How to Get a Dog to Produce More Milk for Her Puppies
Every expectant “puppy family” has hopes and worries. Will momma be okay or will she need help, or even a caesarian? Will there be enough puppies? Will there be too many puppies? Will momma be able to take care of all of them?
An ultrasound or X-ray might be able to give you an idea of how many puppies to expect. Or maybe not. There are always surprises on whelping day, and no milk is just one of them.
Not enough milk can be almost as bad. What are some of the reasons?
Main Causes of Aglactia (No Milk Production) in Dogs
- Heavy parasite burden (worms)
- Premature whelping
- Infected mammary glands
- Infected uterus
- Failure to release hormones
- Failure to respond to hormones
What Should I Do If My Dog Has No Milk?
An expectant mother usually has a little milk even before her puppies are born. By the time she is whelping, her production of oxytocin (a maternal hormone) should make milk available to her puppies.
Most dogs that are fed correctly and in good shape will have some milk production. However, you might need to help things along.
Provide Liquids: Either Fresh Water or Chicken Soup
- If your bitch is in good shape and whelps but does not have milk available, the first thing to do is make sure she has plenty of fresh water. That is rarely the problem, but she may only want to drink warm, lukewarm, or cold water. Calm down, sit next to her, and offer her several different temperatures and see what she likes. You may be surprised.
- If she is not drinking, despite your best efforts, try giving her a big bowl of lukewarm chicken soup. If you do not keep this in your kitchen, get some before the puppies arrive. The extra nutrients will help, and the salt will tend to make her thirsty.
Ask a Vet
Call your veterinarian. They can also come out and examine her to see if there is an infection that you have not been able to identify. They may also decide to give her an injection of calcium or oxytocin.
Try to Have the Puppies Nurse a Little
Finally, go ahead and put the puppies up to her teats and let them try to nurse. Many websites and books will tell you about the importance of the puppies nursing colostrum, the antibody-rich milk produced when they are first born, but no one has a solution about what to do if there is none.
The Importance of Colostrum
Colostrum is the first milk produced by a bitch and it protects the puppies from diseases she has been exposed to and developed antibodies too. All dairy farmers save colostrum to give to newborn calves, but it is not usually available to dog breeders. Maybe the puppies can get a few drops out, and even a little will make a big difference for the weeks they have ahead of them.
There are some commercial colostrum replacements. Ask your vet which ones they recommend.
How Can I Tell If the Puppies Are Getting Enough Milk?
For the first seven days, newborns should nurse once about every two hours. Signs that the litter might be underfed include:
- Constant crying: This is a sign that the newborns are hungry. Try placing them on the hind teats. If there are smaller ones that keep getting edged out or don't have a strong enough sucking reflex, it's possible you'll have to supplement with bottle feeding. Ask a vet how to do this properly.
- Not gaining weight: Puppies should double in weight every week.
What If None of This Works?
Some dogs will have plenty of milk but be blessed with a lot more puppies than they can feed. Some will produce only a few drops, and some won´t produce anything at all.
If the puppies are not getting enough to eat, they will be restless and cry a lot, and of course they will not have full bellies. It is at that point that you have to try to feed them some extra milk.
You can purchase a puppy milk replacer from a pet store or your vet, or make a natural substitute. If you want to make up your own, follow this formula.
A Natural Milk Replacement
Mix together the following:
- 1 cup goat's milk
- 2 egg yolks (not the whole egg!)
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 4 - 6 tablespoons sterile water
If the milk substitute is too thick to come out of the bottle's nipple, you can make the hole a little larger with a hot needle. However, the milk should not be so thin that it pours out without the puppy nursing—if it is too thin the puppy will end up drowning.
Some breeders recommend adding corn syrup or sugar to the milk substitute, but goat's milk has plenty of sugar and since too much leads to diarrhea you do not need it.
If the puppies are becoming hypoglycemic (depressed and losing the suck reflex) you can add about 1 teaspoon to the milk mixture.
Tube vs. Bottle Feeding
Tube feeding is quicker than bottle feeding a whole litter, but if it is done wrong the puppy will drown or die later. The amount is also critical, since a puppy cannot just stop when he is full.
I prefer puppies be bottle fed every 3 hours for about 3 weeks. Yes, it is a lot of work. Yes, the life of a puppy is worth the effort. If you are bottle feeding, the pups can nurse about as much as they want, and should be getting between 2-4 cc for each 30 grams of body weight.
Keep the Mom Involved
Even if the mother is not able to feed the puppies, try to let her stay involved in the process by keeping the puppies clean and providing warmth.
If she is not around, you will have to make sure the puppies are kept warm and rub their bellies and perianal areas with a warm paper towel to stimulate urination and defecation.
If your dog does not produce enough milk at the beginning, or does not have enough to satisfy all of her puppies, you still have a good chance of helping her out if you follow the steps outlined in the first part of this article. Stay calm, but act right away. This problem will not wait until tomorrow.
Even if she does not respond, keep in mind that the next few weeks will be over quickly. Puppies grow fast and within three weeks, they will start taking soft food. You can still feed them with a bottle for the next few weeks, but most of your hard work will be over.
Take care of those puppies!
A natural diet is the best method of feeding your dog and making sure she will have adequate milk when the big day comes along.
Morning! I have an issue. My lab had her 1st and only litter Wed. I've weighed the 11 pups daily and they aren't gaining weight. She is so exhausted and the pups are starving.
I bought prm and a bottle bit none will take it. Calli seems depressed and not normal but our vet said just be patient. I'm afraid if I keep waiting were looking atb11 dead pups and a suffering mamma.
What do I really need to do? These puppies are going to Wounded warriors and need to be healthy. Thanks Carrie :)
Carrie, the only solution I can offer is to tube feed the puppies. This is not something you can learn over the internet. You will need to take the puppies in to your regular vet so that the vet tech or vet nurse can show you what to do.
- How to Feed a Pregnant or Nursing Dog a Natural Diet
If you are feeding a pregnant or nursing dog, you should be doing it naturally. Find out why, and what you should be giving her.
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
My bully had thirteen pups, and I've already lost three. I do not want to lose anymore. She has very little milk, and four out of the ten left are so skinny that their bones are showing. What can I do to help them put some weight on?
If a dog is not producing enough milk for a large litter, you need to supplement feed the pups. When they are very young, it is a lot of work, at least six times a day, but it is fine to give a lot less once the puppies are about three-weeks-old.
Here is a formula for a milk replacer that I use on my Pitbull puppies: https://hubpages.com/dogs/best-puppy-milk-replacer...Helpful 55
How do I know if my dog is running out of milk?
If the puppies are crying excessively, even after they have fed, your dog does not have enough milk.Helpful 40
My dog has twelve pups, but my relatives say to bury the female pups alive and keep only the males. It's because the mother only has four teats. What should I do to stop my relatives from doing that, and help my dog get more milk to feed the twelve pups?
You should not listen to their advice on this matter. Your female will have enough milk for eight to ten puppies. You can supplement all of the puppies with a simple homemade milk formula made up of coconut water and goats milk. Here is what you need to know: https://hubpages.com/dogs/best-puppy-milk-replacer...
The replacer is not expensive and is easy to make up.Helpful 31
My dog had a litter of seven puppies, but when they born, she didn't keep them warm; when she went somewhere, she came back and sat on top of the puppies. Now they are all dead. My dog at the same time had a skin disease that she got from the father of the puppies. Is there any possible explanation for why she did that?
Not all females have a good maternal instinct. Even if the dog was sad, it is possible that she just did not know or care enough to take care of the puppies.
If this were my dog, I would have her spayed and not try to produce any puppies. Even if one lives, this may pass on to the puppies.Helpful 28
Can I use a surrogate for my puppies?
If you have another female that has given birth at the same time but does not have many puppies, by all means, you should take advantage of that resource. One of the best "old-fashioned" methods of taking care of puppies whose moms did not have enough milk is to use another dog. Most people do not have this option, but if you know of a breeder nearby, you should contact him or her and ask for help.Helpful 3