A postpartum period or postnatal period is the time starting immediately after the birth of a puppy or a baby. It continues for about six weeks. It is very important to take care of a dog post-whelping. It is wise to take the dam and pups to the vet within 24 hours after the dam has given birth. The vet will examine for health complications and ensure that the dam and pups are all nursing and healthy.
It is a condition when the mother dog is unable to bring down milk or produce milk. It is therefore important to seek vet attention within 24 hours of whelping. In cases, where the dam cannot produce milk, the puppies will have to be bottle-fed.
If your female dog or dam has given birth to a litter of puppies, all you need to do is take care of the mother, as she will be taking care of the puppies. The dam needs a helping hand for at least the first few weeks since this is the time when she is prone to acquiring diseases. Read to understand what to expect in a postpartum period, and how to take care of the dog post-whelping.
Postpartum care for your dam
As soon as the puppies are born, the dog should clean her puppies. If she is taking a longer than 3-4 minutes, help her clean the puppies.
It is recommended that the dog and puppies get checked with a vet within 24 hours of the dog having whelped. This is to ensure that they are healthy and the dam is not keeping any unborn puppy or placenta inside her uterus, which may put her at a risk of developing serious uterine infections. Also, the puppies need to be examined for infections or other health problems.
Ensure that the whelping box is always clean. Remove any soiled things and change the bedding frequently. This will maintain a hygienic atmosphere for the dog and its puppies and prevent any bacterial infections.
Avoid bathing your dam immediately after she has given birth. Instead, clean her gently and regularly with a warm moist cloth to remove any blood, fluids or placental tissues. This will reduce the possibility of bacterial growth and infection in her and the pups. After a few weeks, she can be bathed with a mild dog shampoo.
Keep a part of the whelping box warm about 90° Fahrenheit for the puppies and dam for the first few weeks after birth. The temperature can be reduced gradually as the pups begin to grow and the mother gets healthier and stronger.
The mother’s appetite will increase to two to four times her normal food intake post-whelping. The vet can be consulted regarding the appropriate diet. High quality puppy food should be fed to the dam as it contains high proteins and other rich nutrients. Avoid giving large breed puppy formulas, as they are usually lower in proteins, minerals and other nutrients.
The dam can also be fed with a specially made lactation diet, which can provide extra calories to it needed to produce more milk. Feed your dog with water as it will maintain her weight and health. Food and water should be given every two to three hours.
Arrange a quiet and calm surrounding for the dam and puppies. Keep them away from all noises as much as possible for the first two weeks post-whelping. Excitement or disturbances may cause many health problems.
The dam should rest quietly and sleep for several hours post-whelping.
The dam will want to be with the puppies for at least the first three weeks post-whelping. Allow her to stay with them and get exercise as and when she wants.
The mammary glands of the dam should be examined regularly for signs of redness, inflammation, or discharge.
The nails of the puppies should be cut every week to prevent scratches on the dog’s mammary glands.
The dam should appear happy, content and relaxed with her puppies. If not, contact your veterinarian.
As your pet eats more during this time, your dam will need to relieve herself more often. The stools are soft for the first few days.
The dam will be unwilling to leave the whelping box or to go to the bathroom for the first few days. So it is the owner’s responsibility to get her to urinate and defecate normally. It is also important to keep food and water closer to the dam. The food and water dishes should be kept full always so that she gets enough nutrients to keep herself healthy and feed her puppies.
The dam may shed heavy coat during this period. It should be brushed on a timely basis and the vet should be called in case bald spots are seen.
It is normal if the dog loses a little weight, but see your vet in case the mother looks very thin.
Occasionally, take the dam out to relieve herself, and give her some fluids. It can be fed with chicken broth or mammalac to meet her nutritional requirements.
Consult your vet if the dog has a change of temperament or if nervousness or tremors occur.
Measure the dam’s temperature daily during the first two weeks post-whelping.
If your dog is strong and healthy, it will have no problems post-whelping. However, you should be aware of the complications that can occur after the dog gives birth.
Unwillingness to Eat
The mother will feel tired and unwilling to take food a few hours after giving birth, which is normal. However, it should start eating within 24 hours of giving birth to the last pup.
Exhaustion and Panting
Panting is a normal thing for the dam who has just given birth as her body gets exhausted after labor. However, check with your vet if the panting persists for a long time.
She will have a discharge of fluids and tissues called lochia from her vulva. The discharge is heavy for several days. The lochia can be greenish-black, brown or reddish-brown in color and does not have any odor. This occurs due to the clearing of the inner uterine lining. The discharge will decrease and will be almost gone within a few weeks. If this goes on for a longer time, and is smelly, you may need a vet intervention.
The infection of the uterus is called metritis, which may be caused by retained placenta, fetuses or other reasons. It usually occurs within a week after giving birth. The symptoms of this condition are fever, extreme tiredness, heavy vaginal discharge, dehydration, loss of appetite, continued panting, vomiting and diarrhea. The vet should be consulted if these symptoms are seen.
Eclampsia is a condition when calcium in the blood decreases. It usually occurs within two or four weeks after giving birth. It may also develop before the birth of puppy or during lactation. The symptoms include restlessness, sluggishness, limb rigidity, elevated temperature, increased panting, lack of interest in puppies, muscle tremors and seizures.
The color of the dam’s milk is white and of normal consistency. If it is thick or the color is pink, red, green or yellow, seek the vet immediately, as these may be signs of serious bacterial infection called mastitis. The symptoms of the condition are elevated temperature, pain upon feeding, and lack of interest in pups. The puppies need to be bottle-fed. Consult your vet immediately if these symptoms occur.
Taking care of your female dog should not be taken lightly. Though the process is time-consuming, messy, expensive, you should give the dog the best care possible. Always talk to your vet for more details on post-natal veterinary care.