How Long Do Dogs Bleed After Giving Birth?

After giving birth to puppies, female dogs experience a discharge known as lochia for a few weeks as their uterus returns to its normal size. Understanding the typical bleeding timeline and recognizing abnormal prolonged bleeding is important for any owner of a dog that has recently given birth. Monitoring the mother dog closely and being aware of postpartum bleeding helps ensure that both the mother and newborn puppies remain healthy in the delicate days and weeks following birth.

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Typical Timeline for Bleeding After Birth

It’s normal for a female dog to have some bloody vaginal discharge, called lochia, for 2-4 weeks after giving birth 1. Lochia results from the uterus contracting and shedding its lining after the puppies have been delivered. The discharge is typically dark red or brownish in color at first, then becomes lighter and pinker until it stops.

The exact duration of lochia can vary depending on factors like the size of the litter and difficulty of labor. Dogs that gave birth to larger litters or experienced complications during delivery may have lochia for the full 4 weeks. Smaller litters and uncomplicated births often result in lochia tapering off after 2-3 weeks.

It’s also common for the bleeding to stop and restart again briefly over the course of several days. As long as the discharge remains light pink or brownish, this is considered normal postpartum bleeding.

What is Lochia?

Lochia is a vaginal discharge that occurs in female dogs after giving birth. It consists of mucus, blood, and placental tissue that is expelled from the uterus as it cleans itself out after a pregnancy.

There are three stages of lochia:

  • Lochia rubra: Lasts 2-4 days after birth. This is the bloody stage where there is a large amount of red discharge.
  • Lochia serosa: Lasts 4-10 days after birth. The discharge lightens during this stage, becoming watery and pinkish.
  • Lochia alba: Lasts 2-4 weeks after birth. The final stage where discharge is whitish or yellowish and may eventually clear up.

The lochia provides an indication of how well the uterus is involuting and healing after birthing the puppies. Most lochia discharge occurs within the first two weeks after delivery.

Causes of Prolonged Bleeding

While a small amount of vaginal discharge is normal after giving birth, prolonged or excessive bleeding could indicate a medical issue requiring veterinary attention. Some potential causes of abnormal bleeding include:

Retained placenta – If the placenta is not expelled after birth, it can cause continued uterine bleeding. The placenta should pass within 1-4 hours of giving birth. If any tissue is still present after 24 hours, it is considered a retained placenta.

Uterine infection – Bacteria can enter the uterus during birth and cause an infection known as metritis. This often leads to discharge that can be red, brown, or green.

Uterine inertia – The uterus fails to contract properly after birth. This prevents the blood vessels from closing off and leads to prolonged bleeding.

Coagulopathy – Clotting disorders prevent blood from clotting normally. This allows bleeding to continue unchecked.

Uterine trauma – Difficult births, overly large litters, or forceful removals can cause lacerations, tears, or rupture of uterine blood vessels resulting in hemorrhage.

Hormonal issues – Problems with hormones like estrogen and progesterone can impair uterine contractions and lead to continued bleeding.

Pyometra – A bacterial infection of the uterus most common in older, unsprayed females. Often causes a red/brown vaginal discharge even after giving birth.

While some bleeding is expected after whelping, contact your veterinarian if it lasts longer than 2 weeks or shows any signs of infection. Prompt treatment is needed to prevent complications like anemia and sepsis.

When to See the Vet

Though it’s normal for dogs to have some discharge after giving birth, prolonged or excessive bleeding could indicate a medical issue requiring veterinary care. Contact your vet right away if your dog experiences any of the following:

  • Bleeding longer than 3-4 weeks after whelping
  • Bleeding that gets heavier instead of lighter over time
  • Bright red blood instead of brown/black discharge
  • Foul-smelling discharge that resembles pus
  • Lethargy, weakness, or loss of appetite
  • Fever or other signs of infection
  • Straining or pain when urinating or defecating

Prolonged uterine bleeding could indicate a uterine infection, retained placenta, or uterine trauma. These conditions require prompt veterinary attention to prevent complications like anemia, sepsis, or even death. If your dog shows any concerning signs, don’t hesitate to call your vet, even after normal office hours.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s postpartum health. Trust your instincts and don’t delay seeking veterinary care if you notice anything out of the ordinary. With rapid treatment, most postpartum complications can be successfully managed.

Caring for a Postpartum Dog

Caring for a postpartum dog requires paying close attention to her needs in the days and weeks after giving birth. Here are some tips for monitoring and caring for a dog at home after she has delivered her puppies:

Monitor the mother dog closely in the first few days after delivery. Look for signs of infection in the mammary glands, which may appear swollen, hot, or painful. Gently clean the mammary glands and teats daily to prevent mastitis. Contact your veterinarian if you notice redness, pus, or foul odor [1].

Make sure the mother dog has access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times. Dehydration can occur while nursing puppies. Provide extra water bowls around the whelping area


Feed the mother dog a high-quality puppy food diet and/or special lactation supplements. She needs extra calories, protein, and calcium while nursing. Feed smaller, more frequent meals if she seems disinterested in one large daily meal.

Allow the mother dog to rest away from the puppies periodically. Pregnancy and nursing require significant energy, so be sure she has a peaceful area to recharge. Take the puppies for brief periods so she can take a break.

Monitor the mother dog’s incision site if she had a C-section delivery. Contact the veterinarian if you notice any discharge, swelling or redness. Limit her activity initially to prevent trauma to the surgery site.

Keep the mother dog well-groomed with regular brushing. Matted fur can trap bacteria and cause skin irritation or infection.

Watch for any signs of postpartum depression in the mother dog, including lack of interest in the puppies, lethargy, or loss of appetite. This requires veterinary attention.

Be attentive and patient with the new mother dog. Providing excellent care in the postpartum period enables her to focus her energy on nursing and bonding with the puppies.

Nutritional Needs

After giving birth, mother dogs have very high nutritional needs to support milk production and recovery [1]. It’s important to feed a high quality diet with increased calories, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Experts recommend feeding a dog food with at least 29% protein and 17% fat during nursing [2]. The food should be highly digestible to aid the dog’s recovery. Supplements like calcium can also help support milk production.

It’s ideal to feed smaller, more frequent meals during this time instead of one or two large meals. Free-feeding a high quality dry food is a good approach. Providing fresh meat, eggs, yogurt and other nutrient-dense foods can further support the dog’s needs.

Making sure nursing dogs get proper nutrition helps them recover postpartum, produce quality milk for puppies and return to normal health.

Activity Levels

For the first 2-3 days after giving birth, the mother dog should have limited activity to allow her body to recover from the birthing process. She should be kept warm and comfortable with her puppies during this time with minimal walking or exertion. According to Leon Valley Veterinary Clinic, as she enters the last five weeks of pregnancy, it’s recommended to gradually increase her food intake by 35-50% to support her body’s growing nutritional needs during nursing [1].

After the initial recovery period, the mother dog can gradually return to light activity and short walks of 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times per day. This helps strengthen muscles and prevent stiffness. However, strenuous exercise and activity should be avoided for at least 2 weeks postpartum according to WagWalking, to allow the dog’s body to fully heal [2]. Jogging, jumping, or wrestling should not be allowed during this time.

Around 3-4 weeks after giving birth, the mother dog can start to increase her activity levels and resume normal exercise routines. However, it’s important to still limit exercise sessions to shorter durations of 15-30 minutes as her body continues to recover and she adjusts to nursing her puppies. Her energy needs will be much higher than normal during this time. Consulting with a vet can help determine the right activity plan for an individual dog based on breed, size, recovery progress, and other factors.

Recovery Timeline

The recovery process for a dog after giving birth can vary, but there is a general timeline that most dogs follow. Here is an overview of the typical recovery stages after whelping:

Days 1-4: In the first few days after giving birth, the mother dog will go through the most intensive recovery period. She will experience vaginal discharge (lochia) that resembles a heavy menstrual period as the uterus contracts and cleans itself out. Her appetite should return to normal within a day or two, and energy levels start improving, though she still needs ample rest. Puppies will need to nurse every 1-2 hours.

Days 5-10: Lochia usually tapers off around days 5-7 but can last up to 3 weeks. By days 5-10, the mother dog should be regaining strength and energy, though she still requires ample rest between nursing. Puppies will need to nurse every 2-3 hours by the end of this period.

Weeks 2-3: Most dogs feel largely recovered by weeks 2-3 after birth. Discharge has tapered off, appetite and energy levels have normalized. The mother dog can handle more activity but still requires regular rest. Puppies nurse every 3-4 hours now. Stitches, if present, are usually dissolved by week 3.

Weeks 4-8: By weeks 4-8, mother dogs are typically fully recovered from the demands of whelping and caring for puppies. They can return to normal exercise and activity. Puppies are weaned off milk and eating solid food. The mother dog’s body condition, appetite and energy levels should be back to normal.

It’s important to closely monitor the mother dog and contact your veterinarian if you notice any concerning symptoms like prolonged bleeding, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite or milk production, or abnormal discharge beyond 3 weeks post-whelping.

When to Expect a Return to Normal

After giving birth, it’s normal for a dog to experience vaginal discharge called lochia for up to 3 weeks, according to veterinarians [1]. Lochia consists of blood, bacteria, and sloughed tissue from the uterus. It initially appears dark red or black, then transitions to a greenish-brown, and finally yellowish white or tan color before stopping.

Prolonged bleeding past 3 weeks is abnormal and may indicate issues such as uterine infection, retained placenta, or trauma during birth, cautions one source [2]. Contact your veterinarian if the discharge lasts longer than 3 weeks, contains pus, becomes bright red again, or is foul-smelling.

Most dogs will have complete uterine involution and cessation of lochia discharge within 2-4 weeks after giving birth. Once lochia stops, the dog can be considered fully recovered and should return to normal pre-pregnancy behavior and health.

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