Do Dogs Nurse While Giving Birth? Is It Normal?

The canine world is filled with fascinating aspects including the incredible process of childbirth and nursing. As dog owners, observers, or even just casual dog lovers, we often find ourselves awestruck by their maternal instincts and natural behavior patterns. One question that frequently piques our curiosity is: do dogs nurse while giving birth?

Yes, it is normal for dogs to nurse while still in the process of birthing especially if there is a significant time gap between the delivery of individual puppies. The first-born puppies may start to nurse before the last ones are born. But this is a decision that should be left to the dam and her puppies.

This behavior, however, varies between individual dogs. Some may be too distracted or stressed to nurse while others are still being born and some may prefer to wait until the arrival of all the puppies before they begin nursing.

Should You Let A Mother Dog Nurse While Giving Birth?

When a mother dog is giving birth and nursing her puppies, it is crucial you respect her space and allows the process to unfold naturally. A mother dog possesses an innate instinct to care for her puppies. She is naturally programmed to handle tasks like cleaning the newborns, severing the umbilical cord, and stimulating the puppies to encourage their first breath. Interfering with these early interactions can disrupt these critical biological processes.

Once you have placed the mother dog. Allow your dog to nurse and care for her babies as she so wishes whether while still in the birthing process or not. Interfering can cause dam stress and irritation furthermore leading to her abandoning the puppies after birth.

Why Do Newborn Puppies Need To Nurse Immediately After Birth?

Nursing immediately after birth is essential for puppies for a few important reasons:

First Milk (Colostrum): One of the primary reasons is that the mother’s first milk, known as colostrum, is rich in antibodies. These antibodies provide passive immunity to the puppies, protecting them from infections during their first weeks of life. This is crucial because the puppies’ immune systems are not yet fully developed, making them vulnerable to disease. The colostrum is only produced for a short period after the birth of the puppies. The ability of puppies to absorb these crucial antibodies effectively decreases after the first 24 hours post-birth and is nearly gone after about 48 hours.

Temperature Regulation: Newborn puppies are unable to regulate their body temperature effectively. Close contact with the mother during nursing helps keep them warm and prevents hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in newborn puppies.

Bonding and Socialization: Nursing isn’t just about nutrition; it’s also a social activity that helps puppies bond with their mother and siblings. This bonding and interaction contribute to the puppies’ social and emotional development, which is crucial for their future behavior as adult dogs.

Stimulation of Bodily Functions: Nursing immediately after birth helps stimulate the puppies’ initial bowel movements, which is crucial for eliminating waste products from their bodies. The mother will often lick her puppies to stimulate urination and defecation, further helping their bodily functions.

What Should I Do if my newborn puppy won’t nurse?

Nursing is usually the first instinct of a puppy immediately after it comes in contact with its mother. But just as there are different children, puppies also differ and some of them might experience difficulty in feeding from their mother’s milk. There are some things you can do if this seems to be the case with your pub.

1. Try to stimulate the puppy’s reflexes: Puppies have a rooting reflex, which encourages them to seek out their mother’s nipples. Gently stroke the puppy’s face and mouth to stimulate this reflex. If it works, it might help the puppy start to nurse.

2. Help the puppy latch on: Sometimes a puppy might want to nurse but doesn’t know how to latch onto the mother’s nipple. You can help by gently guiding the puppy’s mouth to the nipple. Be very gentle and make sure not to force the puppy, as this could cause distress.

3. Switch nipples or positions: If the puppy is struggling to nurse from a certain nipple, it might be because it’s not getting enough milk from it, or it’s just in an uncomfortable position. Try guiding the puppy to a different nipple or changing its position.

4. Check for signs of illness: If the puppy is consistently refusing to nurse, it may be unwell. Signs of illness in a puppy include lethargy, coldness, persistent crying, difficulty in breathing, and noticeable weight loss. You might also want to check for deformities around the puppy’s mouth which might make nursing difficult. If any of these signs are present, seek immediate veterinary attention.

5. Ensure the mother is healthy: Sometimes the issue isn’t with the puppy but with the mother. If the mother is unwell or her milk isn’t coming in properly, the puppy may refuse to nurse. Signs that the mother might be unwell include redness, swelling, or discharge from the nipples, signs of discomfort when nursing, and general signs of illness like lethargy, loss of appetite, and fever.

6. Consult a vet: If you’ve tried everything and the puppy still won’t nurse, it’s time to consult a vet. The puppy could have a health issue that needs medical attention, and the longer it goes without proper nutrition, the more its health will deteriorate.

Remember, the most important thing is to ensure that the puppy is receiving enough nutrition. The first few weeks of a puppy’s life are critical for growth and development, and lack of nutrition can lead to serious health problems or even death.

How Long Does A Dog Nurse Her Puppies?

A female dog, or bitch, will typically nurse her puppies for about 6-8 weeks, although the process of weaning often begins around the 4th week.

In the first four weeks after birth, puppies rely completely on their mother’s milk for nourishment. The mother’s milk is full of antibodies and provides all the nutrients necessary for the puppies’ growth and development.

From week 4-8, Weaning usually begins when puppies are around four weeks old. During this time, the puppies will begin to eat some solid food while still nursing from their mother. The amount of solid food will gradually increase as the puppies grow, and the amount of nursing will correspondingly decrease. Puppies should be introduced to high-quality puppy food during this period, and it should be moistened to help them eat it more easily.

After 8 weeks, puppies should be fully weaned and eat a diet of solid food. However, this timeline can vary somewhat based on the size and breed of the dog. Smaller breeds tend to mature faster and may be fully weaned by 7 weeks, while larger breeds might not be completely weaned until closer to 9 weeks.

After the puppies have been fully weaned, they can be given away to new homes, usually around 8-12 weeks of age.

Here are some practical tips to help a nursing mother dog

1. Increase the mother dog’s food intake: The nutritional demands of mother dogs increase significantly after birth and they often shed a lot of weight. Feeding them high-quality diets rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals helps them to go back to their normal weight as well as meet the demands of nursing. Always ensure she has fresh water available.

2. Calcium supplement: Providing a calcium supplement from the day the puppies are born and until they are weaned can be beneficial to prevent a drop in the mother’s calcium level which could lead to eclampsia, a life-threatening condition.

3. Providing a whelping box: a nursing mother dog needs a clean and comfortable whelping box for herself and her puppies. The box should be warm enough for the puppies, but not too hot for the mother.

4. Regular vet checkups: Regular vet visits are important to monitor the mother’s health and ensure she’s producing enough milk. The vet can also help with any issues like mastitis (an infection of the mammary glands.)

5. Hygiene: Regularly clean the nesting area to prevent infections. Avoid bathing the mother until the puppies have been weaned to prevent the puppies from getting cold or catching an infection.

6. Monitor the puppies: Regularly weigh the puppies to ensure they’re gaining weight at a healthy rate. If any of the puppies are struggling to nurse or not gaining weight, they may require supplemental feeding.

7. Limit Visitors: Limit the number of visitors to reduce stress on the mother and prevent the transmission of diseases to the puppies.

8. Post-weaning support: Once the puppies are weaned, slowly adjust the mother’s diet back to normal. Keep monitoring her health as she recovers from pregnancy and nursing.

Always consult with a vet regarding the health and care of your pets, as they can provide tailored advice based on the specific needs and conditions of your dog.

Lactating Momma: Can Dogs Get Pregnant While Nursing?

Why won’t my dog nurse her puppies?

There are several reasons why a mother dog might not nurse her puppies. If you observe this behavior with your dam, it is crucial to identify the underlying cause quickly, as the puppies’ survival may depend on the mother’s milk, especially in the first few weeks of life.

Your dog might not nurse her pubs because of the following reasons:

1. Health issues: If the mother dog is unwell, she might not have the energy or ability to nurse her puppies. Mastitis, an infection of the mammary glands, can make nursing painful. Other health problems, such as systemic infection or illness, metabolic disease, or physical trauma after birth can also lead to a lack of nursing from the mother dog.

2. Inadequate milk production: Some dogs may have trouble producing enough milk for their litter. This can be due to various reasons, including poor nutrition, stress, or large litter size.

3. Lack of maternal instincts: This is another major problem that prevents a lactating dog from nursing her puppies. Some dogs might not have the instinct to nurse, especially if they’re first-time mothers. Stress or anxiety can also prevent a mother dog from nursing her puppies.

5. Environment: A noisy or crowded environment, frequent disruptions, or other stressors can make a mother dog feel unsafe or anxious, which may discourage her from nursing her puppies.

If your mother dog is not nursing her puppies, it’s important to seek veterinary help immediately. The vet can help identify the cause and recommend appropriate solutions depending on the situation, they might suggest hand-feeding the puppies a canine milk replacement formula, treating the mother’s health issues, or making changes to the environment to reduce stress.


As a dog owner, you might be eager to experience what your dam does immediately when she is delivered of her puppies but providing her with the best care throughout her delivery is of utmost importance.

The birthing process, also known as whelping in dogs, is a natural occurrence that most dogs handle instinctively, especially if they are left undisturbed in a peaceful and comfortable whelping box. It is generally recommended that you allow your mother dog, or the dam, to nurse and care for her newborn puppies on her own.

Your mother dog may decide to nurse her children while still birthing or she may not, it is all up to her. However, while it is generally best to give your dam space, it is advised that you quietly observe from a distance, stay alert for signs of trouble, and be prepared to intervene or seek veterinary assistance if necessary.

dog pregnant by sibling

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