How Do You Dry Up Momma Dog Milk?

Understanding Dog Milk Production

Milk production in mother dogs begins around 1-2 weeks before she gives birth. Once the puppies are born, the prolactin hormone levels spike which stimulates milk production. The mammary glands continue producing milk as long as the puppies continue nursing and stimulating milk flow.

Mother dogs typically produce milk for 6-10 weeks after giving birth. However, the milk supply begins naturally drying up after 3-5 weeks as the puppies start the weaning process. By weeks 7-8, milk production is significantly lowered. The mother’s prolactin levels and milk supply is directly tied to the puppies’ demand.

Several factors can affect milk supply in mother dogs. The size of the litter, puppy nursing behavior, the mother dog’s diet, and her health/medication use all impact prolactin levels and milk production. Environmental stress and mastitis can also lower milk supply.

When to Dry Up the Milk

There are some health concerns if milk production remains for too long after puppies have been weaned. As the puppies naturally begin to nurse less frequently, the mother dog’s body will gradually start to reduce milk production. According to https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/riney-canine-health-center/health-info/how-long-should-puppies-stay-their-mother, natural weaning for puppies typically occurs between 4-6 weeks of age, though some puppies continue to nurse until 10-12 weeks old.

Signs that it is time to completely dry up the mother dog’s milk supply include:

  • The puppies are no longer nursing at all
  • The mother dog’s breasts are swollen, hot, or look inflamed, signaling mastitis
  • The mother dog seems bothered or in pain from the puppies nursing
  • Milk production continues for more than 10 weeks after the puppies are born

If milk remains for too long, it increases the mother dog’s risk of developing mastitis, a painful breast tissue infection. It’s important to help her dry up her milk supply once the puppies have fully weaned to avoid complications.

Reducing Water Intake

It’s important to reduce the nursing dog’s water intake as a way to dry up the milk supply. Drinking more water can stimulate further milk production, so limiting water access allows the milk to naturally dry up.

Veterinarians typically recommend reducing water intake by about 25-50%. For example, if your dog normally drinks 2 cups of water twice per day, reduce that to 1-1.5 cups twice daily. The exact amount of reduction depends on factors like your dog’s size and health.

Be sure your dog still has access to water, just in a limited amount. Provide a bowl of water for short intervals a few times per day rather than leaving it out at all times. This allows your dog to get needed hydration while supporting the drying up process.

Monitor your dog to make sure she is not showing signs of dehydration like lethargy or loss of elasticity in the skin. Contact your vet if you have any concerns about restricting water intake.

Changing the Diet

The diet of a nursing dog plays an important role in milk production. To help dry up the milk supply, it’s recommended to avoid foods that increase lactation and instead feed foods that help reduce milk production.

Some foods that may increase milk supply and should be avoided or limited include:1

  • High protein sources like chicken, eggs, beef
  • Oily fish like salmon, sardines
  • Dairy products
  • Foods rich in vitamins and minerals

On the other hand, foods that may help dry up milk production include:2

  • Low protein dog food
  • Low fat dog food
  • Foods with sage, parsley, peppermint
  • Green beans, broccoli, cabbage

Consult your veterinarian if making significant diet changes. Gradually transitioning to a lower protein, lower fat dog food while limiting milk-boosting foods can help dry up milk supply.

Restricting Food Intake

It’s recommended to reduce the dog’s food intake by 25-50% after weaning to help dry up the milk supply. However, severe restriction should be avoided, as it can lead to health issues like hypoglycemia, malnutrition, and hepatic lipidosis. The dog’s weight should be monitored closely, with no more than 10% weight loss allowed per week. Aim for a slow, steady reduction in food over 2-4 weeks. Consult your veterinarian to determine the optimal food amount based on your dog’s needs.

According to the American Kennel Club, lactating dogs require 2-4 times more calories than normal. Once pups are weaned, food can be reduced to help dry up milk. However, cutting calories too quickly risks the dog’s health. Gradual reduction allows the mammary glands to adjust while monitoring the dog’s condition.

The VCA Animal Hospitals note that severely limiting food to cease milk production can cause hypoglycemia and hepatic lipidosis. Close monitoring of weight loss, energy levels, and other signs is critical.

Using Medications

There are over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medication options for drying up mother dog milk. Prescription medications like cabergoline work by suppressing prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production. OTC medications are milder and typically include pseudoephedrine and antihistamines like Benadryl. These OTC options help reduce milk supply by decreasing blood flow and drying up the mammary glands.

Medications can be an effective way to quickly reduce milk supply, but there are some safety concerns to keep in mind. Pseudoephedrine and antihistamines may cause side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, Increased heart rate, agitation, and restlessness. Prescription medications are stronger and carry more risks of toxicity and overdose if not given in the proper dosage. It’s important to strictly follow your vet’s dosage instructions and monitor for side effects.

While medications can help, natural weaning is ideal. Work closely with your vet to determine if medication is truly needed, use the lowest effective dose, and don’t rely on meds as the only approach. Medication paired with other techniques like diet change, restricted nursing, and cold compresses can allow gradual weaning without completely drying up the milk at once.

Frequent Nursing

Allowing puppies to nurse more frequently can help naturally dry up the mother dog’s milk supply. As puppies nurse, they stimulate the release of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production. However, frequent nursing will eventually deplete the supply as the demand outpaces production.

The owner can also help express milk by gently massaging the mammary glands and expressing milk by hand. This helps relieve pressure in the glands and avoid engorgement and mastitis. However, be very gentle, as forceful squeezing can cause pain and injury to the breasts.

It’s important to express just enough milk to soften the breasts if they become overly full. Completely emptying them will signal the dog’s body to produce more milk. The goal is to gradually decrease production through limited, gentle expression and nursing.

Make sure to frequently check the mother dog’s breasts for signs of engorgement, warmth, or redness, which can indicate mastitis. Allowing the puppies to nurse and gently expressing milk can help prevent engorgement while the milk naturally dries up.

Using Cold Compresses

Applying cold compresses to the mammary glands can help reduce milk production by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the area (1). This helps limit the mammary glands’ ability to produce milk.

Some effective cold compress techniques include (2):

  • Placing ice packs or bags of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel on the breasts for 15-20 minutes at a time
  • Soaking washcloths in cold water and chilling them in the refrigerator, then applying to the breasts
  • Taking cold showers or alternating between hot and cold in the shower

Cold compresses can be applied for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times per day for several days until milk production slows. It’s important not to overdo it with cold therapy as it can cause damage to the tissue (3). Checking with your veterinarian is advised, especially if there is pain, inflammation, or signs of infection.

(1) https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Dry-up-a-Dogs-Milk
(2) https://www.justanswer.com/dog-health/9cgxw-give-dog-dry-milk-puppies.html
(3) https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/endocrine/c_dg_mastitis

Alternative Therapies

There are some alternative and natural therapies that may help reduce milk production in dogs. However, it’s important to consult a veterinarian before trying any of these remedies.

Herbal Remedies

Some herbs like parsley and sage are thought to help dry up milk in dogs. According to one source, parsley contains a compound called apiol that can reduce prolactin levels and sage may have anti-lactation properties (How to Dry Up a Dog’s Milk Supply – Remedies and Advice). However, dosages and safety have not been well established so speak to your vet before using.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. Some claim it can help regulate hormones and reduce milk production in dogs, but there is limited evidence (How to Dry up a Dog’s Milk). As with any treatment, consult your vet first.

Homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies use highly diluted natural substances to stimulate the body’s self-healing response. While anecdotal evidence exists, there are no scientific studies proving homeopathy’s efficacy for drying up dog milk. As with any treatment, consult your vet before using homeopathic remedies.

When to See the Vet

There are certain signs that indicate when a nursing dog requires veterinary attention. These include:

Signs of infection like discharge from the mammary glands that is green, bloody or foul-smelling. Red, painful and swollen mammary glands. Lethargy, fever or loss of appetite in the mother dog.1

Unusual vaginal discharge in the mother dog that is green, bloody or foul-smelling could indicate metritis or a uterine infection that requires treatment.2

General signs of illness including lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or fever warrant a vet visit to rule out problems like mastitis. It’s important to monitor the mother dog closely and contact the vet at the first sign of trouble.

Puppies who cry persistently, seem weak or lethargic, or aren’t nursing regularly may need supplemental feedings or medical care if the mother’s milk supply is compromised.

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