There’s nothing as joyous as realizing that your dog is going to have puppies. The knowledge that your house will soon be overflowing with adorable little pooches is extremely exciting, and the reality is often just as good as your wildest dreams.
That’s not to say that having a litter of puppies won’t bring certain problems along, however. One of the most common issues that new puppy owners encounter is a lack of sufficient milk supply — and it’s a serious problem, indeed, as it can cause the newborns to grow up malnourished or even die.
Whether the lack of milk is caused by a huge litter or just poor production from the mother, there are certain things that you can do to boost your dog’s supply. This list will walk you through a few of the easiest ways to ensure that every single one of your precious new puppies gets all the food that they could want.
1. Feed Her More
It takes a large amount of calories to make milk, and if you’re feeding your dog the same amount that you always have, she’s probably not getting enough nutrition. Nursing mothers need much more food than usual — sometimes as much as three times the normal amount!
You may want to temporarily switch your pooch to a puppy formula, as in addition to being calorie-rich, it contains nutrients that are often lacking in a regular dog’s diet. If you feed your dog raw cuisine, ask your vet to review your meal plan to ensure that she’s getting all the nutrition that she needs. Regardless of what you feed her, she should be allowed to eat as much as she wants for as long as she’s nursing.
2. Give Her Plenty of Water Too
Creating milk drains fluid from your dog’s body, and if that fluid isn’t replaced properly, the milk will dry up before long. Make sure your pup always has a large supply of fresh water handy. You may also want to offer her chicken broth, which will both increase her moisture levels and give her more calories.
Some dogs fail to drink enough because they simply don’t have the opportunity. This is especially common with large litters, as it seems like there’s always another mouth to feed, giving mom zero chance to refill her tanks. As a result, you should keep a bowl of fresh water close to her nesting spot so she doesn’t have to move far to drink.
3. Consider Offering Her a Supplement
Certain supplements can help bolster your dog’s milk supply. These include milk thistle, fenugreek, zinc, apricot, and more.
However, always clear the supplement with your vet before you offer it to your dog. It’s extremely important not to tamper with the quality of her milk, as the slightest change in milk quality could have disastrous effects on her puppies.
4. Lower Her Stress Levels
Stress has an enormous impact on your dog’s health, and it can even sabotage milk production. If you suspect the demands of motherhood are starting to get overwhelming for her, give her a break. You can take her for a walk, play with her, or simply give her time to herself.
Not only can this help increase her milk supply, but it also reduces the risk of catastrophes like killing her puppies or rejecting them.
5. Get Her Checked for Parasites
If your dog has worms or other intestinal parasites, she may not be absorbing many of the nutrients from the food she’s eating. As a result, she’ll be unable to turn that food into milk for her babies.
Consider taking your pup to the vet to have her checked for any sort of parasite that could be sabotaging her ability to feed her offspring. If the vet finds anything, you’ll likely need to bring the puppies in too, as it’s likely the mother will pass the parasites on through her milk.
6. Check Her Mammary Glands for Infection
Mastitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the mammary glands, and it’s caused by a bacterial infection. This can lead to milk accumulating in the gland instead of being released to the puppies. It may also cause your dog so much discomfort that she refuses to allow them to nurse.
If your vet diagnoses your dog with mastitis, you’ll need to put her on a regimen of antibiotics and painkillers. You may also need to hand-milk the infected glands regularly or apply a cabbage-leaf compress. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.
7. Ask Your Vet for Help
In addition to ruling out problems like mastitis and parasites, vets may be able to prescribe certain medications that can help stimulate production. Some drugs, like metoclopramide, can increase the secretion of prolactin and boost milk supply, but you can only get them with a vet’s approval.
Also, your dog may benefit from an oxytocin injection in the first few days after birth. This will increase her supply and her attachment to her pups. It’s an especially good idea for moms who have had production or attachment issues with previous litters.
8. Know When to Throw in the Towel
Despite your best efforts, some dogs simply never make enough milk to feed all their puppies. At some point, you have to stop trying to wring every last drop out of the mom and start focusing on giving the puppies the nutrition that they need, regardless of how you have to do it.
You can buy milk replacers for the puppies and bottle-feed them until they’re old enough to be weaned. This isn’t as desirable as having them nurse naturally, but it’s certainly preferable to allowing them to be underfed. Likewise, you can make your own replacement formula with ingredients like milk, yogurt, and eggs.
Don’t Give Up
If your dog isn’t making enough milk to feed her pups, don’t panic. There are several different things that you can do to help her increase her production, and many of them will make her happier and healthier as well.
Even if you can’t convince her body to make enough milk for every single hungry mouth she has to feed, you can fill in the gaps with formula. As long as you’re proactive about finding a solution, there’s no reason that every single one of your new puppies can’t grow up healthy and strong.
Featured Image: Marsan, Shutterstock