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If your dog has just given birth, the puppies look strong and healthy, and mom seems to be recovering well, you may already be breathing a big sigh of relief. Unfortunately, “my dog just had puppies and is really skinny” is a common concern veterinarians hear from dog owners whose pets have recently given birth.
Complications can manifest hours or even days after a dog gives birth to puppies. It’s important that you continue to observe your pooch and her new babies closely in case there may be any warning signs of a serious birth complication.
If you do observe that your dog seems to be losing too much weight after giving birth, here’s what it means and what you can do about it.
What can cause weight loss after birth?
Dogs naturally lose a bit of weight (and some hair) after they give birth. However, if your dog becomes skinny, that’s not normal. Dogs shouldn’t be wasting away after they have puppies.
When dogs lose an excessive amount of weight after they deliver puppies, it can mean that they are underfed or that there is a medical issue that needs immediate treatment. If so, you must take the dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
In the day or two after a dog has puppies, she will naturally look a little thinner in the abdominal area. But she should not feel skinny over her rib cage. On the contrary, she should feel chunkier because her body will be making milk for the coming weeks.
A nursing dog needs double or even triple the daily energy requirement of a non-lactating dog. If a nursing dog does not get sufficient calories to support lactation, its body will metabolize muscles and fat to get the calories for milk production. When this happens, your dog will lose a lot of weight and will start to look excessively thin.
If your dog is losing weight after having puppies, she needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian to see if the weight loss is a result of nursing, inadequate food, loss of appetite, or a pregnancy-related medical issue.
How to keep your dog from losing weight after she gives birth
If your dog has just given birth, she may still be coping with the physical strain and hormonal changes and may lose her appetite. She may also be too exhausted from tending to her new puppies and may be too tired to eat. She may also have eaten the placentas, which means that she won’t be hungry for some time.
While refusing food in the first few hours after birth is normal, veterinarians say that your dog must resume eating within 24 hours after delivering her last puppy. Your dog will need the energy to tend to her babies and to make milk.
While your dog is nursing, she should be able to have as much food as she wants. The American Kennel Club recommends switching to more calorie-dense dog food to support her need for more calories during lactation. Consult your veterinarian for the best kind of dog food to give nursing dogs.
Your dog will also need to stay hydrated, which means you should make sure that there is always fresh water nearby. Keep the food bowl and water bowl within reach so the dam won’t worry about leaving its puppies out of sight.
Warning signs to watch out for
One major sign of a post-delivery complication is when the mom does not get hungry within 24 hours of giving birth to her last pup. Other signs that there may be a problem include:
- Discharge — Vaginal discharge should be free of blood and odor. If it is green, dark, smelly, has traces of blood, or has not reduced in amount since the birth, it could be an indication that your dog needs immediate veterinary care.
- Eclampsia — This is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent care. The main symptoms of eclampsia are fever, lack of appetite, restlessness, muscle spasms, rapid breathing, panting, trouble standing, and lack of interest in the puppies.
- Mastitis — Weight loss and lack of appetite can also be caused by mastitis, which is when the mammary glands are infected. If your dog has mastitis, her mammary glands will be red, inflamed, and painful. Your dog may also have a fever and may neglect her puppies.
How to avoid excessive weight loss after birth
Though you will have to deal with medical conditions such as mastitis as they arise, one way to avoid weight loss in a dog that has just given birth is to improve their nutrition before they deliver. Veterinarians recommend giving a pregnant dog puppy food in the last few weeks of gestation and then throughout the lactation period to make up for her increased calorie requirement.
If you were thinking “my dog just had puppies and is really skinny”, we hope this short guide has helped you out. Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or overall health.