Care Plan For The Female After Whelping
After whelping, it’s normal for the bitches’ appetite to slow down and take on little food. This should only last for a few days however before her appetite returns and it should get back to normal after about three weeks. It’s important you monitor food intake because if the bitch is starving herself of the necessary nutrients that come with a high quality dog food eclampsia can set in. This is also called ‘Milk fever’ because the puppies sudden demand for milk means there is also a sudden demand for calcium from the bones of the body. A deficiency of available calcium results in tonoclonic contractions of the skeletal muscles.
Eclampsia most commonly occurs in first litters and toy breeds, so this is particularly relevant to Cockapoo breeders. Good nutrition during pregnancy is the best way to protect against eclampsia and the main symptoms are:
- Clumsy walking
- Fever and high temperature
- Whining, panting
- Poor maternal care towards the puppies
If in doubt call your vet. Eclampsia can be treated quickly and effectively through a IV drip feed.
Three weeks after whelping the mother will need 2-3 times more food than her normal pre-pregnancy diet. This will help provide the milk supply for the puppies. Since there is a marked extra intake in food, split the meals to 3 or 4 servings a day but don’t allow her to just gulp down or 1 or 2 big meals. The food mix should be the same as during the last third of the pregnancy. The bitch’s weight will be 5-10% heavier than her pre-pregnancy weight and it won’t be until she no longer needs to nurse her puppies that her diet can be return to normal. Gradually going back to routine exercise will help shed excess weight.
Hand rearing puppies
Sometimes it’s necessary to manually feed puppies from a bottle. This could be because a large litter has been produced, mastitis, or sometimes the bitch is simply unwilling to let the puppies feed from her.
Choose a popular brand of puppy formula and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Cow’s milk is a poor substitute as it does not contain the high levels of calcium, calories or phosphorous where as branded formula is scientifically formulated to give the puppy what it needs.
Get into the habit of weighing each puppy daily and keeping written records. You want to be sure steady weight gain is happening and this will also help you gauge they are taking on the right amount of milk whether it be from the mother or a formula.
If a puppy gets diarrhea then half the formula quantity until stools become solid again and gradually increase it to the recommended level. You are looking for solid well formed stools and steady weight gain as a sign things are progressing well. If diarrhea does not clear up soon, phone your veterinarian as this is dangerous for a puppy if it continues.
Other tips are:
- Prepare formulas daily and dispose of anything unused
- Practice good safe hygiene standards to stop bacteria spreading and risk of infection
- Warm formula to a 100 degrees before letting it cool
- Use a bottle and nipple and hold at an angle to avoid air bubbles
- Enlarge the opening of the nipple with a hot needle to increase flow
- The puppy should have enough milk flow to be able to suck vigorously from the bottle
- Consult a veterinarian if nursing is difficult as the puppy may need tube feeding which is best administered by the vet.
The mother will naturally lick her puppies which provides the stimulation needed to allow the puppy to urinate and defecate. However, if the puppies are orphaned you will have make sure this happens. Take a cotton ball and dip it in warm water and gently rub the anal region. A delicate body massage also helps to stimulate circulation and wake the puppy up when it’s time to feed. You can use a soft damp cloth to stroke the puppies sides.