Veterinarians (and human doctors as well) speak of the post partum period when referring to the time after the dam (mother dog) has given birth to her puppies. Most vets would want to see the mother dog soon after she has given birth, especially if the litter size is large (anything over six puppies). Let’s face it, the dam is under severe physiological distress and some nutritional pressure, if she has to nurse a lot of puppies. So much milk has to be produced for the suckling pups. Some dams actually go into a shock situation caused by a deficiency of minerals (especially calcium).
The vet will make an assessment of the breasts and their ability to produce sufficient milk for the puppies. Also the colour and consistency of the milk have to be examined. You don’t want infected milk to get into the puppies’ bodies. The vet will also want to palpate the abdomen of the bitch to ensure that the uterus (womb) is alright and does not contain any retained placentas (afterbirth) or retained puppies. The knowledgeable veterinarian could administer certain hormonal injections which could help to expel any potentially damaging residual tissue mass in the womb. Such injections would also aid in the milk let-down and help the involution of the uterus to its normal state.
As part of the post partum care for the mother dog, I usually advise owners to measure their body temperature (by placing the thermometer in the dog’s rectum – not under its tongue or in the armpit) and documenting same. The average normal temperature (more on the high side) of a dog here in Guyana would be somewhere between 38.3oC – 39.5oC. If the temperature goes higher, then we may be dealing with an infection causing the fever, and your vet will decide the next step.
Many owners (especially those experiencing the births of puppies for the first time) get scared and even panic when they see a greenish discharge from the vagina after the dam has finished giving birth to her pups. This discharge is not abnormal. You will notice it up to one day (24 hours) after the last pup is born. It is not foul smelling and the mother dog does not seem to be ill. Later on, the discharge takes a reddish colour. This too is normal; but I would advise that you keep an eye on this blood tinged discharge which could last for up to three weeks. If you notice this discharge become brown and thick and foul-smelling, then something is terribly wrong. In all likelihood, there is a bacterial infection in the uterus. A series of antibiotic injections or a course of oral antibiotics may then be prescribed by your veterinarian. Some vets might advise that the womb be washed out with an antiseptic solution.
Other infections (other than of the womb), are associated with the post partum period. For example, the breasts can become infected (mastitis); or a condition known as milk fever (calcium deficiency) can occur. We will deal with these ailments specifically later.
As part of the post partum care of the mother dog, I tend to advise that she be taken for short walks daily. Some bitches are such good and protective mothers that they do not wish to leave their offspring unattended. We must insist that she gives herself a break. In fact, I would like to suggest that at about 3-4 weeks of age, the puppies should be encouraged to eat solid food (beef/fish mince and rice). You can alternate the food with cow’s milk. I have known mother dogs to suckle their pups for months. This is not a good practice, since the sharp teeth in the strong jaws of the puppies can injure the bitch’s nipples; the next thing you know is that the mother dog has an infection on or around the nipples or worse, she develops a mastitis condition. Really, the pups should be removed from the mother dog when they are about 4 weeks of age, latest.
Next week, we will touch on the feeding regime needed for the bitch during the post partum period.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.