How Do I Help My Mom Dog When Puppies Leave?

The Emotional Impact on Mom Dogs

It’s common for mother dogs to experience separation anxiety and depression when their puppies leave home. After caring for her litter for weeks, the sudden change can be difficult and leave mom feeling sad and lonely1. Allowing her to occasionally see or sniff her puppies’ bedding can provide some comfort and closure. It’s also important to give her extra love and affection during this transitional period. Provide plenty of petting, cuddling, and reassurance. Spend more one-on-one time together through play, training, or just relaxing quietly nearby. With your support she’ll gradually adjust to her puppies being gone.

Keeping Mom Dog Active

One of the best ways to keep a mom dog’s spirits up after her puppies leave is to keep her active through walks, playtime, and mental stimulation. Take mom dog on long walks around the neighborhood or to the park. The exercise and change of scenery will provide mental stimulation. Allow plenty of playtime with interactive toys that make her think and move, like puzzle toys or fetch. Teach mom dog new tricks to keep her mind engaged like “shake” or “roll over”. Sign up for an obedience, agility, or nosework class to give her a fun job to do

According to the ASPCA, keeping mom dog physically and mentally active will help prevent boredom and depression after the puppies have left. Make sure not to overdo activities right after birth, but gradually increase to longer walks and more vigorous playtime as she recovers [1]. Activities like agility provide physical and mental exercise to keep mom dog happy and healthy.

Providing Proper Nutrition

After weaning puppies, it’s important to gradually transition the mother dog back to her normal food. abruptly switching her diet can cause gastrointestinal upset. Start by mixing a small amount of her regular dog food into the puppy food or milk replacer she was eating while nursing. Over the course of a week or two, slowly increase the proportion of adult dog food while decreasing the puppy food.[1]

Monitor the mother dog’s weight and adjust her portions accordingly. She will likely need less food now that she is no longer producing milk. Consult with your veterinarian about an appropriate diet plan. Some dogs benefit from switching to a senior dog food formula after weaning puppies.

Make sure the mother dog’s diet contains adequate levels of calcium and phosphorus, which are vital for milk production. You may want to continue supplementing with a vitamin specially formulated for nursing dogs for a few weeks after weaning. This helps support her nutritional needs as her body adjusts.[2]

Allowing Plenty of Rest

Giving birth and caring for a litter of puppies is very physically demanding on mother dogs. She needs adequate time to recover her strength and energy levels after delivery[1]. It’s important to allow the mom dog to get the rest she needs during the first few weeks after giving birth.

Make sure she has a comfortable and quiet area set up for napping and nursing her puppies. This space should be away from high traffic areas and loud noises that could overstimulate her[2]. Give her scheduled breaks from the puppies so she can have some alone time to sleep and recover her energy[3]. Avoid overexerting or overexciting her during this period as her body needs time to heal.

Getting adequate rest will help the mother dog avoid exhaustion and have the energy she needs to properly care for and nurse her puppies during these critical early weeks.

Veterinarian Checkups

It’s crucial to schedule a veterinarian wellness exam for your mom dog within 48 hours after she gives birth to her puppies. As recommended by The Kennel Club, “it’s still important for her and her puppies to see the vet within 48 hours of giving birth. Many vets will do a home visit as it will be less stressful for the new mum and her litter” (source). During this wellness exam, the vet will examine the mom dog to ensure she is recovering properly after the birthing process and address any potential post-birth health issues.

You’ll also want to discuss spaying with your veterinarian if you plan to have the mom dog spayed. Spaying may help prevent future accidental litters and health issues like uterine infections or mammary tumors. Your vet can advise you on the ideal timing to have the procedure done.

Additionally, be sure to ask your veterinarian if your dog may need any supplements or medication after giving birth. For example, supplements to support milk production or antibiotics if the mom dog develops mastitis are possibilities. Your vet is the best resource to determine if any post-birth supplements or medication may benefit your dog’s health and recovery.

Giving Her a Job

Giving mom dog a job to focus on can help provide mental stimulation and distract from the puppies being gone. Some ideas for jobs to give her include:

Nosework or agility training classes provide mental exercise and a bonding activity for you and mom dog. The training and practice gives her a job to do and skills to work on.

Interactive toys with hidden treats inside challenge her mind and keep her occupied. Rotating through puzzle toys keeps her engaged and entertained.

Becoming a registered therapy dog gives mom dog a meaningful job comforting people in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and other facilities. This provides fulfillment and helps channel her nurturing energy.

Giving mom dog a job redirects her maternal energy in a positive way and builds confidence as she masters new skills and tasks.

Watching for Warning Signs

It’s important to monitor your mom dog closely after her puppies have left and watch for any behavioral changes that could signal she is struggling emotionally. Some common warning signs of depression or anxiety in postpartum mom dogs include:

Loss of appetite and lethargy are two of the most obvious signs of depression in dogs. If your mom dog seems disinterested in food or water or lacks her normal energy, this could indicate she is grieving the loss of her puppies.

You may also notice aggressive or reclusive behavior as she adjusts. Some dogs become more irritable or nippy, while others want to be left alone more often. Excessive vocalizing like whining or howling can occur too.

Pacing or appearing restless is another potential red flag. Some dogs may seem unable to settle down and insist on checking the areas the puppies used to occupy.

If you observe any of these behavioral changes in your postpartum mom dog, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. They can check for potential medical issues and help you get your dog any treatment she needs.

Adopting Another Dog

Before deciding to adopt another dog, thoroughly research whether a new canine companion would help your mom dog or cause her more stress ( Some dogs may find comfort and distraction in a new playmate. However, other dogs require more time to grieve and adjust after their puppies leave. Rushing into adopting could overwhelm a mom dog who is still emotionally processing her loss.

If you do decide to adopt, introduce the new dog very slowly and carefully to avoid territorial issues. Start by letting the dogs meet on neutral territory outside your home, keeping them at a distance to observe their reactions ( Gradually decrease the distance over multiple sessions before allowing them to interact directly. Proper introductions can take days or weeks depending on their responses. Never leave them unsupervised until you’re certain they get along well.

Consider fostering first to see how your mom dog responds before fully committing to adoption. Fostering gives her time to adapt while allowing you to monitor if a new dog is providing comfort or causing undue stress. If all goes well during the foster period, you can then proceed with permanently adopting the dog.

Providing Mental Stimulation

After their puppies go to new homes, mom dogs can feel depressed due to the loss of activity and interaction. Providing mental stimulation is important for keeping mom dogs engaged, stimulated, and happy.

Food puzzle toys like Kongs filled with treats or snuffle mats spread with kibble provide mental exercise as dogs lick, sniff, and explore to get the food rewards. Rotate different puzzle toys to keep things interesting. Schedule daily training sessions working on commands, tricks, and puzzles to engage mom dog’s mind. The training interaction and mental challenge is very stimulating.

Take mom dog on new walking routes with fresh sights and smells. Go to new parks, trails or beaches to provide new mental stimuli. Introduce her to stable, friendly dogs for social time. The more you engage mom dog’s mind, the less she will focus on missing her puppies.

Mental exercise is just as important as physical for dogs. Make sure to provide mom dog plenty of brain games, training, puzzles, and new experiences during this transition time. A stimulated mind will keep mom dog’s spirits up. [1] [2]

Know It Takes Time

Be patient with your mom dog during this transition period after the puppies leave. It can take several weeks or even a few months for her body to fully recover from the pregnancy and for her emotions to stabilize [1]. Stick to her normal routine as much as possible to provide a sense of normalcy. Make sure she gets plenty of love, attention, exercise, nutrition and rest. Give her extra pets, cuddles and reassurance to help her through this emotionally difficult time.

It’s important not to isolate the mother dog completely after the puppies leave. She will feel depressed and lonely without her babies. Spend extra quality time with her through play, training, walking and bonding. She’ll need the comfort of your presence more than ever. With your patience and support, she will adjust to life after motherhood.

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