Watching your furry-legged best friend deal with the challenges of caring for a litter of puppies can sometimes seem overwhelming. You battle with your instinct to help someone you love but fear disrupting nature's course. There are things you and your dog can and should do to ensure that every puppy is as healthy and happy as possible. A nursing dog is providing her puppies with nutrients and vitamins so unique that modern science cannot duplicate them, but sometimes nature's most nutritious gift can lead to complications. We can be alert to the signs and symptom of nursing complications and step in to provide what relief we can.
Clean the areas where your dog prefers to nurse and keep it clean. Newborn puppies won't be able to leave their whelping box so the mother dog will need to nurse them there. Change the bedding several times a day. As the puppies become more mobile, nursing may take place on the floor or in the yard. Clean all potential nursing surfaces. A clean nursing area will keep harmful bacteria from infecting the surface of the nipples.
Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Gently examine each nipple. Look for red streaks or scabs on and around the nipples. These could be signs of mastitis, a clogged, infected milk duct. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog shows signs of mastitis, or signs of pain at your touch.
Wet a washcloth with warm water. Massage nipples that seem too engorged. This will stimulate the nipple to let down milk, but it will also signal the milk glands to produce more milk. While this can help in the short term, it shouldn't become a constant practice.
Consult your veterinarian if the nipples seem constantly engorged. Remember a nursing dog's nipples will be radically different in shape and size than they were before she started nursing.