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Understanding the Lactation Period in Dogs

Understanding the Lactation Period in Dogs

As your dog's whelping day is getting closer, it's a good idea to get acquainted with the lactation period in dogs. When will mother dog start producing milk, for how long and when will she stop producing it? The nursing period in dogs is not something that will be identically experienced by every mama dog. Some mother dogs will start producing milk days prior to whelping and some the same day. Then, perhaps one mother dog may stop producing milk just right at the ideal moment, while others may have it stop earlier and even much later due to a number of reasons. Here’s a guide to help you discover more about the lactation period in dogs and what's likely normal and abnormal.

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Onset of Milk Production

When will mother dog start producing milk? It's normal to be concerned about the lactation period in dogs since newborn puppies totally depend on mother dog milk and need their dosage of colostrum to fortify their immune system and get a good start in life.

Generally, milk production in a pregnant dog may start anywhere between one week prior to delivery to just minutes after whelping.

If your dog hasn't whelped yet and there's no sign of milk, don't despair, there are still chances milk will start flowing after giving birth when powerful hormones jump start milk letdown.

Sometimes, milk production will start as soon as the puppies start nursing which is not surprising considering that milk production is stimulated by the pup's suckling action.

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"Often, as the puppies try to nurse, this will cause secretion of the hormone that causes the mammary glands to produce milk. Your vet can also give her an injection of oxytocin to help with this. Uncommonly, some dogs will not produce milk for a number of reasons." ~Dr. Loretta

Normal Lactation Period in Dogs

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Once mother dog starts producing milk, milk production will continue generally until her puppies reach five to six weeks old. As you may imagine, mother’s milk is significantly needed by her puppies during their first weeks of growth and development. This is because mother’s milk contains the most complete nutrition and antibodies puppies require to grow healthily.

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You will indeed notice how the fastest growth in the puppies’ body occurs during the first weeks as this is when they are dependent completely on their mother.

After ward, once the puppies first milk teeth will have erupted around four weeks of age, the amount of milk produced by the mama dog will gradually decrease until it is the time for her pups to start gradually getting used to solid food and rely less and less on milk.

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End of Lactation Period in Dogs 

With the pups nursing less and less, mother dog's milk will gradually start to dry up until the milk production stops completely.

Gradually the pups will be more independent by then; however, note that during these crucial weeks, their mother should still be ready to nurse their puppies even though not with the same frequency as before.

Normally, puppies would stop their weaning process at 6-7 weeks old, which may still be extended to some amount of time. Generally by 8 weeks puppies should be fully weaned and ready to go to their new homes.

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Signs of Trouble

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When all goes well, mother dog will produce milk in time when puppies need it the most and production will start decreasing as the puppies grow and rely on it less and less.

If the mother’s milk production does not start on time or stops being produced even while the puppies are still dependent on it, then this is a sign of trouble and you will need get to take mother dog to a vet.

Similarly, if mother dog does not cease producing milk weeks after her puppies’ weaning process is done, you will want to have her checked out. Any discoloration in mama dog’s milk may also be a sign of abnormal occurrences such as infections and diseases.

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