30 Critical Days for Preventing Puppy LossLast updated: March 15, 2017
It's 30 days. But it isn't just 30 days. The last three weeks of pregnancy and the first week after birth is the time when most puppy loss occurs. But the good news is, puppy loss doesn't have to happen. It is manageable.
She's made it through most of her pregnancy, but from day 45 to whelping, females need your help the most. Our focus at this point is keeping moms healthy so their puppies are born healthy and fighting to live.
Keep Mom EatingThe best way to do this is to keep mom eating. As she begins to belly down she will become uncomfortable and will often go off food or back off the amount of food she eats. This is not what we want and can lead to pregnancy toxemia. At this point in the pregnancy the puppies are pulling more protein and fat nutrients from mom than she is taking in. If she is off food mom's protein/fat deficiency will get worse. Waiting for her to eat on her own often leads to a sick mom and puppy loss.
Encourage mom to eat morning and night. Give her high fat and high protein canned food or soak puppy food in hot water. If she doesn't come and eat on her own, hand feed her. For small breeds, cat food, Triage or all meat baby food will be appealing because of the smell. If she doesn't eat on her own, use a syringe and place the food on the back of her tongue. You can use canned meat for larger breeds. A good rule of thumb is feed them two cc per pound of body weight each day.
In the last five to seven days of the pregnancy, the puppies will double their weight. But if mom isn't eating and getting the calories and nutrients she needs, the puppies will be born thin and weak. Oftentimes puppy loss occurs.
Manage InfectionsIf mom had been eating up through the end of her pregnancy, yet the puppies are weak and not aggressive, it could be caused by infection from:
- • Herpes virus is typically a one-time loss. The puppies are usually exposed at birth and die at three to seven days of age. This typically affects whole litters and not just one puppy. The good news is it is manageable.
- • E-Coli usually affects just one puppy.
- • Campylobacter bacteria comes from mom. You can manage moms before birth to prevent this.
Avoid Fading Puppy SyndromeFading puppies is a problem inadvertently caused by us. It's important to remember that nursing puppies have very thin skin so certain cleaning supplies can be toxic. Chlorhexidine is safe and effective to use around nursing puppies. Do not use Clorox®, chlorine, pine oil cleaners or ammonia disinfectants.
Blue belly is another type of infection that can cause fading puppies. The puppies usually gas up but they don't always turn blue. The number one cause of blue belly is a navel infection. The key to preventing blue belly is to dip the umbilical in strong iodine to disinfect and dry up the umbilical.
Why Calcium is CriticalWhen puppies are born normal but dead, it's emotionally draining and frustrating. Managing mom's labor better is the best solution to avoid this from happening again. Since dead puppies don't stretch when they are pushed on, they are very hard for mom to birth. In many cases, the next puppy in line may also die because of lack of oxygen. The solution here is to get three to four doses of calcium, such as Breeder's Edge Oral Cal Plus, in mom before the first puppy is born. Our goal is to have whelping over and done in under nine hours. When labor is faster, moms mother better because they aren't as tired.
Prevent Milking IssuesIf there is very little or no milk at birth, this can be a major issue in the first five days and can lead to puppy loss. You want puppies that are chubby and content and if they aren't or if you are good at bottle feeding, you need to help mom manage lactation. Your goal is dripping milk when she is done whelping. Mom's milk is critical early on to give her babies the colostrum they need to prompt their guts to start digesting.
To trigger milking in mom you have to release prolactin. Prolactin tells moms the babies are here and to start lactating. Breeder's Edge Oxy Momma has herbal ingredients to stimulate and enhance milk production. Oxytocin can also work to let milk out of the gland into the duct to help her start to nurse. But if there is no milk to start with, oxytocin won't help.
Set Up For SuccessAnother important factor to ensure healthy, strong pregnancies is to set yourself up for success. Select only the best females for mating and retire the rest! We have daughters coming up better than mom. Breed on their third heat, between 14 and 20 months. Mom's should cycle about every six months and if she isn't, manage for a heat cycle that is strong. Giving year-round vitamins, managing whelping and watching for pregnancy toxemia will set mom up for a successful pregnancy and labor and get puppies started on a strong and healthy note.
Our goal is to manage out of everything that keeps you up at night.
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.
To learn more about how to manage these 30 critical days, watch Dr. B's free Healthy Moms, Healthy Puppies webinar.
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.