If you are a first-time owner and taking care of a mother dog and her puppies, chances are you have tons of questions. One common conundrum is the ambient temperature, and many dog owners wonder when they can stop using heat lamps.
When can puppies regulate their body temperature? Puppies are born with an underdeveloped system for thermal regulation and lower body temperatures. When puppies reach their adult body temperatures around four weeks old, but they are still incapable of proper regulation. The ability to start regulating their body temperature regardless of the ambient temperatures starts at the age of seven weeks. Even after this point, they are still sensitive to extreme temperatures.
In this article, we will talk about the thermal regulation processes in puppies. We will describe how puppies are born with such abilities and what you need to do to keep them warm. We will also talk about the importance of the mother in keeping the puppies not jest fed and safe but also warm. Let’s start.
Can Puppies Regulate Temperature?
No, puppies cannot regulate their body temperature, at least when they are newborns and young. This is because puppies are born with an underdeveloped center for thermal regulation.
To make sure you understand this, we need to elaborate. Namely, dogs are warm-blooded animals, and warm-blooded animals regulate their body temperatures on their own (they do not depend on the ambient temperature to stay warm).
Dogs and warm-blooded animals regulate their body temperatures through the center for thermal regulation. This center is located in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus homes other centers too (for appetite regulation and sleep regulation).
This center’s regulatory ability is aided by the dog’s sweat glands in the paws and panting as an efficient mechanism. Plus, dogs are equipped with fur, which keeps dogs warm when the ambient temperatures are low and cool when the ambient temperatures are high.
How Cold Is Too Cold for A Puppy?
The ideal ambient temperature for puppies depends on their exact age expressed in weeks. In general, the ambient temperature is less important if the puppies are close to their mother, but the additional heating option is a must if the mother is away or needs to spend some time away.
During the first few days of their lives, the ambient temperature needs to be kept between 85 °F and 90 °F. Then, as the puppies grow, the temperature can slowly be decreased. To be more practical, around the 7th or 10th day, the ambient temperature can be decreased to 80 °F. The gradual ambient temperature continues, and by the end of the fourth week, you can keep it at 72 °F.
So to answer the main question – how cold is too cold for puppies, every temperature below 85 °F during the first week is considered low. After the first week or week and a half, cold are temperatures below 80 °F. Finally, when the puppies are four weeks old, temperatures lower than 72 °F are considered below.
What Is a Puppy’s Ideal Body Temperature?
As mentioned when newly born puppies have lower body temperatures. The typical newborn puppy temperature is 97 °F. In contrast, the normal adult temperature is between 100.5 °F and 102.5 °F
When looking at these numbers, the difference may not be so striking. However, it is quite important. The reasons puppies have lower body temperature are the smaller body-sized paired with the body’s functions.
As puppies grow each week, their body temperature slightly and gradually rises. At the four-week milestone, the body temperature reaches 100 °F, which is pretty much the adult body temperature.
Keep in mind that these numbers are not set in stone. Even adult dogs have different body temperatures based on factors like breed, sex, time of the day, and whether they are fed or not. These factors can also affect the puppy’s temperature, but it should still be around 100 °F.
Just because the puppies reached their adult body temperature does not mean they are capable of keeping it. Puppies start to thermo-regulate when seven weeks old. Once again, there can be some breed differences in the timeline, but seven weeks is considered the mainstream standard.
Do Puppies Need to Be Warm at Night?
Yes, puppies need to be warm all the time – both during the day and at night. The main source of warmth for the puppies is the mother. However, depending on the exact ambient temperatures and conditions, additional heating sources may be necessary.
Luckily, there are various things you can do to keep the mother and puppies warm and comfortable. Here are some tips on what you can do.
Tip number 1: Making a right whelping box
When expecting puppies, you should make or buy a suitable whelping box. It goes without saying that the whelping box needs to be compatible with the mother dog’s size and the number of puppies she is expecting. Ideally, you should go for an elevated whelping box. The elevation should not be too big, but it is necessary as the floor is too cold for the mother and puppies.
Tip number 2: Finding the right place for the whelping box
Once the whelping box is made or purchased, you must find the right place for it. Ideally, the whelping box should be a way of the draft – not too close to windows and doors. If there are strong drafts under the doors, you should invest in special draft excluders and place them at the bottom of the doors.
Tip number 3: Covering the whelping box with blankets
Find some old but clean blankets and use them to cover the floor of the whelping box. The more blankets you use, the better. In addition to providing warmth, the blankets will make the whelping box more comfortable, and the pups and mother will feel relaxed and cozy. Instead of blankets, you can also use towels.
Tip number 4: Using a heating bed within the whelping box
In addition to the blankets, you can also place a heating bed within the whelping box. Heating beds come in different shapes and sizes, but when looking for such a bed for puppies, it is best to go for a mattress type of bed. You do not have to use the heating bed all the time. You can only put it on when the ambient temperatures are lower and the mother and puppies need extra heat.
Tip number 5: Adding a heating lamp
Heating lamps are a must-have if you are about to have newborn puppies in the house. Luckily, the modern pet market offers various heating lamps – from cordless and automated to chew-proof and with different strengths. Basically, there is a perfect heating lamp for everyone; you just need to find the right one and place it in the right spot.
Tip number 6: Constantly monitoring the temperature
You need to know the ambient temperature inside the whelping box at all times. The best way to do this is by placing a standard household thermometer inside the box (make sure the mother cannot destroy it and accidentally hurt herself). You should read the thermometer several times per day and make adjustments based on the readings.
Tip number 7: Observe the behavior of the puppies
Keeping a close eye on the puppies and mothers is critical. Slight changes in their behavior can give you useful hints on ambient needs. For example, if the puppies sleep too close to their mother or each other, it means they feel cold and need extra warmth. On the other hand, if they sleep scattered away from the mother and each other, it means they are hot, and you can probably lower the ambient temperature.
Tip number 8: Using a heated water bowl
To keep the puppies warm, you need to make sure the mother stays warm, too, as she is the most important heat source for the puppies. During colder months and lower ambient temperatures, providing the mother with a heated water bowl is advisable. Drinking cold water can adversely affect the mother’s body temperature, which will then impact the puppies.
How Long Do Puppies Need a Heat Lamp?
Puppies need a heat lamp for the first seven weeks of their lives or, simply put, until they start regulating their own body temperatures. But to keep things clear, let’s explain what heat lamps are and how to choose the right one for your puppies.
Heat lamps are infrared bulbs that, for extra safety, are housed in special lamp casings. The lamp’s role is to emit heat, not light, but it must also be safe for the mother and puppies.
When choosing the right heating lamp for your puppies, these are the factors you should consider:
- Amount of emitted heat – the standard 150-watt lamp usually raises the ambient temperature up to 30 °F. Make sure the light strength is compatible with the temperature you want to achieve and the area of the space you need to be warmed. Safety features – your goal is to keep the puppies warm, not hot. High temperature can be just as dangerous as low temperature and cause issues like dehydration, cradle cap, or even burns. Therefore, the lamp should feature an auto-shutoff option. This way, the lamp will stop working when the ideal temperature is reached, thus avoiding issues that stem from overheating.
- Cord features – heating lamps come in two forms – with cords and cordless. The first group can be tricky if the mother dog is a keen chewer. If you decide to get a heat lamp with a cord, make sure the cord is anti-chew. Chewing the cord is a health hazard because of the risk of electrical shocks.
Finally, after choosing the right heating lamp for your puppies, you need to set it in the right place. The lamp needs to be close enough to emit heat and keep the puppies warm yet distant enough not to pose a risk to their health.
This is because puppies are prone to get burnt, and their slow reflexes may prevent them from escaping from the heat source and end up with severe skin burns.
How to Know if My Puppy Is Able to Regulate Its Temperature?
Knowing that puppies begin regulating their body temperature is a good starting point. However, as a responsible dog parent, you need to err on the side of caution and double-check everything. There are two ways to check whether your puppy is capable of thermal regulation.
Method number 1: Using the thermometer
You need to constantly keep an eye on the puppies’ body temperature. Meaning by the time the puppies are seven weeks old, you will already know how to use the thermometer. You should check the puppies’ body temperature frequently.
Method number 2: Analysing the behavior
The other option is to monitor the behavior of the puppies. Once the puppies start to regulate their temperature, they will begin to act differently. Namely, they no longer spend their time so close to their mother. When too hot, they can even be spotted sleeping alone, away from the mother and littermates.
Summing Up: Temperature Regulation in Puppies
Puppies are born with a body temperature of 97 °F, which is quite lower than the adult temperature of between 100.5 °F and 102.5 °F. They also lack the ability to maintain this lower body temperature because their center for thermal regulation is underdeveloped. Therefore, for the first few weeks of life, puppies depend on their mothers to stay warm.
When around four weeks old, the puppies’ body temperature reaches the adult numbers, but they still lack regulatory abilities. Finally, they start being able to regulate their body temperature when seven weeks old.
Meanwhile, you need to be extra careful about the ambient temperatures and make sure they stay within the recommended range. Also, do not forget that heats and lamps are great, but the mother is the most important source of warmth for the puppies.