For dogs, birth and nursing are generally problem-free, but if you have a pregnant or nursing dog, you should aware of signs of potential problems. Recognizing the early signs of a lactation disorder can prevent certain ailments from affecting the pups and their mother.
Mastitis is an infection of the mammary glands that occurs when bacteria travels into the teats and up through the glands. An infected mother dog's teats may become painful and inflamed, a smelly discolored discharge may be present. The mother dog may become lethargic, and she may suffer from a fever and decreased appetite. If left untreated, the infection can block the mammary glands, preventing milk flow. Mastitis is treated with antibiotics; to entice drainage, you will put a warm compress on the teats.
Eclampsia is the result of calcium loss during pregnancy and lactation. Dogs with larger litters may be at greater risk of developing the disorder. Dogs who develop eclampsia may show signs of a stiff gait, muscle tremors, disorientation and overall weakness. If the symptoms worsen, the dog may suffer seizures, fever and rapid breathing. Depending on the severity of the condition, a veterinarian may prescribe intravenous calcium or oral calcium and vitamin D supplements. The puppies will also need to be hand-fed until the mother is able to recuperate.
Pseudo-pregnancy occurs when a female dog develop signs of pregnancy without developing embryo. She may show signs of nesting, lactating, self-nursing and various behavioral changes. False pregnancy is caused by hormonal imbalances. Some female dogs may show signs of pseudo-pregnancy three to four days after an ovariohysterectomy. Unless the symptoms persist, dog owners have to let the process play out. If the symptoms continue, a veterinarian may prescribe hormone therapy in order to prevent uterine infection.
Gestation generally stimulates milk production is generally stimulated by the birth of the puppies, but it may take up to 48 hours in some cases. Some female dogs may have trouble producing any milk or enough milk to feed her litter, which may be caused by premature birth, a large litter of puppies, or a retained puppy or placenta in the uterus. In such a case, the puppies may appear thin and dehydrated; they may be extra-vocal during and after feeding. A veterinarian will need to diagnose whether an infection is causing the lack of milk production or a secondary illness. If the female dog is otherwise healthy, the treatment may involve oxytocin injection to stimulate the milk. The puppies may need to be hand-fed to supplement the mother's milk.
- The Dog Breeder's Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management; Margaret V. Root Kustritz, DVM; 2005
- Successful Dog Breeding: The Complete Handbook of Canine Midwifery; Chris Walkowicz and Bonnie Wilcox; 1994
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images