Complications After Dogs Give Birth
Post-Partum Complications in Dogs
If your dog just gave birth uneventfully, you may be giving a big sigh of relief, because you think the worst has passed. The puppies are suckling strongly, and mom eats, drinks, and takes care of the puppies as she should. Yet, your new mom and pups are not completely out of the woods yet.
Complications may occur hours or days after the pups' birth, and sometimes they happen rather quickly, leaving little time to intervene. You have to continue to observe the mom and pups, and care for them after delivery.
Below are some developments you may observe, while watching the mom and pups, that may or may not be signs of a complication.
What is normal and what is abnormal after a dog gives birth? If you notice something that is abnormal, even if it is not listed here, do not hesitate to call your vet.
Mother Dog Is Not Going Potty
What is normal?: Some mother dogs are so overwhelmed they seem to forget to drink or go out to potty as needed. If your dog is too worried to go outside to potty, you can help her in different ways.
One way is to avoid crowding the area by inviting people over to see the puppies. As exciting as it is to see a litter of newborn pups, keep the whelping area quiet for the first days. Too much stress, too many noises, or too much interference may cause your new mom to be too worried to leave the pups alone, especially if she is a first-time mom.
What can you do?: You can try to entice her to come outside to potty, but if this does not work, you may put potty pads indoors near the pups so she can relieve herself while keeping an eye on her litter. Using a DAP diffuser may also help relieve the initial stress she may be feeling.
Mother Dog Is Not Eating
What is normal?: While your new mom is very busy and tired the first few hours after giving birth, she should start eating soon to recoup her energy and help the pups grow. Keep in mind that if she ate the placentas, she might not be hungry for some time.
As a rule of thumb, expect your new mother dog to eat within 24 hours of the birth of the last puppy, explains veterinarian Dawn Ruben in an article for Petplace. Your dog should be very hungry by this time and should be expected to eat a lot.
Your new mother dog can be allowed to splurge and eat as much as she wants. Make sure you keep that food bowl full of a high-energy puppy food, growth food, or lactation food recommended by your vet. Ideally, you should have been feeding her food like this in the last few weeks of pregnancy, having switched over to it gradually. Keep food and water near the mother so she will eat and drink without worrying about leaving her pups out of sight.
What is abnormal?: If the mother dog is not hungry within 24 hours of delivering the last pup, this may be a problem. This may, indeed, be the first sign indicating an after-birth complication.
Mother Dog Is Panting
What is normal?: During the first day after giving birth, panting is normal, because the mother dog is exhausted, and all the puppies crawling over her may cause her to feel overheated. The puppy's nails on her tummy may also cause her pain. Not to mention that the pups' suckling stimulates the mother dog's uterus to contract, which may cause panting as well, explains veterinarian Jon Rappaport.
What is abnormal?: If the panting continues, it is worth investigating, as it may be a sign of an after-birth complication. Panting may be caused by a fever due to an infection, or it may be the first sign of eclampsia. So if the panting lasts for a while and is accompanied by other symptoms—or if her rectal temperature is over 103.58°F—she should see the vet.
Mother Dog Has a Discharge
What is normal?: For up to three weeks after giving birth, it is normal for the mother dog to have a vaginal discharge known as lochia. The discharge is dark greenish, brownish, or blackish in color and should not have a foul odor.
What is abnormal?: Should the discharge increase, rather than decrease—or if it has a foul odor—it is best to have the dog seen. This may be a sign of an infection (see "metritis" below).
Also, according to veterinarian Bari Spielman, a continuous watery and/or bloody discharge may be indicative of the placental sites not receding. Placental sites should normally shrink after delivery and return to normal size, a process known as "involution." If they don't, it's called "uterine subinvolution." The bloody discharge may persist up to 16 weeks and may resolve on its own, but in severe cases may cause a dog to become anemic.
If your dog develops any of the abnormal signs above, do not hesitate to have her seen by a vet.
Here are three of the more common post-partum complications in dogs.
Post-Partum Complications in Dogs
- Metritis: Metritis is infection of the uterus. This infection may be caused by a retained placenta, retained fetuses, birthing complications, or the use of instruments for a surgical procedure. Generally, this condition occurs within the first week after giving birth. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, fetid vaginal discharge, dehydration, fast heart rate, panting, vomiting, and diarrhea. The mother dog will need to be on antibiotics, and the puppies may need to be hand-fed during this time with a replacement formula such as Ebsilac. In severe cases, the mother dog may become septic quickly, requiring hospitalization.
- Eclampsia: Eclampsia, or milk fever, is the depletion of calcium in mother dogs. It is most common in small dogs with large litters, during the first three weeks after giving birth. Symptoms include stiff gait, trouble standing normally, restlessness, pacing, fever, panting, muscle spasms, seizures, and lack of interest in the puppies. This condition can be life-threatening if not treated in time. Treatment consists of replenishing calcium levels. The puppies will need to be hand-fed. (Note: Supplementing with calcium during pregnancy will not help; it may actually predispose the mother dog to this condition.)
- Mastitis: Mastitis is infection of the mother dog's mammary glands. The mother's nipples may appear hot, red, and inflamed. The condition could be triggered by the scratching of the puppy's nails against the mammary glands. Symptoms include fever, pain upon nursing, withdrawing from the pups, pups not growing, and pups crying. The puppies will need to be hand-fed.
Preventing Complications After Your Dog's Birth
Complications after your dog has given birth can be serious and scary. This is why prenatal care is important. Responsible breeders know this all too well. One of the most useful things you can do is have your vet determine how many puppies your dog is expecting. This way, you know exactly how many puppies and placentas should come out, and you will know right away if a puppy is stuck or a placenta has been retained.
Also, your new mom and puppies should see a vet within 24 or 48 hours after giving birth. This way, your vet can make certain no placentas or dead puppies were retained. If placentas are not expelled in a timely manner they may cause infection of the uterus (metritis). An oxytocin injection may be necessary. Oxytocin is a hormone naturally produced by the dog's hypothalamus, which stimulates the uterus to contract and expel its contents.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
It's been 3 days since my dog gave birth and she's bleeding right now and her legs are shaking and also she's breathing heavily. Is this normal?
These can be signs of potential eclampsia. Eclampsia takes place when there is low blood calcium. Some of the signs of eclampsia include restlessness, disorientation, excessive panting, whining, difficulty walking, muscle tremors or twitching, fever and rapid or heavy breathing. Best to see the vet to play it safe as eclampsia can be life threatening. All dogs after whelping should have a post-whelping vet exam, in any case, to make sure all is going well.Helpful 92
My Dachshund had four puppies four days ago. All is well now, but every time she eats, she throws up 30 minutes later. She also strains when she poops. Should I worry about the vomiting?
Yes, I would be concerned and would consult with a vet about this to play it safe. There are many things that can go wrong after giving birth.Helpful 43
My chihuahua gave birth a week ago to a litter of three. Last night she had a fever, shaking and all. Should I be worried? It’s her first litter.
While mother dogs are known for developing a mild fever generally 24-36 hours after whelping, a fever developing a week later may be suggestive of something that warrants investigation by a vet.
A primary concern is some type of infection going on like metritis (an infection in her uterus) caused by a retained fetus or retained placenta. Another possibility is milk fever which is known for causing shaking and fever and other signs in small breeds who are nursing. This would be considered a medical emergency. Her symptoms warrant a vet visit to play it safe.Helpful 39
My dog gave birth six days ago. All was well, but today she's been peeing in the house. This is not like her. Should I go to the vet?
There are chances she may have a urinary tract infection. Please have her checked by a vet. You can ask your vet over the phone if you can bring in a urine sample to be checked without taking her in if you have a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship.Helpful 35
My dog gave birth 2 days ago and now she suddenly started whimpering and pacing and she is digging a hole and trying to put her puppies there. Why?
It could likely be that she is looking for a suitable place to act as her "maternity den." Evaluate what she has at the moment and determine whether it's hot or too cold or not comfy enough or in an area that is too crowded/noisy for her comfort. Does she have a whelping box?Helpful 34