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.
Main Causes of Aglactia (No Milk Production) in Dogs
Heavy parasite burden (worms)
Infected mammary glands
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.
- 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.
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.
Questions & Answers
My pitbull just had her second litter of puppies. This litter she only had 3 pups and I cant get her to drink any water. She is running out of milk. What do I do to help her?
You can try to increase her liquid consumption by offering soup or bone broth. If your dog is not drinking, however, there may be a medical problem. Take her to your local vet for a physical exam so that he can check her temperature and look for signs of a retained uterus or other infection.
I tried to pinch my nursing dog nipples, and there's no milk going out. How can I know if there is milk in my dogs' nipples?
Pinching your dogs' nipples to express a little milk and check to see if it is coming out is not a good idea. When you squeeze the nipple, you are opening her up to mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the mammary glands. When cows and other animals are "milked," the nipples are treated with a solution to prevent an ascending infection. The lack of a drop of milk at the tip of the nipple will not tell you if there is a problem.
So how can you tell? You have to check the puppies and see if they are getting milk. If they are not, they are not going to nurse, roll over, and take a nap. They are going to be trying to nurse all of the time, and will only rest when they are too weak to try any longer. If the female is not producing any milk at all, the puppies need to be fed a supplement immediately.
You should also weigh the puppies. If they are not gaining weight, she is not producing enough milk. If the female is producing some, but not enough, you need to supplement feed the puppies.
Can I give my nursing mother dog puppy formula to help her produce more milk?
You can give a nursing dog a puppy formula to help her meet her dietary requirements, but if she is not producing milk for one of the reasons listed in the article, this is not going to help. If she is deficient in nutrients for some reason, like suffering from chronic malnutrition after being fed cheap commercial food, it can help. If the dog is too far along, it will not do much good.
My Chihuahua just gave birth, but I feel like she isn't producing any milk. The vets are closed. What can I do so she can give the puppies the milk that they need?
Take your fingers and try to squeeze a little milk out of her nipples. If she is not producing even a little colostrum, you do need to supplement. Are the pet stores in your area open? If so, you can get puppy milk replacer (a product like Esbilac) from there. If not, you can make a puppy milk replacer with goats milk. If you have none available from a nearby store, try making a puppy milk replacer by following the formula at http://hubpages.com/dogs/best-puppy-milk-replacer....
Do not try to tube feed these puppies until you have learned the proper way to do so. If they are too small to feed from a baby bottle, then an eye dropper is your next option.
Can whole milk help my dog produce more milk?
Unless your dog is suffering from malnutrition, whole milk does not have much effect on milk production. If your dog is dehydrated after whelping she could drink soup or fresh cool water. Check the possible causes in the list above before just trying milk.