The birth of puppies an exciting and challenging event, and care must be taken to ensure that both the pups and their mother are thriving before and after birth. Colostrum, while it's a necessary part of puppy nutrition, should never be fed to the mother dog. She will need her own special care and nutrition.
Colostrum is the first milk produced by a mother dog in the first few days after giving birth. It's a smooth, protein-rich source of nutrition that passes the mother's antibodies and immunities to the puppies. Since the mother dog already possesses these antibodies, and an unnatural influx of antibodies could be harmful to her health, she should not be fed a colostrum supplement. For the puppies, however, colostrum is the foundation of their young immune systems.
A mother dog will require extra calories while she supports her entire family's nutritional needs. In general, she will not require any different food than her usual diet, but she will likely eat twice as much as normal. Keep her bowl full of a high-quality dog food approved by your dog's veterinarian. Her vet may also recommend a special lactation dog food that is formulated for nursing mothers.
To keep your mother dog and her puppies healthy, they will need a clean living environment. Puppies are messy in their first few weeks, and their mother will be hard at work cleaning up after them. You can help by regularly removing soiled towels or newspapers, always being careful to not disturb the nest too much. Make sure the mother's water supply stays clean, fresh and nearby for easy access.
After the needs of the puppies have been attended to, you can help the mother dog's health and recovery by letting her have some time to herself. She may enjoy a break from her brood by romping outside or relaxing with you. You can take this time to evaluate her physically to ensure she is recovering properly.
Veterinarians recommend that a mother dog be professionally examined 24 to 48 hours after whelping to be sure she has delivered all of the puppies and the afterbirth. Your vet can also verify that the dog is not suffering from mastitis, an infection of the mammary glands, or metritis, an infection and inflammation of the uterus. Keep close watch on your dog's behavior and inform your vet immediately if you notice anything suspicious or unusual.
Olivia Kight is an experienced online and print writer and editor. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2012, and has worked on education, family life and counseling publications. She also gained valuable knowledge shadowing a zoo veterinarian and grooming and socialize show dogs, and now spends her time writing and training her spunky young labradoodle, Booker.