Canine Neonatology 101 : the 10% rule – is this still a thing ? (2021)

Tanya is a proud Golden Retriever breeder.

Dog breeding is a true passion to her, and she is crystal clear about her why.

She wants to improve the genetics of her beloved breed over time.

And actually one of her bitch just delivered 12 puppies – which is clearly an important step on her journey !

Those puppies are indeed the results of her genetic selection work.

The way she sees them, they are the future of her breed !

And this is obviously an exciting time for her – as on top of that, having puppies around is always a fun experience, don’t you think ?

With this new litter, great moments are ahead of her, definitely !

Tanya attended to one of my seminars back in the days…

She remembers I emphasized how important it is to have a scale in the maternity…

And this is why she religiously weighs the newborn puppies, right after birth and on a daily basis.

Indeed : weight gain is THE best health marker in those immature beings.

We are one day after birth… and this is what she observes in one of her newborn puppy.

The puppy lost 35g in its first 24 hours.

This puppy lost weight… actually, 10% of its initial birth weight.

Tanya looks at the picture, puzzled…

She is not sure what to do there…

And let me ask you, dear reader : what would you do if you were her ?

Before we go any further, let me tell you something.

Tanya is not a real breeder… She is a fictive character that for the purpose of this blog, I invented.

But this little story of her could have been very real…

As it is inspired from many stories I have heard and lived over the years as a repro vet.

You probably have heard them too… Maybe you read them on Facebook as well !

And who knows : maybe you also lived them…

This story relates to something I called the “10% rule of canine neonatology.”

I actually read about it yesterday, in a recently published veterinary article.

This is what was written :

[In Newborn puppies], body weight may drop in the first day of life (up to 10% of birth weight) due to dehydration, but after this point neonates should gain 5-10% of their birth weight daily.

You have it : this is the 10% rule of canine neonatology.

I used to talk about it in all my lectures on the topic, I probably even wrote it in many articles I am sure.

That is what I was told in vet school, that is what is written in many veterinary textbooks.

There is a problem tough…

Today, this is described… as a veterinary myth !

Well, to be fair, the sentence itself is not totally incorrect.

It tells you “body weight may drop”… which indeed can happen.

What it should state though, is that this drop is ALWAYS abnormal when it is observed.

That is now the message I convey in my lectures.

Why did I change my line of thought ?

Why does it differ from what we usually read ?

Because of this paper HERE that I read.

It dates back to 2015… and in canine neonatology, I think it really changed the game.

What they demonstrated, thanks to a powerful statistical analysis, is that weight loss in a newborn is ALWAYS abnormal.

And they went even further.

This is what they wrote :

Although a 10% loss of birth weight is commonly considered to be physiological and tolerable in 2-day-old puppies, our results seem to dispel that myth.

Read a summary of their work HERE

I worked with these researchers back in the days when I was in France.

I trust their findings and I actually think their work is remarkable and gives us a brand new way to look at things in this field.

So I decided to change my lectures.

I took out the 10% rule… and I am certain it is for the better.

I still emphasize the importance of weighing newborn puppies on a daily basis, starting right after birth.

As I wrote earlier in this blog, in newborns, weight gain is actually THE best health marker.

And here is my new rule of thumb :

On a daily basis, Healthy Puppies MUST gain weight .

As dog breeders, this is THE only thing you should remember.

Anytime you observe weight loss in a newborn, you should take immediate action, you need to provide this individual with what I call “extra care”.

And “Extra care” at this stage can be pretty simple.

#1 Make sure you optimize the newborn’s environment.

– By focusing on the temperature in the nest

This is what I usually recommend :

30°C on the first week after birth

28°C on the second week after birth

25°C on the third week after birth

This is especially important as during those first three weeks of life, newborn puppies cannot regulate their own body temperature.

– By focusing on the humidity level

I typically target 55+/-10% humidity in the nest.

#2 Supplement this at-risk newborn with energy

This means that when you have newborn puppies, you should ALWAYS have on hand a dedicated canine milk replacer.

#3 If 24 hours after having implementing these measures, you do not observe any weight gain, immediately connect with your veterinarian.

The 10% rule is still out there… as you could see, it is still mentioned in some veterinary papers.

After reading this blog though, now you know better.

I don’t know where the 10% rule in canine neonatology came from…

I don’t know for how long it has been out there…

But as often in veterinary science, we have learned.

I hope you will take this new knowledge into consideration, and spread the word.

It might sound like a tiny detail, but it actually carries a huge power.

After all, you know what my favourite say is in canine neonatology :

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

By knowing and using what I shared with you in this blog, it will make a huge difference for the life of those newborn puppies you have in your care !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s