The lactation of the puppy begins from birth and until weaning. During this period, the whole small family has specific needs so that everyone remains healthy. It is important to keep an eye on the bitch and her puppies to detect the slightest abnormality.
How long does the puppy’s lactation last? How many times a day does a puppy suckle his mother? Why does a mother lick her puppies during lactation? What to do if the puppy’s lactation goes wrong? We explain everything there is to know about breastfeeding puppies and what to do to have healthy babies.
Puppy’s breastfeeding period
As soon as they are born, puppies need to feed themselves in order to get their entire digestive system going. For the first few hours, and up to three days, the puppies will not be fed mother’s milk but colostrum. A yellowish liquid is very rich in nutrients and antibodies that newborns need for good development.
It is only between 1 and 3 days after delivery that the puppies will be able to revel in a good mother’s milk rich in protein for the next 7 weeks. At first, blind puppies feel their way around to find their mother’s udders, which often helps the more awkward ones find their way. When the puppies finally open their eyes after 12 days and become independent after 3 weeks, the mother is less present at the nest and the puppies learn to manage their feedings alone.
During the whole period, the puppies will feed 10 to 20 times a day, always all together, and in small quantities. If they drink too much, they may get diarrhea.
The puppy’s nursing period thus lasts 7 weeks. During the last 2 weeks, milk production becomes less abundant in order to accustom the puppies to not receiving any more milk and to wean them little by little. When the bitch no longer produces milk for her puppies, she finishes weaning the most greedy by refusing the feed.
During lactation, the bitch expends a lot of energy to produce milk. This energy loss must be made up of a richer and more frequent diet of up to 4 meals a day. The food given must be of good quality, rich in protein but also in various nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus from which she draws to produce her milk. An adapted food for a nursing bitch is the best way to keep the mother in shape during this period and not to weaken her.
The bitch licks her puppies while nursing.
During the first weeks of the puppies’ life and until their weaning, the bitch will teach them all the basic rules. Learning that involves licking, an instinctive behavior that is not just a mark of her smell or a sign of tenderness.
When a bitch licks her puppies on their genitals, it is a way to stimulate them to learn how to relieve themselves. Licking is also synonymous with grooming and, more generally, a way for the mother to strengthen her puppies’ immune system by depositing antibodies in her saliva.
Finally, the bitch often licks her cubs to guide them. It is a way to push them in a direction when she accompanies this gesture with a blow of her muzzle, but also a reference point when she licks her teats to show them the way.
Licking therefore has a multitude of meanings in order to educate the puppies, keep them healthy and offer them the tenderness of a mother.
What to do if a bitch no longer feeds her puppies?
For several reasons, such as lack of milk, for example, it may happen that the bitch is not able to feed her puppies. In all cases, it is the responsibility of the owners to take over from the bitch to feed the puppies with artificial mother’s milk specifically for puppies.
During the first three weeks, they will have to be fed at a rate of 8 bottles per day every 3 to 4 hours, day and night. After this period, we can start to introduce solid food and reduce the number of bottles. For this we will use a weaning food that the puppies will be able to lap, we can pour a little milk to attract the puppies if they are reluctant. Up to the 7th or 8th week of age, the number of bottles should be reduced until the puppies are weaned and are fed only solid food.
Artificial breastfeeding is not easy. If your bitch is about to give birth, it is wise to anticipate the risk that she may not be able to breastfeed her puppies in order to act quickly. Puppies’ lives depend on the first feeding, if you are not able to quickly replace their mother for nursing, they may not survive!