Whelping Complications

Several complications may happen after whelping and are all considered life-threatening and fairly common. Eclampsia, or "milk fever," is a convulsive condition that is caused by a low calcium content in the dam's blood. If eclampsia is suspected, the puppies must be removed from the dam to prevent a further loss of calcium due to nursing. The condition can occur in late pregnancy or during the nursing period. Signs of eclampsia are nervousness, stiffening of the legs, pale gums, and panting; however, the onset of the disease is not always obvious. Upon noticing, the temperature may increase and in this case veterinary attention should be sought immediately. Injection of calcium and vitamin D will enable the dogs's body to utilize and absorb the calcium.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary glands caused by excess of milk. As milk accumulates, the gland may not being thoroughly drained due to weak suckling or small litters. The gland becomes congested and painful. If left untreated, mastitis can lead to bacterial infections. Once the condition is identified, treat the inflamed breast either by placing a pup on it to more fully empty it, or by gently hand-expressing the milk. By careful rotation of the puppies, mastitis can be quickly cleared up.

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The above mentioned whelping complications can be prevented through diet and care. The dam's diet should be high in protein and calcium. Offer her milk several times a day, since she needs as much fluid intake as possible to help with her milk supply. She will want little of this in the first 24 hours, but broth is usually an enticement she won't refuse. She can be given small portions of solid food after the first day, such as ground beef or chicken. She will soon need little tempting to eat, as she will develop a ravenous appetite to make up for the calories expended during nursing. She will need 2 large meals a day, and a supply of dry food should be made available to her at all times. The dam will insist on remaining close to her whelps for the first week, generally leaving only to relive herself. As the pups grow in strength, she may leave for more extended periods. During this time she will not want interruptions from strangers, so try and keep her as isolated as possible. Keep a fresh supply of water available at all times.

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