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Do you have a nursing momma pooch? Like humans, a nursing dog needs enough nutrition to produce more milk. If not, its litter will grow undernourished and weak. So the question is this: what to feed a nursing dog to produce more milk?
Breastfeeding is a very crucial point of a lady dog’s life. Since most dogs can give birth to multiple pups, say 10 in one gestation, their nutrient requirements skyrockets. Just imagine a person breastfeeding many babies!
The only way to help your girl produce more milk is to ensure that she’s being fed right and she’s getting rest she needs.
But hey, don’t fret about taking care of a nursing doggo and its pups. All “expectant” households have their own worries. But with the help of a vet and some helpful tips, you and your momma dog can go past the nursing phase.
Why mother dogs find it hard to produce milk
A dog that has given birth to its puppies is expected to produce milk as part of the normal cycle of motherhood. However, some doggos find it hard to lactate which can compromise the health of its litter.
Like how it goes with breastfeeding humans, there are many reasons why this is happening to your dog. Take note that even before the pups are born, expectant dogs will have little milk already. This can be a sign that your doggo is healthy and ready to lactate.
By the time the dog whelps (gives birth), its body will be flooded with oxytocin, thus a massive production of milk.
But what if the milk doesn’t get produced? What to feed a dog after giving birth?
Such a case always seeks for a veterinarian’s advice. The following can cause poor milk production:
Heavy parasite infestation
Infected mammary glands
You can try providing more fluids to your dog by making a fresh bowl of water available all the time. As for the added nutrition, I strongly recommend that you tap the help of a vet. This isn’t just about increasing the amount of kibble you give; it’s more about meeting the nutritional requirements of your nursing pet.
If you suspect that your dog has a bad case of worms, you should send it straight to the veterinary clinic. The dog doctor will also run tests to rule out other possible causes of poor milk production.
Dogs that whelped prematurely are likely to experience hormonal problems, thus poor lactating. This can be fixed through supplementation and proper treatments of a vet. Knowing what to feed a nursing dog to produce more milk also needs the supervision of a vet.
Golden rule: colostrum is important
We’ve learned in school that colostrum, or the very first milk a mother produces, is the most nutritious. The same goes for dogs. Colostrum is the first milk to flow in 24 hours upon birth. This milk contains loads of vitamins and minerals that will help pups develop antibodies. Although colostrum isn’t produced in large amounts to dogs, a few drops can make a big difference in the health of a puppy on the first few weeks of its life.
Remember that this passive immunity from colostrum and gestation is directly related to the vaccinations the mother dog received prior to pregnancy. If you vaccinate your dog against Parvovirus and other life-threatening conditions, they will pass the immunity into their puppies.
Also, most of the maternal antibodies are passed on to puppies through colostrum. In the same vein, puppies only have the first 18 hours of its life to absorb its mother’s milk without being hydrolyzed.
After the said period, their intestinal walls will change which will cause water particles to merge with proteins which destroy the antibodies’ ability to fight bacteria and viruses.
In the end, it’s not about the length of nursing the puppy. It’s more of ensuring that their first hours are dedicated to nursing and that the mother doggo is producing enough milk. Also, you need to know what to feed a dog after giving birth to help the mother produce milk.
Are the puppies getting enough milk?
The next concern here is whether the puppies get enough milk or not. Like newborn human babies, pups have to nurse multiple times a day, about once every two hours. But how will you know if the pups are getting enough milk?
There are two signs that the puppy isn’t getting enough milk: the pup cries all the time and it’s not gaining weight.
Newborn pups will cry when they’re hungry, and since these little pooches aren’t supposed to be weaned, they rely solely on their mother’s milk. If the nursing is taking multiple times but the pup is still crying, it’s a sign that your mother dog is not lactating enough.
Also, if the pups aren’t gaining weight (which should take place dramatically in their first few days of life) you should ask the help of a vet. Puppies are supposed to double their weight every week. If not, they will have stunted growth and malnourishment which will stem to more health problems.
If the mom of the puppies can’t lactate properly, feeding the litter is now your responsibility. Below, we discussed bottle feeding and how you should stimulate defecating and urinating right after the nursing session.
What if my dog has enough milk but too many puppies?
Being blessed with many puppies is a delight of many dog owners. However, it can also lead to feeding issues. Even if the mother dog produces enough milk after whelping, some pups may not get enough as they have to compete with the other members of the litter.
In this case, you should step in and help the momma with its pups. There is commercial puppy milk that you can bottle feed to ensure that the little pooches get the nutrition they need. Knowing what to feed a nursing dog to produce more milk may also help.
When should I wean the puppies?
Puppies aren’t supposed to be weaned until the 4th week of their life. Still, weaning should be a slow process that should end by the 8th week of the pup. During the weaning phase, you will introduce the puppies to other food sources. It can be a commercial weaning formula or slushy kibble.
It’s important to let the puppies mingle with its litter and mother. This way, they can inhibit signs of biting, identify dominance, and develop their first behavioral inflections.
Also, gradual weaning is beneficial for mothers as it will let them dry their milk slowly. You should know that as much as weaning is stressful for puppies, it’s also an uncomfortable phase for the mother.
How to help your dog produce more milk?
The good thing here is that you can always aid the mother dog to help it produce more milk. Here are some that you can do. If you’re in doubt, never shy away from the help of a vet.
Hydrate the mommy dog
Most dogs lack enough fluids to produce milk. Nursing will take up a lot of fluids so your dog needs to double or even triple its hydration. Always place a fresh bowl of water available in different parts of your house to encourage your dog to drink.
The moment your dog becomes dehydrated, it will dramatically decrease its production of milk. If the mother doggo is relaxing inside a room, put a bowl of water close so the pooch won’t need to walk just to hydrate.
Provide more food
If you’ve been pregnant before or you knew someone who did, you’ll likely hear the line “I need to eat for two”. This applies to bitches (pregnant/nursing dogs) too. Since they are feeding multiple puppies, they need extra nutrients and energy to keep up. Also, you need to know what to feed a dog after giving birth.
The rule of thumb is to give the nursing momma at least four small meals a day or more. You can ask your dog’s vet about the best food that you can give your pooch. Always choose a food that’s easy to digest, regardless if it’s commercially purchased or prepared at home. Knowing what to feed a nursing dog to produce more milk is a make-or-break part.
I just want to emphasize here that momma dogs may lose a bit of its weight during the course of nursing. But if your pooch has experienced a drastic weight loss, you need to level up its nutrition.
Here’s a short guide from Dr. Bob:
Make the nursing area comfy
Stress can also cause your dog to produce less milk. So as much as possible, make the dog’s sleeping and nursing area as comfortable as possible. The dog should be happy to stay on it.
Take note that the mother dog will also get stressed with all the crying and whining of its puppies. As much as you can’t do anything about it, giving the mother dog all she needs will keep her cozy.
Take the mother dog to a walk
Mother dogs can get really stressed, especially if there are many puppies. A daily walk will give the momma some me-time to clear its head and have enough exercise. This will also let the doggo get some fresh, something that all new moms need.
Ask the help of a vet
If this is your first time to take care of a lactating dog, you can always ask the help of a veterinarian. The dog doctor can identify what causes the poor milk production and s/he can also check if the puppies are getting enough milk.
In case you’ll need to bottle feed the pups, the veterinarian will prescribe puppy milk and teach you the right way of feeding the little canines.
It’s best to bring the momma and the puppies to the vet for regular check-ups. The doggos are susceptible to various infections which can be prevented with early diagnosis.
When to do bottle feeding?
When the mother can’t provide enough milk to its puppies, bottle feeding is the next option to ensure that the pups are getting the right nutrition. You can also do this if the mother dog got sick or died.
There are frozen colostrum products that your vet can provide if you’re nursing a newborn pup. After 18-24 hours, you’ll need to feed commercial puppy milk to sustain the lactating requirements of the little doggo.
The challenge with bottle-feeding is when you’re going to feed a small, newborn puppy. Instead of using a bottle, you’ll have to administer the milk by using a needle-less syringe. Once the puppy gains weight, you can switch to a small bottle.
Here’s a guide for syringe feeding a newborn pup:
However, bottle feeding also entails some concerns like the following:
The mother dog may get angry if you try to take away the puppies. Some dogs tend to be aggressive when you try to touch their puppies. This is their protective instinct kicking in. It may need getting used to so you can bottle feed their puppies.
You’ll need to stimulate pooing and peeing. Like human babies, you need to burp a puppy after feeding it. Aside from that, you’ll need to mimic how mother dogs stimulate defecation or urination among its puppies. Dogs lick the genitals of their pups and to simulate it, use a warm washcloth and gently rub this part until the pup eliminates.
After three weeks, the pup should have the ability to poo and pee on its own.
Prepare even before your dog gives birth!
If your dog is yet to give birth, you have a lot of time to prepare. Regular vet visits will let you know how your dog is faring in the lactating department. Also, the veterinarian can advise of the steps you need to take in case the pooch can’t feed its puppies.
The preparation should include buying puppy food and food for the lactating mother. This is very crucial for busy dog owners.
Also, preparing the spot where your dog will nurse is crucial. Don’t let the momma nurse on the cold floor where foot traffic is prominent. This will stress the doggo and may become aggressive as it may think someone is trying to take away his babies.
What to feed a nursing dog to produce more milk? It all depends on the cause of poor lactation. Only the vet can guide you on the proper nutrition of your pooch. And if an infection is present, treatment is necessary.