How to care for a lactating dog

Updated February 21, 2017

When a mother dog gives birth, her ability to produce milk for her newborn puppies serves as their only source of food for the next four or five weeks. During this time, the mother dog needs special care and additional nutrition in order to keep herself healthy and produce sufficient milk for her litter. In addition, this can be a stressful time for your dog and you can ease her anxiety by providing a secure location for her to nurse her puppies.

Offer frequent small meals to your dog when you can express a small drop of milk from a nipple with a gentle squeeze. Lactation starts before the mother dog whelps (gives birth) and is a sign that labour will begin soon. Feed her high-quality dog food with at least 30 per cent protein and give her access to fresh water at all times. A lack of water may reduce her milk production.

Introduce each newborn puppy to its mother's milk as soon as it is born and cleaned up. The nursing action of the puppies stimulates more milk production in the mother dog. This is a crucial time for a mother dog and you can assist her by placing each newborn puppy at an available nipple and holding it gently until it begins nursing.

Give the mother dog some privacy and security. Stress and anxiety can slow her milk production. A lack of milk (agalactia) may result if the mother dog fears for the safety of her newborn puppies. Restrict visitors during the first two weeks, if she appears nervous. Sit beside her and comfort her; offer her a well-known toy and minimise distracting noises during this time.

Increase your dog's food during lactation. Her body needs more nutrition now in order to produce milk for her puppies. Puppies grow rapidly and they demand more milk and the mother dog's appetite will increase substantially. She may eat as much as three times the amount of food she did before she gave birth. Ask your veterinarian about supplements to increase milk production (see Resources).

Check the mother dog's nipples daily for redness, soreness or infection. According to, one or more mammary glands may become inflamed and painful, reducing milk production and causing the mother dog to avoid nursing her young. Call your veterinarian immediately if this occurs. Occasionally, the nursing puppies may irritate the exterior of the nipple and scratch the tender surrounding skin. Apply a dab of petroleum jelly to the nipples to help soothe and heal surface irritation.

Give your dog a break. Your mother dog needs to go outside to use the rest room and exercise after a nursing session. After the puppies nurse and are sleeping, encourage the mother to get up and go outside for a few minutes.

Provide a barrier that your mother dog can step over or jump over by the time her puppies are two weeks old. This allows her to nurse and then jump out and for some much needed rest. A cardboard box or another barrier that allows her to enter and exit easily but prevents the puppies from straying is optimal.


Wash your hands before inspecting your dog's nipples. Change your dog's bedding daily to reduce the risk of bacteria and germs.

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About the Author

Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.