Why Is My Nursing Dog Panting And Shaking?

It’s natural for nursing mother dogs to experience some panting and shaking as they go through pregnancy, birth, and raising puppies. Panting helps regulate their body temperature, while shaking can be due to anxiety, stress, excitement, or discomfort. These symptoms on their own are usually not cause for concern in an otherwise healthy nursing dog. However, if the panting and shaking seem excessive or are accompanied by other symptoms, it could indicate an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention. Some possible reasons for abnormal panting and shaking in nursing dogs include eclampsia, mastitis, metritis, pyometra, and overexertion from caring for the puppies. By monitoring your nursing dog closely, you can better determine if her symptoms are normal or if she needs medical care. This article provides an overview of panting and shaking in nursing mother dogs along with guidance on caring for her and knowing when veterinary intervention is recommended.

Reasons for Panting

Panting is a normal behavior for dogs after giving birth, as the labor process can be stressful and painful. However, excessive or abnormal panting can sometimes indicate an underlying issue that requires veterinary attention.

One of the most common reasons for a nursing dog to pant is pain or discomfort, especially in the hours immediately following delivery. Contractions continue after birth as the uterus returns to its normal size, which can cause moderate to severe abdominal cramping. The dog may pant as a response to this discomfort [1].

In some cases, the dog may be experiencing pain from complications during birth, such as retained placentas or uterine infection. Retained placentas can cause infection, fever, lethargy, and panting. A uterine infection, known as metritis, also often causes panting along with vomiting and fever [2].

If the panting seems excessive given the circumstances, continues beyond the first day postpartum, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it’s a good idea to have the dog examined by a veterinarian to identify and treat any underlying medical issues.

Reasons for Shaking

One of the most common reasons a nursing dog may shake is chills caused by hormonal changes after giving birth. According to the Kennel Club[1], the sudden drop in progesterone after whelping can cause shaking and shivering. This is temporary and should pass within a day or two after the puppies are born.

Other hormonal changes like a rise in oxytocin can also lead to shaking in new mother dogs as their body adjusts. Providing a warm, draft-free area for the nursing dog and puppies can help make her more comfortable during this transition period.

Signs of Serious Issues

Panting and shaking combined can be an indicator of a serious health issue in nursing dogs. Two conditions in particular can cause these symptoms – eclampsia and milk fever.

Eclampsia, also known as milk fever or lactational hypocalcemia, is caused by low calcium levels that can develop after giving birth while nursing puppies. According to the Wagwalking article on eclampsia, the heavy calcium demands of producing milk can deplete the mother dog’s calcium stores faster than her body can replace them, leading to hypocalcemia [1].

Symptoms of eclampsia include muscle tremors, panting, restlessness, stiff gait, fever, and lack of interest in the puppies [2]. If left untreated, eclampsia can lead to seizures, coma, and even death of the mother dog [1].

Similarly, milk fever in dogs is caused by a drastic drop in calcium levels after giving birth. The Animal Emergency Service article states that symptoms include panting, muscle twitching/tremors, disorientation, weakness, and collapsing [3]. This is a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary treatment.

If a nursing mother dog exhibits panting and shaking combined with other symptoms like restlessness, fever, or lack of interest in puppies, it signals the need for emergency vet care to address the potential calcium deficiency.

[1] https://wagwalking.com/condition/eclampsia
[2] https://www.amcny.org/blog/2017/01/11/doc-dog-shaking/
[3] https://animalemergencyservice.com.au/blog/milk-fever-in-dogs/

When to See the Vet

If your nursing dog has been panting and shaking for more than a few hours, it’s important to have her examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Prolonged panting and shaking can be signs of potentially serious medical issues that require veterinary care.

Specifically, persistent panting and shaking in a nursing dog could potentially indicate eclampsia, a life-threatening condition related to low calcium levels after giving birth. Eclampsia typically begins 1-3 weeks after whelping and is more common in smaller breed dogs. Symptoms include restlessness, panting, stiff gait, muscle spasms, and seizures. This is a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary treatment such as intravenous calcium.

It’s also possible that the panting and shaking could be caused by a severe infection like mastitis, metritis, or pyometra. These uterine infections can cause systemic illness in nursing dogs, resulting in panting, shaking, lethargy, vomiting, and fever. Prompt veterinary care is crucial, involving antibiotics, IV fluids, and possibly emergency spay surgery.

Bottom line – if your nursing dog has been persistently panting and shaking for more than a few hours, don’t wait to see if the signs resolve on their own. Contact your veterinarian right away for an urgent exam to determine if emergency treatment is needed.

Providing Comfort

Providing comfort and reassurance is important when your nursing dog is panting and shaking. Start by making sure your dog has a warm, comfortable bed to rest in. Plush beds with cushioned orthopedic foam can allow them to fully relax their body. Place the bed in a quiet area away from noise and commotion to minimize anxiety.

You can also try giving your dog a gentle massage while speaking softly to help soothe them. Use light, calming strokes along their body to release muscle tension. Focus on massaging areas like the neck, shoulders, back and hips. The physical contact and attention from you can have a calming effect.

Additionally, pheromone diffusers or collars designed for canine anxiety relief can promote relaxation in panting, shaking dogs. These release synthetic pheromones that mimic those produced by mother dogs to comfort nursing puppies. They signal safety and contentment. Just be sure to only use dog-safe, veterinarian-approved products.

Monitoring Symptoms

It’s important to monitor your nursing dog’s symptoms closely to detect any concerning patterns or changes.

According to PetHelpful, observing behaviors like panting and shaking may reveal an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention.[2] Pay attention to when the symptoms occur and how long they last. Note if they happen at certain times of day or during specific activities. Track symptoms in a journal to help identify triggers or progressions over time.

Look for any accompanying symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea, which could indicate a more serious health problem. Also monitor your dog’s temperature, heart rate, and capillary refill time. Normal temperature is 100-102.5°F, heart rate 60-160 bpm, and capillary refill time 1-2 seconds when gums are pressed and released.

If symptoms persist for over 24 hours or rapidly worsen, it’s vital to have your dog assessed by a veterinarian right away. Gentle handling and reassurance can help keep your anxious nursing dog calm until you can get medical attention. While monitoring, be sure to provide comfort, nutrition, hydration, rest, and affection.

Caring for the Puppies

It’s important to ensure the puppies are properly fed and gaining weight. Weigh the puppies daily with a kitchen or small postal scale to monitor their growth. Healthy puppies should gain roughly 10% of their body weight each day. If you notice the puppies are not gaining weight or losing weight, there may be an issue with the mother’s milk supply.

Make sure to monitor the mother’s mammary glands. They should not be hot, hard, or swollen, as this can indicate mastitis. The mother’s nipples should not show signs of damage either. Sometimes puppies bite down too hard while nursing which can cause abrasions. These open wounds can allow bacteria to enter and cause mastitis.

Supplementing puppies with bottle feeding can help if the mother’s milk supply is low. Goat milk is commonly used for this, although a puppy milk replacer formulated specifically for dogs is ideal. Speak to your veterinarian before bottle feeding to make sure the puppies are getting proper nutrition.

While caring for the puppies, be sure to keep their area warm, clean, and dry. Change any soiled bedding promptly to prevent illness. Monitor the puppies closely for any signs of weakness, dehydration, or failure to thrive.

Puppies should also be kept together with the mother in a whelping box or confined space. Allowing free roaming too early can put them at risk of getting chilled or separated from the mother.(1)

Preventative Care

One of the best ways to prevent panting and shaking in nursing dogs is to provide a low-stress environment. Mother dogs can become easily stressed after giving birth, which can contribute to issues like milk fever. According to the Animal Emergency Service, “Stress is one of the main triggers for milk fever so keeping mum relaxed and comfortable is key” (https://animalemergencyservice.com.au/blog/milk-fever-in-dogs/).

Here are some tips for creating a stress-free environment for a nursing dog:

  • Allow the mother dog to give birth in a quiet, private area of the home.
  • Limit disruptions and loud noises around the whelping area.
  • Make sure she has easy access to food, water, and a place to relieve herself without leaving the puppies.
  • Keep the whelping area dimly lit and warm.
  • Gently interact with the mother dog frequently so she feels secure.
  • Avoid introducing too many new people or animals around the puppies.
  • Consult your vet about supplements like calcium that support lactation.

Taking steps to reduce stress can go a long way in keeping nursing dogs healthy and preventing issues like milk fever that lead to panting and shaking.

When to Be Concerned

Nursing dog mothers can develop concerning medical issues after giving birth, especially in the first few weeks. While panting and shaking are common immediately after whelping, certain symptoms warrant caution and veterinary attention. These warning signs include:

  • Excessive panting, shaking, or restlessness that persists beyond the first day or two after giving birth
  • Weakness, lethargy, or an inability to stand
  • Loss of appetite or refusal to nurse puppies
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Muscle twitches, tremors, stiff gait, or seizures
  • Disorientation, anxiety, whining, or irritability
  • Fever above 103°F

These signs may indicate potentially dangerous conditions like eclampsia, mastitis, metritis, or uterine inertia. Eclampsia, also known as milk fever or low blood calcium, can cause tremors, stiffness, and seizures. It requires emergency veterinary treatment to restore calcium levels [1]. Mastitis refers to infection of the mammary glands, while metritis is infection of the uterus. Both require prompt veterinary care. Uterine inertia means the uterus fails to fully contract after birth, leading to bleeding and infection risk. If a nursing mother shows any unusual signs beyond 48 hours post-whelp, contact your veterinarian right away.

Scroll to Top