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Care of the New Mother Dog

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Your dog has just delivered a litter of cute and cuddly puppies. You can trust that she will likely take care of them, but who will take care of Mom? The answer is you.

Fortunately, most bitches (female dogs) need little help. All they ask for is peace, quiet and privacy as they deliver their new babies and take care of them. But, you should still be there to help if necessary.

Bitches are very protective of their young. It is wise for only one or two people to check on her. Parading your friends and neighbors through the house to handle and play with the new puppies is stressful on the mother and can potentially spread disease to the puppies. For their safety, visiting should be delayed until the pups are at least four weeks old.

Feeding

During the birthing process and immediately after, most bitches are not interested in eating. However, within 24 hours after the birth of the last pup she should begin eating again, and most likely will eat a lot. Nursing a litter of puppies takes a lot of energy and Mom must eat enough to provide for her newborns; In fact, she should be fed as much as she wants to eat.

Feeding a high quality dog food may be sufficient but many veterinarians recommend feeding the new mother puppy food or a specially made nursing (lactation) diet. This can provide extra calories that the dog needs to produce more milk. Make sure to keep your dog's food bowl full at all times. Some new moms can eat up to two to three times their normal amount while they are nursing. After about a month, the bitch will begin weaning her brood and the amount of food she is offered can be reduced slowly as you begin to switch her back to her normal adult diet. By about eight weeks, the pups should be pretty much weaned and the dog should be back to a normal amount of her maintenance adult dog diet.

Other Concerns

It is a good idea to take the bitch's temperature daily during the first two weeks after delivering her litter. Temperatures over 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit should prompt a visit to your veterinarian.

New mothers are usually very nervous about their babies. For this reason, many will not leave their side for at least the first 24 hours. They often do without food or water and some won't even leave to go outside to urinate. For this reason, it is important that the new mother has food and water kept close by. Also, you may need to remove the dog from her litter and take her outside. After about a week, the new mother may feel more relaxed and may venture out a little more, but food and water should still be kept nearby.

Discharge from the vagina should be minimal and may be present for up to 3 weeks. You should check your dog daily for excessive or abnormal vaginal discharge. Also check the breasts for excessive swelling, discharge or pain. Make sure your dog is eating plenty of food and the puppies are active and gaining weight. If you notice any abnormalities, contact your veterinarian.

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