature stays between 34 and 36 degrees Celsius. Another important aspect is whether or not the room is well-ventilated to prevent premature infections.

Illnesses That Neonatology Helps to Prevent

  1. Neonatal Hypoxia. This happens when a puppy breathes in some amniotic fluid during birth. This can cause the breathing passage to collapse. One way to prevent this is to assist the mother with the birth.If a puppy is suffering from hypoxia, the neonatologist will try to clean out the airways using a syringe to clear the pharynx and larynx.
  2. Hypothermia occurs when a puppy gets too cold. This commonly happens with small litters where they can’t huddle together to keep warm. To prevent this from happening, you can place the puppy on a thermal mat. They can also be surrounded by hot water bottles. However, the puppy needs to progressively recover its body temperature needs to be progressive or he’ll suffer from a shock.
  3. Dehydration. It can be caused by a dry environment. Plus, it could mean that the puppy isn’t being fed properly. The most effective way to identify this is by weighing the puppy. Depending on the breed, a puppy should gain between two and three kilos per day. In cases of dehydration, the neonatologist should feed the puppy with sugared water or milk supplements.
  4. Hypoglycemia is a low level of glucose in the blood. Symptoms include weakness, dizziness, and breathing difficulties. The main cause could be a problem with the mother, if she’s not producing enough milk, has mastitis, or stress. To treat the newborn, they’ll need to be artificially fed.

There are many different pathologies that can be inherited from the mother. The majority of them relate to a vitamin or mineral deficit or bacterial infections.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.