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Dog Health: Common Complications in Dogs After Giving Birth

Updated on October 22, 2015
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Adrienne Farricelli is a former veterinary hospital assistant and now a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of dog books.

In this article, you will find...

  1. information about the first postpartum visit to the vet,
  2. the normal things and behavior you'll notice after your dog gives birth, and
  3. 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.

  • Panting

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!

  • Discharge

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.

  • Metritis

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.

  • Mastitis

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.

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      kristi elizabeth collins 2 weeks ago

      my dog had puppies 7 days ago and now has a feaver what could be rong with her she is panting heavy and got a fever I took her to the vet they gave her a shot and antobotic is she going to be ok how log does it take for the moxicilin to work to brack her fever I gave her one dose of it and have to give her a nother one tonight I need help nowing what it takes the antobotic to work so I no if it is working

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 weeks ago from USA

      Care credit is an option. .Garages sales, online fundraisers...

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      Kay 4 weeks ago

      What do you do if you don't have money to take you dog to the vet? Are there other options

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      Colleen 3 months ago

      My pit gave birth to a litter of 10. It's about a day or two after she gave birth and she keeps shaking and im worried. I don't have the money to take her to the vet what do I do?

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      Tara 4 months ago

      My akita gave birth to a litter of 8 puppies 6 days ago she is losing discharge and have noticed it's bloody like small clots she in herself apart from not producing much milk o am feeding the puppies on puppy milk as well as them feeding on mums teats my main concern is it normal to lose bits of blood still

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      vicki 4 months ago

      Hi I have a husky and she just had puppies like two weeks ago but she became vary attached at me follows me every were and she looks very depressed is that normal

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      ann sellar 6 months ago

      my bichon frise crossed laphaso gave birth to 7 pups..they are 4wks old and now shes losing a brown discharge that does smell a little..shes feeding and caring for her pups. thanks ann sellar

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      annie 11 months ago

      my sons 3yr dog gave birth 7 weeks ago she and the puppies have been wormed and for the past 3 weeks she is getting thinner and eating anything eg-material plastic,and in the food buckets as well.

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 12 months ago from USA

      I would suggest consulting with a vet for this.

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      leigh 12 months ago

      it has been 48 hours since my chihuahua gave birth to 5 puppies. she is going diarrhea and blood is in every stool. change her diet and now it is soft stool but still has blood. What does this mean? the puppies are eating about every 30 to 45 minutes and the mother is exhausted should i be substituting with formula?

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      terry franzwa 17 months ago

      well first for me first for her

      my 3 year old golden retriver had her first litter of puppies 48 hours ago the 9th one was born. reading the articals here everthing seemed to be normal. what i am not finding is this amalmost exactly 48 hoursfrom last puppy born moms stool was in the tub thank god she doesnt go on floor anyways it was full of blood has been al day diaherrea. but its been outside not noticing and blood but this time at 3 45 am lots of blood.

      she has been eating somewhat and drinking little not near as much as prior to having puppies. but does drink some .

      my biggest question is the blood 2 days later is this ok normal expected.

      we live over 2 hours fromnearest vet service so hope to find answers on here

      thanks so much

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      Pam Ismail 17 months ago

      vrry educational answeredall my questions. Thsnk you.

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      Cindy smith 17 months ago

      I have a olde English bulldog she had her pups not sure if she's done some were born with no sack which I helped pups are doin well but she's still panting some I'm not sure if she still has one in her she's got out and drank some water but her entire backside is green she's really panting I figure she's done but the panting worries me

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 17 months ago from USA

      Perhaps from dietary changes? Cleaning up the pups may be givs her soft stool? Could be she doesn't feel safe leaving the pups alone and going in the yard? Many possibilities.

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      Lazarus lo 17 months ago

      Hi. My female rat terrier had 6 pups and the pups seem fine. They seem to be feeding all the time. It's just that my bitch is vomiting her food and is two days after birth. Should I be worried

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      carissa 18 months ago

      We have a rednose pit German Shepard she gave birth seven weeks ago this is,her second litter both litters she has pooped in the house constantly she is house broken and this seems to only occur after the pups are born and until they have been adopted out. Just curious as to why.

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      Jessica 19 months ago

      Hello my chipoo gave birth last night we went to vet all checked out but she has moved away from her 1 and only pup twice today, her two lower nipples are swollen and hard one went down after I milked it a little and also fed pup on that teat, but the other lower nipple is still swollen and hardish... Now I noticed she moved away from pup for the second time are these bad signs for something? She's been licking and cuddling a lot with pup but now after all day of doing that she's moved away on the other side of the whelping pool, he did just start crying and now she's back with him I'm such a worrier its her first liter my first owned my first dog pregnancy my first new born pup and dog mommy

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 19 months ago from USA

      While it's not surprising for a mother dog not to eat the first day after giving birth due to being too occupied taking care of the pups, I find it concerning she is not eating 5 days after birth. While your vet wasn't concerned when you took her to the vet not too long ago, I would assume if you would tell the same vet she's not eating he would tell you to bring her in. However, perhaps time to change vet?

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      Jeffery 19 months ago

      My two year old Shih tzu gave birth 5 days ago. She has been nursing with no issues, she still is drinking a decent amount of water but is shying away from food. She did eat 3 handfuls of puppy chow last night, then even late at night I gave her about 8 little tiny treats when I took her out to use bathroom. He does walk on her own, just looks a little weak. Today, she has not eaten any puppy chow, I have given her two meat treats and she ate it and then refused it again later. We are cooking her Chicken with broth and going to mix it in with the puppy chow to see what she does.

      We already took her to Vet and even stressed that we believed that one out of the 7 births resulted in a placenta not being discharged. The Vet did not seem concerned about it and even to the point where they kind of brushed off my concerns.

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      Drew 21 months ago

      Hey there my healthy 5 year old chihuahua mutt gave birth to her second litter of 3 pups on the 26th Friday night. Everything went smoothly except for that with her last pup the sac and placenta kind of got sucked back in when I broke the sack off the pup. The pups are all seemingly healthy and nursing well. The mother has been eating and drinking okay. Sometimes a little less, sometimes she'll eat more.

      Tonight I noticed a dark kind of thick (not pasty) but kind of runny discharge from her vagina, she managed to clean herself before I could get something to wipe it off with. I didn't smell anything but I'm worried about the color because it was kind of black or a very dark dark shade of some other color, I couldn't tell. Her discharge yesterday was just a dark forest green sort of color. Do you think this is the placenta causing her trouble if it's still in there?

      I called a vet and he told me what signs to watch out for like loss of appetite, not caring for pups, tiredness, vomitting. None of those seems to be happening. She did start whimpering and crying a little tonight and we can't seem to find out why which leads me to believe maybe she's in pain. I plan on calling the vet again but I couldn't wait until morning. He previously told me also that theres a chance she could have already expelled the placenta and ate it without us knowing within a few seconds.

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      Ashley 22 months ago

      My Pitt bull have birth yesterday she seems very uncomfortable she is breathing heavily and panting heavily she is eating and using the bathroom. Feeding and train g care of pups. Should I be alarmed by the panting and heavily breathing?

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 22 months ago from USA

      The best way to know is having the vet check her out. All new mother dogs benefit from a wellness check the first 48 hours of giving birth. Generally,when there are infections you would notice a change in behavior and symptoms will appear. Checking the rectal temperature can indicate fevers associated with infections. Hard to say when a dog would be clear of any infections as sometimes they may linger for some time, but most likely you would notice a problem if you're supervising a lot.

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      justine 22 months ago

      Hi My dog is a blue tick healer / mcnab 3 years old. She gave birth to her second litter of pups 4 days ago. Was just wondering when she will be clear of any infections. She seems fine. Very attentive to her pups, and is eating and drinking.

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 22 months ago from USA

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      Natalie 22 months ago

      My dog gave birth two days ago and she has been panting since. Today is Sunday and I have just noticed some brown discharge. All pups are extremely healthy, I'm just worried about her. She has had puppies before and nothing like this happened. And advice?

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 22 months ago from USA

      My advice is to see another vet. I can't see how your vet says all is OK when it's definitively not.

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      kelseymacdonald 22 months ago

      Hi my 3 yr old Boston terrier had 8 puppies 3 weeks ago and this is her first litter. She was doing great up until this week. she now has become extremely picky on her food. She will not eat hard or canned dog food. She's never liked treats. I've been giving her meat scraps and good meat but once she has a good cup full if that of pork and fat she will not touch it again. I've never ever seen a dog not eat table food before. I am very worried she has lost so much weight. And i do not want to lose her. I've been trying my hardest to get my puppies to drink milk and the "sloppy" stuff but they refuse. I've taken Fergie into the vet and they checked her over and they said she is ok. They weighted her at 3.2 kg temp was 38.5 °C they have done a blood test and found nothing wrong with anything. Today I've seen redish blown discharge coming from her. Should i be worried about that also? At night i now lock her in a separate kennel so her babies don't keep sucking her dry and takimg everything from her ive now been get up every other hr for them to have a quick little feeding. When she sleeps beside me at night she is breathing hevely and panting hevely also. Any kind of advice would be great. Thanks in advance.

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      Shai 22 months ago

      Awesome!

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is having her see the vet.

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      Ashley, Only your vet can answer your questions pertaining the discharge and the likeliness of having a retained placenta , and it's definitively worth it to have a check up done if she's still not eating.

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      ashley 23 months ago

      if she doesn't have an appetite, what is the likelihood that it's due to a retained placenta?

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      ashley 23 months ago

      Hi, our border collie delivered her first litter of 12 puppies on April 19th (3.5 days ago). She ate bits of meat and a liquid blend of puppy food, eggshells and cheese with water yesterday, but is refusing everything today. Is it normal to not have an appetite this many days postpartum? Her discharge does have a slight odor, but perhaps it's just the stink of afterbirth on her fur around her vagina? I mean, would the odor be truly noticeable? I understand this could be a sign of a retained placenta, but how likely is that?

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      Good to hear mom and pups seem to doing well health-wise. If she was mated too young sometimes dogs aren't ready for pregnancy. A dog goes in heat at 6 months, which is almost the equivalent of young teenager having kids. During this time, she should be attending to her pups as they're vulnerable. Praise her for being around the pups. Make sure she's not too hot when they're around her. Not much you can do if those motherly instincts aren't too strong. I know of some breeders who are forced to bottle-feed the pups or find a substitute mom.

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      brandy 23 months ago

      My weiner dog had four pups four days ago and having discharge that's a skinny texture. A little clear sometimes a little pink. She eats a lot and drinks a lot. Pups are doing great and so is the mommy. Other than the discharge I'm also worried about her always walks away from pups when they are asleep and walks around the yard. She's also trying to sleep with us. We keep telling her to go to babies and she does but I'm afraid she might walk off and leave them.

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      Penny, I would strongly recommend having your dog examined by a veterinarian

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      I wouldn't give any medicine without knowing exactly what is going on. Even with an infection, the choice and correct dosage of antibiotics can be tricky. Additionally, antibiotics make it through the milk and that's not good for the pups. Best to see the vet.

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      The first few day after giving birth, mother dogs are extremely busy. If your pom ate the placentas, that could be an explanation for the reduced appetite, but you mention that she's also agitated which doesn't sound normal. it's also important that she eats and drinks to produce milk. Have you taken her temperature? Best to play it safe and see the vet.

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      Penny 23 months ago

      My dog gave birth to two pups ladt night now she is throwing up. What do I do?

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      donna 23 months ago

      My dog gave birth march 1 and she has been acting sluggish can i give her amoxicillin maybe she has an infection. She id eating and drinking good

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      Gerry 23 months ago

      My pom gave birth to 6 pups and 1still born its going on day 3 and she is acting aggitated. Wont eat drinks little. Is this normal?

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      Did she see the vet or did you just stop by to pick up those foods/supplements? I would take her rectal temperature to see if there's any fever and report to the vet to discuss the weakness. If you saw the vet already he/she should be willing to answer any follow up questions you have.

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 23 months ago from USA

      Please see the vet, don't let her die! Apply for Care Credit, ask for some family or friends for a loan, do a garage sale, find a vet that takes payment plans.

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      wenesia 23 months ago

      My dobarman had 9 pups 3 days ago on day 1 4 pups died all the others look strong mom eat and drink after she gave birt I went to the vet got her special food and vitamin pouder but she is for some reason weak why would that be pleas help

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      Lacey 23 months ago

      Hi my dog gave birth 3 day's ago but she's always panting ,hot, her breathing is really bad it's very loud, she's not really sleeping or eating much I don't have money or a way to get her to a vet please help me I fear she may be dieing and I don't know what to do!.

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      If she's not acting normal, please see your vet!

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      bonnie 2 years ago

      My puppy had a dead baby this is first litter ever . She has a vaginal area out not in as normal dogs .vet didn't thonk she every get pregant ive had her three yrs this is firzt time pregant .she has dark red blood spotnot puddles or alit . She sits down spot of blood dark . Shes not acting abnormal . Friend said hers did same .

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      Yes, seriously, and no, it's not for determining sex (even though most vets do it anyway), it's mainly to check for any retained placentas/fetuses and for a post-whelping wellness check. Vets will also check for cleft palates and other birth defects. Something a good breeder should do.

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      Teri 2 years ago

      Seriously? Going to the vet to determine the puppies sex? ...you probably should not be breeding dogs

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      If she's caring for her pups, eating, drinking and defecating normally, there are chances things may be OK. However, I would keep an eye on her and take her temperature to make sure. Normal temperature is 99-102.5. I always recommend new moms to see a vet within 24 hours post whelping to ensure there are no retained placentas/ dead pups. Best wishes!

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      becky 2 years ago

      Hi my lab is 8yrs old she had a litter of 10 after the 10 she had lots of green stuff everywhere.

      8 hrs later I took her to the toilet & she had another pup but it was dead & green

      She is eating drinking & looking after the pups very well, 24hrs later her face steams really warm & there's no more green stuff just very little Brown discharge

      Should I be worried , coz I rang the vet & they said she should be fine.

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      Paige 2 years ago

      Thank you so much for all of this helpful information. This article potentially saved my dog's life tonight :)

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      Sorry, I work and not always able to go online and respond. If you are dealing with a complicated birth unfortunately not much you can do at home on your own. I hope she had her pups and you were able to see your vet.

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      joann 2 years ago

      My Pitt has given birth to only one puppy and bleeding but she has yet to have the other pupps and its been 3 hrs help please

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      This is not abnormal. A reputable breeder I know had a waiting list for puppies and she ended up having just one. Are you sure she is done? Sometimes they take a break and more are soon on the way.

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      Jesse 2 years ago

      My Malinois gave birth to only two puppies. I am so disappointed. Please can you tell me why she gave birth to two puppies.

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      She needs to see a vet to make sure she doesn't have any other pups inside or a retained placenta.

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      Angela Ludwig 2 years ago

      My 3yr old blue pitbull just gave birth to 9 pups,but 2 didn't make it..but she is still getting up and seems like pushing or getting sick, is this normal?

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      I wouldn't try to give antibiotics without first having her seen by a vet. At her age and due to her not eating and drinking, a vet visit is in order.

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      Cristal 2 years ago

      My dog gave birth but all pups are weak eventually died. Been 2 days now she seemed depressed and crying often. She also has yellow discharge. Shes not eating or drinking. Should i give her antibiotic? Shes about 10 years ol

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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      This may seem like a long time for post-whelping bleeding to happen if she had puppies more than a month ago. Typically, it lasts a couple of weeks; yet, it's not unheard of it happening for several weeks, but a concern is the smell, as normal "lochia" shouldn't have a smell. Typically, normal lochia discharge should be odorless, start off from when the dog whelps, starting off a greenish color, then turning to a dark red/brown color that over some days and should get less and less with time. You should have her checked out to make sure there's nothing amiss, as bleeding can also be caused by pyometra or some uterine abnormality. If the stains come from the urine versus her private area, you may be dealing with a urinary tract infection or bladder stones.

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      sabrina 2 years ago

      Hi I'm concerned about my dog she is about 7yrs old she recently had puppies July 17 so now she every now and then is releasing blood spots and it really smells I'm not understanding this situation this never happened to her?? Can some one help me??

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      Lynne 2 years ago

      My bitch lost her only pup 3 days ago but follows me whilst crying. She is also burrowing. Why is this and how can I help?

    • profile image

      hilary 3 years ago

      very helpful information, thankyou.

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      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      great hub.. very useful information..

      voted up

      debbie

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      krissy72 5 years ago from Ohio

      Very helpful information

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