When a dog has puppies, many owners incorrectly assume that the hard part is over. The truth is that the new mom requires some post-whelping care to keep her healthy and strong enough to care for her pups. There are still many things that can go wrong, including infection, retained puppies or an inability to produce milk, and it is only vigilance on the part of the owner that can catch signs of these problems before they threaten the life of the dog or her puppies.
Walk your dog immediately after whelping, but pay attention to what she does. On rare occasions, she may be surprised with another birth.
Feel her abdomen for large lumps, to make sure there are no more puppies left inside. A trip to the vet for both mom and the litter is a good idea. The vet will examine the litter for birth defects and make sure no puppies remain inside the mother. The vet will also give her an oxytocin injection that will contract her uterus and help expel leftover placenta.
Monitor the mother dog for signs of illness or lack of interest in the pups. If she is not allowing them to nurse, the job is left to you.
Take the mother's rectal temperature twice daily for the first few days. A normal temperature is between 38.3 and 39.4 degrees Celsius, and a high temperature could indicate an infection.
Monitor her vaginal discharge. A small amount of blood is normal for the first few days, but if it continues or increases in volume, call your vet. If a greenish, foul-smelling discharge appears, this usually indicates infection, so notify your vet.
Feed her several small meals per day. She will be extra hungry, and will need all the energy she can get, so many breeders feed puppy food during this time because of its higher calorie count.
Keep an eye on her mammary glands. Any unusual redness, swelling or pain can be a sign of mastitis, which should be reported to your vet. If she is not allowing the puppies to nurse, this could be why. If dried milk crusts form around her nipples, gently soak them off with a warm, wet washcloth.
Brush her daily. Dogs lose a large quantity of hair during pregnancy, and some of the dead coat will still need to come out. A gentle brushing will help her get rid of the hair, and will also be a soothing experience for her.
Watch for signs of excessive panting, trembling or seizures. These are symptoms of a calcium deficiency called eclampsia, which must be treated by a vet immediately.
Most dogs do not have any post-whelping problems, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
If you notice any vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, depression, excessive drooling, weakness or any other unusual behaviour, alert your vet. Your dog could have an infection or nursing-related nutritional deficiency that requires immediate treatment.