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Even at 3 weeks old it is important to encourage the bitch to continue nursing to prevent Galactostasis.
Mastitis is a bacterial infection of the mammary glands caused by heavy milk production and incomplete draining of the glands. It is a good idea to make sure that the puppies are nursing from all mammary glands, especially in the first 24 hours after birth. Inflamed mammary glands can become very painful, dark red with purple spots. The bitch may be extremely sore, run a fever, have a loss of appetite and discourage her puppies from nursing. In mild cases, you can apply warm compresses and gently manipulate the affected mammary glands to encourage drainage. Bitches with severe infection may require hospitalization and/or surgical drainage of the mammary glands.

There are two cases to be concerned about in regards to the lack of milk, failure of the bitch to let down milk and the failure of the bitch to produce milk.

Of the two, failure of the bitch to let milk down is less serious (and treatable) than the failure of a bitch to produce milk (which is not treatable). During the whelping process, allow the mother to accept the puppy and begin nursing. It is very important that puppies begin nursing off the mother within the first 24 hours. The suckling process stimulates the release of oxytocin in the dam. The oxytocin released from the pituitary gland causes the dam’s milk to be let down. Once the bitch’s milk is completely let down she will more willingly accept the puppies and begin nursing more naturally. This condition is often solved by a vet issuing a shot of oxytocin to the bitch within 24 hours of the last puppy being delivered.

The second case to be concerned with is the failure of the bitch to produce milk. This is a condition that is poorly documented in veteranian journals but often stems back to undernourished mothers. There are no drugs a vet can give your dam that will help to stimulate milk production. Treatment with oxytocin only aids in the letting down of milk – NOT the production of milk. In most cases, the only available option is to hand raise the puppies.

Most dogs are excellent mothers and the likelihood of having any problems after the delivery is low. However, one can never be too careful. It’s a good idea to be in contact with your local veterinarian and seek his or her advice if something doesn’t seem quite right.
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