A new litter of puppies can be a welcome and happy event, but it can come with challenges. In the early stages of the puppies' growth, they will rely on their mother's milk to keep them well-fed. However, large amounts of feeding can result in chapped or cracked nipples for the nursing dog. Not only can that chapping be uncomfortable, but it also opens the nursing dog up to possible infections. Fortunately, there are a few remedies that can help ease a nursing dogs' nipples, while still allowing her to feed.
If it appears that the nursing dog's nipples are chapped or cracked, it is critical that she be checked for mastitis, which is an infection of the mammary glands. As the skin around or on the nipples cracks, it opens the dog up to infections, which could kill her if left untreated. If the dog's breast looks engorged, or the nipple is draining some sort of fluid, an infection is likely. Consult a vet if mastitis is a concern, and a simple course of antibiotics should take care of it.
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If a nursing dog's nipples are chapped but not infected, one simple way to make her more comfortable is to space out the feedings into regular intervals. Doing so will help ensure that her nipples are not constantly being irritated by puppy mouths, and give her a little break from the feedings. Simply isolate the nursing dog from the puppies, perhaps by placing them in different rooms, for a few hours of the day. However, be sure to reunite the two groups several times a day, to ensure that the puppies are adequately fed.
Another way to help relieve a nursing dog is to put a T-shirt on over her. While it may sound silly, the cloth will make her nipples inaccessible to the puppies, giving them time to rest and recover between feedings. This method has the added bonus of allowing the nursing dog to continue being around and attending to the puppies. However, be aware that if it is excessively hot, that cloth could prove uncomfortable for the nursing dog. Use proper judgment.
Creams and Balms
Humans typically use moisturizing creams and balms to treat chapped or irritated skin, but this method is not recommended for a nursing dog's nipples. Most creams are not intended for use on animals, and most contain ingredients that are not meant to be consumed orally. After applying the cream to a nursing dog's nipples, it is possible or even likely that either the nursing dog or her puppies will lick off the cream. Depending on the specific type of cream used, it could make the dogs sick, or at least discourage the puppies from feeding.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.