Chronicle of Early Puppyhood


Lethargy afterPups Weaned

Q: I have a female Lab (Hannah) who had pupsJune 4th. The pups wereweaned at 6 weeks, and her milk is pretty much dried up. I expectedthe bag ladylook with the hair loss, but she seems really lethargic and depressed. She'seating OK, and I'm keeping her inside because of the heat here in Alabamarightnow.Is this normal, eight weeks after her delivery, or should I consideranothercause? By the way, she had seven pups. All were healthyand she had noproblems delivering.

Thanks, Melissa

A: Your dog's symptoms could be normal for post-weaningand are common in theheat. However, there is some risk of uterine infection with the signsyouare seeing and it is always better to check for this. I really thinkitwould be best to let your vet check her out.

Mike Richards, DVM 7/31/99

Typical Bowel Movements Post-Partum

Q: My dog gave birth to nine puppies on 4/5. During the birth she ateat least seven of the placentas, and then had watery diarrhea tingedwithblood for several days, which was treated first with Pepto Bismol,and then1 tablespoon Kaopectate twice a day, and 1 tsp. psysillim powder twiceaday (to absorb water from the stool). I have discontined theKaopectate.

She is now having two-three bowels movementsper day, not watery ortinged with blood, but they are huge and unformed, the consistencyof justcooked chocolate pudding being poured into serving dishes. It "feels"to melike, if I were to discontinue the psyllium seed, it would quicklymoveback to being watery and then bloody. She also has a lot of flatulence,alifetime first for this dog.

She is eating approximately 10 cups of PurinaOne dog food per day,although I have to flavor this with a " gravy" of Hill's PrescriptiondietCanine P/D dissolved in hot water. (While she was feeling rotten,shebecame finicky.) She also gets maternal vitamins with calcium2x a day.

Is this bowel situation normal postpartum? Does this ongoing softstool indicate she is not getting all the nourishment from her food(thatit is passing through too quickly)?

I would be grateful for any reassurances or suggestions you may have.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,Helen G

A: Helen-

It is not unusual for a bitch to develop diarrhea if she eats a lotof theplacentas. Unfortunately, this occurs at a time when the digestivetract hasto perform maximal duty in order to absorb enough nutrients for thepuppies,so it sometimes has a more lasting effect than it might under othercircumstances.

Voluminous stools are not unusual in bitches trying to provide milkto alarge litter of puppies. During this time it is very hard for a dogto eatenough calories to meet the demands being placed on her. Everythingthat iseasily digested in the food is extracted and stuff that is harder todigestpasses on through. Since these dogs are eating A LOT, there is a lotofstool.

To try to combat this problem, it is a good idea to feed a calorie densefood. For this reason, a lot of vets recommend using a puppy food orfoodmade specifically for lactating bitches. Hill's p/d is an exampleof acalorie dense diet. There are others, such as Eukanuba, Science DietGrowth,Purina Puppy Chow, etc. An alternative method of getting morecalories intoa smaller volume of food is simply to add oil to the diet. Fat is averycalorie dense food so a couple of tablespoonfuls of oil adds a lotofcalories. It might help a lot to change foods to one that has morecaloriesper cup. Don't change instantly though! Take at least 3 to 5days to mix thefoods, starting with small amounts of the new food and adding moreeach day.(if you add oil, you can just start that since it doesn't change theoveralldiet much).

It is OK to use an antidiarrhea medication like Immodium AD to helpwith thisproblem, too. At least we have not had any problems with doing that. Yourvet can give you a proper dose for your size dog. Because of the increasednutritional needs I favor this approach over using fiber additivesforlactating bitches.

Hope this helps some.

Mike Richards, DVM4/17/99

Post-Partum Mounting and Next Heat Cycle

Q: Dear Dr. Mike,

1-Why is Buddy, the father of our 14 day old litter, trying to matewithMom, Sheila at this time????

He returned home from the kennel yesterday. He means no harm tothepuppies, and seems disinterested and even a bit wary of them. But he keepsgrabbing Sheila around the waist and trying to mount this poor, tiredmom,and is not dissuaded by her angry barks. As he outweighs herby quite abit, I am keeping them apart unless I am with them. But why on earthwould he be behaving this way? Frankly, I think Mother Naturegoofed again(the first time, prompting Sheila to eat all those placentas, whichgaveher extended diarrhea). I would appreciate anything you haveto say aboutthis, and any suggestions.

2-My other question is about whether I can plan on breeding Sheila asecondtime, or if I ought to have her spayed after this weaning. I need tothink this through *now*, as I am keeping one puppy from the litter,andwould like to keep the one yellow of the litter, which is a male. IfSheila should not be bred again, however, I would keep a black femaleinstead.

Sheila's last heat began 1/31/99, and matings for this litter occurrredon1/31/99 and 2/1/99. Her heats have always occurred every9 months. Thislitter of puppies will be completely weaned by 5/31/99. Can youguess atthe date of Sheila's next heat?

Sheila will be four years of age in 11/99. I imagine she oughtto get oneheat period off to rest, so I am trying to calculate her age when shecouldmate again, and am wondering if this would be too old for her to haveasecond litter.

Thanks very much.


A: Helen-

It is likely that Buddy is trying to re-exert his dominance in the household. Mounting behavior in dogs is one of the ways in which dominance isexpressed.There is a smaller possibility that he was kenneled close to a bitchin heatand that he is simply expressing sexual frustration -- but that isnot toocommon in dogs. If Shiela is protective of the puppies and exhibitingsignsof aggression towards Buddy that normally is not part of their relationship,that might make his aggressive behavior worse, as well. Evenwithout puppiesas part of the picture, a lot of our clients have problems when a dogcomeshome from being kenneled or home from our clinic when the other dogwas notkenneled or hospitalized. Often, dogs seem to feel a strongneed tore-establish who is the boss in these circumstances. Since I usuallygetcalled when the dogs are fighting, rather than exhibiting less aggressivebehaviors, Buddy may be being better about this than you think. I reallythink he will settle down in a few days -- if not, I will be glad tolook forsuggestions for treating the problem. Keeping them separate when youcan'tsupervise is OK and shouldn't affect things much. If Buddy was thedominantdog before he was kenneled things will return to normal faster if hegets thebest place to stay, is fed first, etc. when they are are separate orwhenthey are together.

Female dogs with a regular cycle will normally stay on it. So Shielawillprobably come into heat nine months after the last heat period. Havingpuppies does not normally affect this interval. So she will probablycomeinto heat towards the end of September or early October. I don'tthink thatthere is a major problem with a five or even six year-old bitch havinghersecond litter, from a medical standpoint. I would be comfortablewith apatient of mine skipping the next estrus and then being bred one moretime.You can't guarantee breeding success so if there is an exceptionalfemalepuppy in this litter and it is your goal to continue to movetowardsbettering the breed, it might be best to keep that puppy. Ifyou think themale puppy is a better quality puppy than it would make sense to keephimsince the odds are high in your favor that you will be able to havea secondlitter from Shiela.

Next time, you should switch her to a puppy or lactation diet aboutthreeweeks before her anticipated delivery date. This is when the developingpuppies really start to demand a lot of nutritional support.

Mike Richards, DVM4/19/99

Weaning Puppies

Q:Dear Dr. Mike,

Sorry to be at you almostevery day, but your answers are of exceptional quality, and these are unusual times for us, havingour first litter of puppies.

The pups are 2 weeks oldtoday, and I have read and heard conflicting advice about when and how to start weaning them. Sheila is a great mom and seems to be enjoying the nursing, but I have heardthat to let it go on too long takes an unnecessary toll on the mom. I was thinking of offering food to the puppies starting at 4 weeks, and as theirfood intake increased, they would take less and less breast milk until completely weaned.

What is your thinking onthis, both on the timing and the method?

Thanks very much, Helen

A: Helen-

I think that it is OK, when necessary, to wean puppies when they arethreeand one-half (3.5) weeks old. It is probably better to wait untilthey arefour weeks of age to offer food, though. It is pretty hard on the bitchifyou don't begin to wean the puppies by the time they are five to sixweeksold.

I think that puppies should be weaned directly to a puppy food. Usingakibble type food is easiest. Find a flat dish or saucer and moistenthe puppyfood enough to make it really soft. Then put the dish in with the puppies.Atfirst they just walk through the food but then they figure out prettyquicklythat it IS food. They will gradually eat more of the puppy foodand nurseless. Most females start to wean the puppies by spending more and moretimeaway from them at about 5 weeks of age. Some start sooner and someseemwilling to let puppies nurse for a very long time, though.

At about 5 weeks of age it is OK to moisten the food less, graduallyworkingtowards feeding it dry by the time they are six to seven weeks old.

This works well for most situations. A small number of puppies haveto beweaned off mom to a puppy milk replacer and then have that mixed withfooduntil they will eat it.

Try to avoid weaning to oatmeal or some other incomplete food. It justcomplicates the whole process.

Mike Richards, DVM4/21/99

Puppy Sucking Behavior

Q: Dear Dr. Mike,

Things are going great her,thanks to your good advice: Sheila islooking in good condition, Buddy has stopped trying to mount her, andIhave a weaning plan in place with which I am comfortable.

And here comes the "but": One of the puppies is now seeking outmale pups and vigorously sucking on the penis. This is not agood thing,right? But I don't know how to prevent it.

Any ideas?

Thanks very much


A: You had a question about one of the puppiesnursing on the male puppy'sprepuces. This is relatively common but it can sometimes lead to infections,particularly after the puppy's teeth begin to erupt more fully. Itmay helpto feed the puppy with this habit Pedialyte or one of the similar formulasmade for pets. Doing that won't interfere with the puppy's nutritionas theyalmost always will still nurse but it gives them some nutrition andkeepsthem hydrated, which may be the reasons for the behavior.

Difference Between Dog and Puppy Nutrition

Puppies and Colic

Q: Dear Dr. Mike,

This is our first litter,as you know, so hopefully I won't have somany questions the second time around.

Today's problem is that onepup is the most vociferous creature Ihave ever encountered. In between feedings, he often toddles aroundthebox, yelping at the top of his lungs. He did this twice during thenight,and the only way to quiet him is to pick him up, soothe him to sleep,andease him back down with the others. Otherwise, he is sturdy andvigorous,and is gaining weight as are the others.

What a scene, in the middleof the night!! Sheila had observed thatI was able to quiet him the first time, so when I woke up the secondtime,she jumped anxiously to her feet (it was clear that she had been watchingme and hoping I would get up), and as I was cradling this little guyon myshoulder, I had my arm around Sheila's neck, as she was anxiously burrowinginto me. "Don't worry, Sheila, we'll take care of this little guy."

At 63, I'm a mom again!!Do pups get colic??? What to do?

Thanks very much.


A: Helen-

Puppies do get colic. Sometimes it takes a lot more effort to stimulateapuppy to have a bowel movement or to urinate than the mother is supplying,since she often has multiple puppies to take care of. Rubbingthe puppy'sstomach gently can be helpful. Using a warm wet washcloth orother softcloth to gently massage around the puppy's anus can stimulate a bowelmovement and relieve discomfort. This can also be done around the preputialarea in male pups. It is best not to use the same cloth for stimulatingbothareas if that can be avoided. I don't know of any really good remedyotherthan comforting the puppy and trying to stimulate it. I won't have accessto my pediatric books until Monday but I will try to look for any furtherinformation then.

Mike Richards, DVM4/23/99

Michal Additional Response: Hi Helen,

You might also see if burping the puppy helps. You know, on your shoulderwith gentle patsand very gentle rubbing on the upper back and shoulders.

Also try walking around for a bit with the puppy held comfortably onthe center of your chest,over your heart, doing what I like to call the granny bounce thatthing we do when we pick upor get handed fretful babies. Works for me.

Michal 4/24/99


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...