Managing Females – Prenatal Care for Dogs

Puppies are in the neonate stage during their first 1-10 days. Kittens are in the neonate stage during their first 1-7 days. This is the time frame when most losses occur. In this phase of their life, neonates are 70% water and very prone to infections, dehydration and loss of life. Most of these scenarios are preventable with prenatal care, mothering and milking.

Over 50% of the pre-weaned puppy loss happens in the first week of life (Peterson and Kutzler, 2010). In kittens, 50% of neonate losses are caused by stillbirths and another 25% of neonate loss occurs in the first week. Managing your female's prenatal program is vital for a baby's survival. After one week, the number one cause of death is respiratory, then gastrointestinal followed by malnutrition. Milking must be managed during prenatal time in order to improve colostrum antibodies and prevent malnutrition loss.

It is easy to see how prenatal care of moms will yield benefits. Timely labor, vigorously nursing babies, colostrum antibodies, neonate hydration and nutrition are all part of prenatal management.


Nutrition is vital for the pregnant mom. Putting mom on a kitten or puppy diet during the last two weeks of gestation ensures the babies will get adequate nutrition. Moms will run out of room for food as they belly down. Using a puppy/kitten food during this time allows for more calories per bite.

Changing to kitten food can be a challenge for the queen who is addicted to a certain diet and does not want to change. Older queens that have never had a diet changed since being an adult should be monitored closely. Starting the queen with a 50/50 mix of her current food and kitten food for a week, and then moving to the new diet has helped avoid issues.

Bitches have never been an issue and tiny breeds are often maintained on a puppy food year-round, creating a new issue. Eating adequate volume when a large litter is onboard is a challenge. Using garlic yeast products to encourage intake or feeding canned food to get moms back to the food before the lights go out for the evening is a big help.


We are now feeding mom well – the next step is to think about vitamins. Getting adequate prenatal vitamins into queens and bitches during gestation is often ignored. Just as prenatal vitamins benefit human moms, they are also needed in queens and bitches for neural tube development, bone and palate development, and red blood cell production. Folic acid, vitamins and minerals for neural tube and bone development help prevent birth defects, and the benefits of using these are well-known.

Moms with low iron are quick to tire during labor, and their babies will be born anemic and stay anemic until 6 weeks. Puppies and kittens are born with all the red blood cells they will have until 6 weeks of age, when their bone marrow begins to replace them. Low calories are often blamed on tired moms and unhealthy babies, but a lack of red blood cells needs to be considered if you are not supplementing mom with iron.

The goal is simple: We want moms giving birth in a timely manner. We want babies born fighting to live rather than the owner fighting to keep them alive, and we want no loss to malnutrition. Neonates that die after 48 hours likely succumb to starvation rather than infection (Dr. Pendergast). One can see why getting mom to milk early is very important for neonate nutrition and preventing dehydration. In addition, moms that do not milk well early on transfer less colostrum antibody protection to babies. Less colostrum protection results in neonate loss.


Moms who go through C-Sections often struggle to start milking. Moms with planned C-Sections do not go through the labor process that causes prolactin release, telling the gland to start milking. They have the gland developed but nothing told the gland to start milking! Nursing will cause the gland to milk but not before the neonate nearly starves to death.

Giving Reglan when in surgery and repeated six hours later releases prolactin and starts reliable milking. (Read When a Dog Won't Milk) Using the herbs Fenugreek and Chaste tree fruit seven days before a planned C-Section starts mammary glands milking, effectively managing milking. We have been able to get moms dripping milk when coming off the surgery table, assuring babies get adequate colostrum and nutrition.


Tired moms don’t mother well, and we end up losing babies. Raspberry leaf extract is often used to ease the cramping during labor. Raspberry leaf extract won’t change uterine contraction, but it will help ease the ligament cramping that happens early in labor and between contractions. Mom needs daily supplementing three weeks before whelping to get maximum effect. When a mom is not tired during birth, it makes labor easier and improves mothering after birth. Exceptional mothering the first few days saves marginal babies that would otherwise pass away.


How do we implement this Prenatal Program? Breeders' Edge® Oxy products are the first prenatal vitamins for dogs and cats. The supplemental iron, along with folic acid, and other needed prenatal vitamins and minerals make up the Oxy products.

Giving birth is hard work – giving birth eight times in a row is exhausting. Put the Oxy Prenatal Program in place and help mom to wean all her babies effectively.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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