Healthy puppies are round and firm. They nurse vigorously and compete for nipples. Their mouths and tongues are wet. When you insert a finger into their mouths, they have a strong, vigorous suckle.
A healthy newborn’s skin is warm and pink. When pinched, it springs back resiliently. Pick up a puppy and he stretches and wiggles energetically in your hand. When removed from his mother, the puppy crawls back to her. Newborn puppies pile together for warmth.
A sick puppy presents a dramatically different picture. This puppy is limp, cold, and hangs like a dishcloth. He shows little interest in nursing and tires easily. If you insert a finger into his mouth, his suckle response is poor.
Newborn puppies seldom cry. Crying indicates that a puppy is cold, hungry, sick, or in pain. A distressed puppy crawls about looking for help and falls asleep away from the life-sustaining warmth of his mother and littermates. Later, he moves slowly and with great effort. He sleeps with his legs splayed apart and his head bent to the side. His cry is plaintive and piercing. Such a puppy is often rejected by the dam, who senses that the pup is not going to survive and pushes him out of the nest. The situation can sometimes be reversed if the puppy is treated and his body temperature is brought back to normal.