After a mother dog (bitch) successfully whelps her puppies, there are specific things you as an owner want to look for to make sure both the newborns and their mother are doing well. Here are some tips on what to expect and what you should do to care for the new family.
Within twenty-four hours of birth, have the pups and mother checked by a veterinarian. The doctor will check for signs of congenital defects in the pups, such as cleft palates or limb deformities. He will also make sure the bitch’s mammary glands are producing enough milk for her babies.
He may administer an injection of oxytocin to start the uterus contracting and shrinking back to pre-pregnancy size. This will also reduce any bleeding from where the placentas were attached, and help expel any remaining material from the uterus. Mom may continue to have some discharge for up to eight weeks after birthing babies, but as long as it doesn’t smell or look foul, there is no cause for alarm.
Keep an eye on the new mother to make sure that she is caring for all her puppies and knows what to do with them. In some cases, bitches that give birth for the first time become aggressive or confused over their role, and she may lie on her puppies, accidentally crushing them.
New mothers will also need good nutrition to feed her pups, so small, frequent meals are a great idea. Her milk production will reach its peak at around three weeks after birth. She will be especially hungry at this time, so feed her puppy food for a few weeks. It has more energy per ounce than regular adult dog food so she can get plenty of nutrients without over filling her stomach. You will also need to weight the newborn puppies regularly to confirm they are growing and getting enough milk.
Watch for any signs of mastitis. Red, swollen, or painful mammary glands are the classic signs, but mom may also be very lethargic, feverish and off her food. Another potentially dangerous condition is metritis, an infection and inflammation of the uterus usually caused by a long or especially difficult labor.
If the mother starts to pant, tremble, or have seizures, she may be suffering from a calcium deficiency called eclampsia, which is a serious condition that needs immediate attention and treatment. It’s more common in smaller breeds of dogs, and tends to occur when pups are two to five weeks of age. This is when they’re growing fast, and drinking lots of milk. Mom puts lots of calcium into her milk, which leaves her deficient.
A vet must treat eclampsia quickly because it can be fatal. Treatment is intravenous calcium supplement, and mom may also need sedation to stop the seizures. If your bitch develops eclampsia it’s usually a good idea to wean the pups and hand raise them.
In the majority of cases, moms and pups do just fine and don’t need human intervention. Even so, be sure to keep a good eye on them so if a problem develops, you can get on top of it straight away. This will ensure the best outcome for mom and babies.
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