Dog Health: Common Complications in Dogs After Giving Birth
In this article, you will find...
- information about the first postpartum visit to the vet,
- the normal things and behavior you'll notice after your dog gives birth, and
- the abnormal signs of infection or distress you'll need to look out for.
Do You Have to Take the Mother Dog and Puppies to the Vet?
If a dog gives birth uneventfully, most dog owners think the worst is over. But sometimes, even if the mother is nursing and the puppies look healthy, no all the troubles are over. There are several things that may go wrong after a mother dog gives birth to a litter of pups.
A veterinarian visit 24 hours post-whelping is not merely to determine the sex of the puppies or something fancy breeders do, it is a very important visit that helps rule out some potentially life-threatening complications and determines if the puppies are healthy.
What happens during this wellness exam? Below, we will examine this in detail and also evaluate some disorders that may affect the mother dog as she proceeds in nursing and taking care of the pups.
What Happens During a Mother Dog Wellness Exam?
A post-partum examination within 24 hours of whelping is very important for the health of the litter and new mom. A new mother dog may retain one or more placentas, large amounts of blood and fluid, or even puppies in her uterus. If not expelled immediately, the mother dog is at risk for serious life-threatening infections. To prevent this, veterinarians will palpate the mother dog's abdomen and may recommend an injection of oxytocin, which will cause uterine contractions to help her expel any retained materials and also help let down her milk. (Read Signs of Retained Placenta in Mother Dogs for additional information.)
The mother dog and puppies are also evaluated, and the sex of the puppies are determined and recorded in the chart. The veterinarian will likely provide advice for when to de-worm and vaccinate the puppies. Other important topics such as diet and general care can also be addressed.
What Is Normal for a Dog after Giving Birth?
There are several things that may go wrong after giving birth, but what is normal and what is abnormal? We will look over some of the normal behaviors. Since owners know their dogs best, if something appears out of norm and causes concern, it's a good idea to go to the vet.
- Mild Diarrhea
According to Beth J. Finder (breeder, exhibitor, and author of Breeding a Litter), the ingestion of placenta may cause the new mom to have diarrhea. Stress may also be a contributing factor. However, the soft stools should subside after a few days. About one to two teaspoonfuls of pure plain canned pumpkin (not the pie mix) can help firm up the stools.
- Loss of Appetite
It is also quite normal for mother dog to refuse food after giving birth. Exhausted, with lots of pups to tend to, eating may be the last thing on mom's mind. In an article for Petplace, veterinarian Dawn Ruben explains that the mom should resume eating 24 hours after giving birth to the last pup. Fresh water should be available at all times.
Giving birth can be very tiresome and mom may be exhausted. Add the heat generated from having all those pups piled around her and you have the perfect recipe for one hot, tired dog. Heating blankets, pads, and warm bottle waters may contribute as well.
Dr. Jon Rappaport explains that panting after giving birth may also be due to the dog's uterus contracting during the first two weeks after labor. Therefore, if the panting is just every now and then and not heavy, if the mother dog's rectal temperature does not suggest a fever, and if mother and pups are feeding and acting normal, then panting can be considered normal. But still, read the signs of trouble below as a precaution!
After giving birth, expect mother dog to have a brown/black/dark green discharge known as ''lochia'' for a few days. According to veterinarian Bari Spielman, this dark green/black discharge is a normal finding shortly after whelping. According to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, lochia should be green shortly after whelping and then turn rust-colored about 48 hours postpartum. This discharge should not have any odor and the mother dog should not show signs of illness. Still, read the signs of trouble below for safety's sake!
Panting and Tremors? Might Be Eclampsia.
What is Abnormal in a Dog After Giving Birth?
As mentioned, many things can go wrong after giving birth, making mom very sick. Knowledge is ultimately power, and knowing the signs of trouble is key. Below are the signs, symptoms, and conditions that can create havoc in mother and litter.
- Milk Fever/Eclampsia/Hypocalcemia
These are different names to describe the same condition, one caused by a depletion of calcium manifested during the first three weeks of nursing. It is often seen in small breed dogs with large litters. The main symptoms are restlessness, lack of interest in pups, a stiff gait, trouble standing, muscle spasms, fever, panting, rapid breathing, and seizures. Eclampsia can be life-threatening if not treated promptly with calcium (given intravenously). The puppies will need to be fed a milk replacement product such as Ebsilac.
This is an inflammation of the uterus caused by a variety of reasons. If instruments were used to help the dog deliver, they may have caused an infection. If there are retained placentas or fetuses, these may be causing sepsis. The symptoms to look for are fever, dehydration, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, fast heart rate, panting, and a purulent, fetid reddish to chocolate brown vaginal discharge. The puppies may suffer from ingesting toxins passed in the milk, so they should therefore be hand-fed. Antibiotics are needed to treat this condition.
This is an infection of the mammary glands in which one or more of the glands appears hot, red, and inflamed. The condition might be caused by puppies scratching the teats with their nails, or the nursing may cause pain in the mom. Fever, pain, off-colored milk, mother neglecting the pups, and pups crying and failing to thrive may be signs. Antibiotics and warm compresses are the cure. Pups may need to hand-fed if there is an abscess or gangrene.
Disclaimer: If your dog gave birth and is exhibiting signs of illness, go to your veterinarian promptly for a thorough hands-on examination and assessment. By reading this article, you are accepting full responsibility for your actions or lack thereof.
For Further Reading
- Using Leftover, Human, or Online Antibiotics on Dogs
More and more pet owners are trying to treat their dogs at home using leftover antibiotics or online antibiotics from questionable sources. Learn if such practice is safe.
- Signs of Retained Placenta in Mother Dogs
Among the complications that may affect the bitch after birth is the issue of retained placentas. Learn more here.
- All about Dog Pregnancy
After your beloved dog has been matched with a handsome stud and successfully bred, the 63 day countdown has begun.