To express milk from a dog, you first need to prepare. Get some gloves, a clean towel, soap, and a container. Lay the dog on her side, cup your hand around the teat and move the hand downward while gently squeezing. Collect the milk in a bottle and repeat.
It’s always an exciting event when a dog delivers her new puppies! Part of this process is the natural and necessary production of milk to provide healthy growth and survival of new puppies. However, there may come times when you may need to express the milk from your dog.
What is Expressing Milk
When mammals give birth, natural production of milk occurs for the process of feeding. For dogs, this milk production occurs and is fed through teats.
In most circumstances, puppies latch on and obtain the milk directly from their mother. In rare cases, the milk may need to be collected directly from the mother through expressing due to a puppy’s inability to feed or health issues with the mother.
Like humans, milk production starts with colostrum to provide initial nutrients and defense for the puppies.
When this is consumed following birth, milk production begins and typically lasts for a total of 7 weeks. Changes occur in the milk as the weeks pass and the puppies continue to grow.
Through the entirety of the nursing period, you want to ensure your dog is getting all of the proper nutrients needed to pass along to her growing puppies.
At times, typically during weeks 3-5, you may need to add nutrients to your dog’s food to ensure her diet is balanced.
Circumstances for Expressing Milk
Ensuring the puppies are fed is a natural part of the birthing process. Though typically, puppies feed directly from their mother, there are times that you may need to express the milk yourself for the health of your dog and her puppies.
Taking Care of The Runt
It’s typical to have a runt in your litter. There may be times the runt will have difficulty getting milk or be too weak to feed from their mother. In this circumstance, you would need to express milk to feed the pup.
This is crucial, especially during the colostrum stage, to ensure the pup is being fed the nutrients it needs to grow and gain strength. The supply can be fed through a bottle or tube to the pup as some may be too weak to latch on.
At times, a dog’s teat may experience a blockage known as mastitis. This can cause infection and significant discomfort for the momma.
In this circumstance, expressing the milk provides your dog with some relief and helps prevent your dog from becoming engorged with milk.
If you do not see relief in your dog through this process, or if you’re unable to express the milk, reach out to your veterinarian for further direction.
Increasing Milk Supply
Dogs produce milk from the demand there is for it. If your dog is not producing enough milk, expressing between feedings may help increase its production. This tells the dog’s body that there is more demand, allowing it to produce more milk naturally.
How to Express Milk
The process for expressing milk is delicate and requires preparation for you and your dog. This process can be uncomfortable depending on the circumstances that bring you to this, so be patient with your dog. Provide her as much comfort as you can and be prepared.
Before you begin, ensure that you have gloves, clean towels, soap, water and a cup/bottle. Avoid thick gloves that are stiff and don’t allow movement.
A breast milk cup or bottle with measurements are recommended for indicating how much milk you’ve obtained.
Create a Comfortable Space and Position
When you begin, lay your towel down in a familiar room that is quiet. Lay your dog on her side, so the teats are accessible with little movement to the dog.
Make sure your dog is as comfortable as possible before you begin. This may require some assistance from someone your dog knows well.
Wash the teats with a gentle soap and water to prevent infection. Be sure to wash all surrounding areas as well.
Use the clean towels to dry your dog completely. Take your time and be thorough in the cleaning process.
You want to ensure you are providing a clean surface and removing any dry skin or debris that may hinder your process.
Warm a towel to place against the teat for a few minutes before beginning. This is optional but can aid in easing the ability to obtain milk.
Cupping and Movement
After removing the warm towel, cup the dog’s breast in the palm of your hand. Gently grab around the teat with your fingers, move it outward towards you and squeeze.
This process takes time to get used to and may not work immediately. Do not squeeze too aggressively as it can bring discomfort to your dog, especially if the teat has a blockage.
Collecting Milk: Squeeze milk into a breast cup or bottle and continue the motion, relaxing after each pull and squeeze.
Your goal is maintaining a calm rhythm that does not bring discomfort to your dog. Continue this process until the milk has ceased and you feel a change in the teat.
Repeat the process for each teat while maintaining a calm rhythm.
If you are not planning to store the milk from your dog, you can express the milk directly into a towel.
This may be the case for those who are releasing milk to prevent engorgement in the event mom has a large supply.
Milk that you intend to use can typically be stored for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. If you’re building a supply, it is best to freeze the milk until expected use.
Canine Supplemental Milk
In circumstances where expressing milk is not an option, or the dog is unable to nurse, supplemental milk for dogs is available.
This is a formula much like infants take to obtain the nutrients and developmental building blocks necessary for growth.
Though mother’s milk is best and always the first choice, this provides an alternative should expressing milk and natural feeding not be feasible.
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