Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Understanding Panting in New Mother Dogs
If your dog is panting after giving birth, you may wonder if the room is too hot, if she is just tired from giving birth, and if perhaps she is in some sort of discomfort. Things would be much easier if dogs could just talk and express how they're feeling. You would almost hear a new mother dog say "yeeesh... It's so hot in here! Can you please crack that window open? These puppies are making me so hot!" Or, most importantly, she might say, "I think I still have a puppy inside me, please take me to the vet, something is wrong!" Instead, owners are often left with lots of doubts and guesswork. Fortunately, veterinarians can often clear most of these doubts, but it's not uncommon for them to scratch their heads and need to conduct various tests to figure out what's really going on.
What Causes Dogs to Pant?
At the vet's office, we used to get loads of phone calls from worried dog owners concerning panting. All dog owners are familiar with that rapid respiration, accompanied by open-mouth breathing and the tongue sticking out, often seen on a hot day or after the dog has exercised. However, it can seem worrisome in a new mother dog, especially if the room is not hot, the dog hasn't really exercised, and she was just laying down in her pen nursing. This may seem a bit out of context, and it is a reason why so many dog owners are concerned about it. In the next paragraph, we will discuss possible causes of mother dog panting after whelping.
So Why Is My Dog Panting After Giving Birth?
So your dog gave birth to some cute bundles of joy and everything seems like it is proceeding normally, other than the obvious panting. We will now go over some common and not-so-common causes of panting in mother dogs starting with the most severe first. Obviously, if anything concerning or out-of-the-ordinary is happening to your dog, you should see your vet. So the first step after your dog gave birth is seeing your vet.
First and foremost, consider that it's part of responsible breeding to have the mother dog and pups seen by a veterinarian within 24 hours. The most reputable breeders in town used to always schedule these post-whelp appointments with our vets and these visits were very helpful as the vets determined the pups' sex, recorded their weight, looked for signs of congenital defects, and at times, gave mom an oxytocin ingestion which helped her expel any retained material from her uterus. At this vet visit, your vet could determine any signs of trouble. This should be your first course of action and the most responsible one.
In this case, mother dogs are being rapidly depleted from calcium blood levels due to the high demands of nursing, and this can be a life-threatening condition. While this condition most commonly occurs around one to three weeks after giving birth, it's not unheard of occurring even during pregnancy, according to Pet Education. The decreased calcium levels may cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, shaking, a stiff gait, restlessness, increased water intake, fever and panting. Consider though that some dogs can be stoic and will still eat and nurse as instinct tells them to take care of the pups. It is useless at this point to try home remedies feeding calcium supplements; the dog needs prompt veterinary attention and the administration of intravenous calcium gluconate.
If your dog is panting and appears in discomfort, it could be she has retained placentas or puppies. This is why it's so important to see your vet after the new mom whelps. The vet may give an oxytocin "clean-out" shot that will help her uterus contract and expel any retained material.
We talked about how an oxytocin shot may be necessary to stimulate a dog's uterus to contract so that any retained material can be safely expelled. This is often necessary when the mom has placentas or even dead puppies in her. The clean-out oxytocin shot the vet gives is the synthetic version of oxytocin. In a natural setting, the pups nursing cause the secretion of natural oxytocin from the mother dog's pituitary gland. This oxytocin causes mild contractions in two specific areas: in the uterus so it can return to its previous normal size (involution) while expelling any post-delivery tissues, blood and blood clots, and in the milk glands so milk can be released. In this case, panting is normal during nursing, while the uterus contracts, explains veterinarian Jon Rappaport in an article for Pet Place. However, you want to make sure her rectal temperature is normal, she is eating well, and her bowel movements, urine and vaginal discharge look normal.
When dogs pant, they are often trying to cool down, either because the external temperature is high or the dog is hot internally. Momma dog may feel hot because all those pups are crowding over her to nurse. Does she pant only when she nurses? Try to find out if there's a reasonable explanation for her to pant. Is the room getting hot? Are there too many blankets? At what setting is the heat on if you are using some form of heat? Are you using a heating pad or warm bottles and could they be making her hot? If so, you may need to find a compromise so you can cool the mother dog down, while keeping the pups warm. Remember that pups are unable to maintain their body temperature warm for a week or two after birth so they need their mom to keep them warm. Soaking mother dog's feet in cool water for a few minutes may help give relief, suggests Just Answer veterinarian Dr. Duncan.
If you cannot find a reasonable explanation for the mother dog to feel hot, it's wise to get her rectal temperature (which you should really do anyhow as it's hard to tell if the room is too hot, or if your dog is hot due to a fever). Consider that according to Vet Info, the normal temperature for a dog that recently gave birth is around 101.5 degrees with a one-degree variation. Report to your vet immediately if you obtain an abnormal reading.
Giving birth is not a walk in the park, and it's normal for a mother dog to feel tired and stressed. Eating, grooming herself or eliminating during the first hours after giving birth may be the last thought on her mind as she takes care of her pups. It may take some hours for her to settle down and panting may be due to feeling tired and stressed. Avoid having visitors come over to see the pups during this time as this may cause unnecessary stress. Also, ask yourself if there may be too much going on in the whelping area. New moms are quite protective of their pups during the first days and can get easily stressed by excessive noises and intrusions.
In some cases, the puppy's nails may be causing pain and panting can be a sign of pain. It's a good practice to check the mother dog's nipples every now and then for signs of dog mastitis such as red, painful and hard-to-the-touch nipples. Other causes of post-whelping pain are difficult births, infections and post-operative pain if the dog underwent surgery.
So if my dog is panting after giving birth, when is it time to see the vet? As mentioned, all new mother dogs should see the vet within 24-48 hours post whelping regardless if they are panting on not. This will help prevent complications and may nip them in the bud. While panting may be normal the first hours or days after whelping, if it continues and there's no reasonable explanation for it, and if other symptoms arise, it's wise to play it safe and consult with the vet. As seen, there are several causes beyond stress and fatigue that could lead to a dog panting after giving birth.
For Further Reading
- How to Dry up a Dog's Milk?
How to dry up a mother's dog milk? After nursing for quite some time, a time comes when the puppies are being weaned and you want to dry up mother dog's milk supply. How to proceed?
- Dog Health: Common Complications in Dogs After Givin...
Learn about what is normal or abnormal in your dog after giving birth. Symptoms of problems in your dog after giving birth.
- Dog Pregnancy: Complications After Giving Birth
What complications and problems after giving birth are expected in mother dog? Learn signs of abnormal and normal behaviors and some of the most common conditions requiring immediate intervention of your vet.
- Dog Whelping:The Stages of Dog Labor
Learn symptoms of impending labor in your pregnant dog and potential signs of problems. A comprehensive guide on the several stages of dog labor.
Read More From Pethelpful
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.
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli
ALEXA on June 14, 2020:
My baby had her puppies May 28th the first pup out did not make it she had another who is perfectly healthy but just yesterday started to see she started bleeding not slot or with odor or puss or anything just like when she went in heat is that something to be worried about
Madonna Cottrell on October 07, 2019:
My girl had 8 healthy puppies a week ago Saturday i noticed she has been panting. No other signs eating drinking feeding puppies just panting. Checked her temperature its its normal ive got her on a puppy food mixed with her regular food. She always get human treats as well should i be worried?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 25, 2019:
Beatrix Mills, is is hard to say what may be going on. She may just be hot and tired, but there can be other things going on. If you see your vet, he may give a "clean-out" shot to ensure any residual placental material is expelled.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 25, 2019:
Mary Jean, responsible dog breeding entails having mother dog and puppies seen by a vet after whelping to ensure all is fine. This is even more important if we notice in our dogs that something isn't right such a mother dog panting after giving birth. It would be highly irresponsible not mentioning the importance of seeing the vet.
Unfortunately, several of the conditions require veterinary care and cannot be treated at home. If money is an issue, there is Care Credit that can help, but dogs shouldn't be bred if there are no emergency funds to cover basic care for mother dog and the puppies.
Beatrix Mills on June 30, 2019:
My dog gave birth about two hours ago and is panting very quickly and I'm not sure is the placentas came out because she licked so quickly
. Is this normal?
Cellie on February 28, 2018:
My dog just had babies but barley eating not drinking water and is panting what should I do she doesn't want to leave there sight
mary jean ramassini on November 17, 2017:
this was so uninformative all you say is go see the vet over and over and over and over again no real solutions some of us lay people cant afford that.
Rodriguez on April 21, 2017:
My dog just had a puppy on the 18 she's still breathing hard and shaky she only had one puppy its this normal
Sheila on April 02, 2017:
My dog had 12 pups yesterday 10 was breech and 1 pup was still born. She had a very hard delivetery she moaned and almost sounded lije she was crying. S he started with first pup at 9am and finished at 10pm. I delivered every pup she was so scared she shaked bad with the first 7 She is panting heavy today her discharge was black /green this am now it is dark reddish. . She is eating good and drinking good.. is her discharge normal
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 16, 2016:
Robin, it could be she's hot with all those pups around her. Maybe when she takes a break you can see if taking her to a cooler room stops the panting? She seems to be feeling well otherwise from your description, eating and drinking. Check her stools to make sure she is not having diarrhea, look at her gums to see if they're nice and pink and maybe take her temperature to rule out a fever. But of course, only your vet can tell you if something in the health department may be going on.
Robin Blount on December 14, 2016:
My dog had puppies about 2 to 2 & 1/2 weeks ago. She is eating good and drinking water and feeding puppies good they are fat. She is panting though. Is she ok??? I'm very worried!!!! Please help
sep on August 16, 2014:
My dog seems like shes getting tired of her puppies or is it cause she need a break in between nursing and she really need a hair cut bad