When a dog gives birth, she may display different behavior patterns than before. With a litter of new puppies and the physical toll that delivering those puppies takes, your dog can show any number of changes that may seem odd or out of place to you but that are perfectly normal under the circumstances. Understanding what to expect from your dog, and why, can put your mind at ease.
After your dog gives birth, expect her focus to change from her everyday routine to her newborn puppies. This change in purpose can result in a number of behavioral differences. Your dog may begin to exhibit an aggressive and overly protective temperament, and even hints of anger. For example, she may bark or nip at you if you get too close to the puppies or if there are just too many people around. The majority of this newfound aggressiveness results from hormonal changes that will balance in time, but sometimes it's just a mother protecting her offspring.
You can expect your dog to avoid eating for at a day or two following the birth of her litter. She is at this point more concerned with her puppies than herself. She will soon begin to eat large quantities in an almost constant effort to regain strength and supply milk for her babies. Expect to feed her puppy food that is low in protein, fat and minerals than her regular adult food. As always, provide plenty of water she can access at any time.
Dogs who've just given birth may have accidents as they remain with their newborns through everything. It's not unheard of for a pooch to pee or poo in the nesting spot, and you can be sure her pups will. Expect some messes from mom for a week or so, and try to be understanding. If the behavior continues long after that, take her to the vet for a checkup.
You can expect some odd behavior at times as well. Your dog may attempt to dig holes, even inside the house. She is not trying to escape but is digging instictively to create a space to hide her young. This indicates a discomfort and an unsafe feeling that may be the result of too many people or a lack of alone time. Long licking sessions, during which the dog continuously cleans her puppies, are to be expected as well. This is part cleaning and safety ritual and part digestive maintenance.
If your dog is a small breed or has just had her first litter, she may experience low levels of calcium in her blood, a condition called eclampsia. Eclampsia occurs when the parathyroid gland stops working at full tilt and calcium stops being taken from the bones and transferring it into the blood. Since the mother is feeding a litter with milk that has a high level of calcium, this shortage can take its toll on her system. Muscles may begin to contract or convulse, and your dog may not be able to move normally as a result.
Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.