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Q&A: Is My Dog Sick or Suffering From Postpartum Depression?

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Though it isn't terribly common, postpartum depression can affect some dogs.

Though it isn't terribly common, postpartum depression can affect some dogs.

Why Is My Dog Acting Depressed and Refusing to Interact With Her Puppies?

"Our Lab gave birth to 12 puppies 4 weeks ago. Everything was going well until today. Momma is extremely lethargic, and she's not eating at all and drinking very little. She was with her puppies all night but not at all today. Any thoughts or suggestions?" —Vickie

Complications in Dogs After Giving Birth

Your dog may just be suffering from postpartum depression, but to make sure there's nothing else going on, the first thing to do is to take her to your regular veterinarian to have a physical exam and a complete blood count (CBC).


She should also be checked for parasites at that time since some mothers will have anemia from worms, which can be taken care of easily.

Retained Placenta and Uterine Infection

The CBC will tell your veterinarian if the lethargy is being caused by a retained placenta and a secondary uterine infection. A retained placenta would normally cause problems in the first week, but if the cervix is closed she will develop a uterine infection. That infection can be life-threatening.

Postpartum Depression in Dogs

If everything is okay at the vet, then you need to consider that she has depression secondary to the puppies. This is not a normal condition in dogs, but it does happen.

The puppies at that age start getting rambunctious, the teeth are sharp and painful, and many moms just want to get away. Puppies that age will jump out of the whelping box and not give her a chance to rest.

How to Care for Puppies With an Absent Dam

If the exam is okay, things do tend to get better. While the momma dog is out of commission, make sure that the puppies are being fed at least four times a day. Mix some puppy food with milk replacer and provide enough bowls so that the puppies do not need to fight for a spot.

Tips for Helping a Dog With Postpartum Depression

If the exam is normal and your dog is suffering from depression, it will often go away in a few weeks. Here are some tips to get her to eat in the meantime. You may also want to talk to your veterinarian about a prescription for anxiety.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Mark dos Anjos DVM