Most post whelping problems are seen within the first few hours/days after whelping. Sometimes the bitch is unable to feed her puppies, and they will have to be hand reared and they will have to be hand reared and in these cases, it is important that the puppies receive colostrum to ensure they have a good immune system.

The parathyroid gland controls the release of calcium which is needed to produce milk. If calcium is given prior to active labour, the parathyroid gland doesn't regulate properly and may not release calcium to support lactation. Once active labour starts it is safe to start supplement calcium which not only assists with milk production, but it alleviates many behavioural problems some people incorrectly label as bad mothering, with excessive digging, aggression towards puppies, restlessness, and rejecting puppies. All of these behviours can be a sign of low blood calcium. There is a lot of mis-information about the best source of calcium, Callo cal D is currently one of the favourite liquid calcium supplements which contains vitamin D to enhance calcium absorption and is more palatable for the dogs.

Calcium supplementation must be avoided while your bitch is pregnant, unless specifically prescribed by your veterinarian. You should also avoid high phytate foods, such as, barley, rice, wheat bran and wheat germ, as high phytate foods can interfere with the body's absorption of calcium.

For the last two weeks of pregnancy is when the puppies gain the most weight, and this puts a lot of pressure on the expectant dam. Depending on the size of the litter, the general rule of thumb is that her energy levels are 60% higher than normal, and her food intake should be adjusted accordingly. In my experience speaking to clients, it seems most bitches will completely go off kibble/dried food during pregnancy, and prefer a wet diet. Some choose a home cooked diet of chicken, eggs, fish, meat and others will eat commercially bought wet food in a tin or tray. Most raw fed dogs don't go off their food but some can be picky on what proteins they prefer. If you feed a raw diet, you should omit all bone from the diet from 7 weeks gestation.

Once the puppies are born, the mother may require up to four times the calories required by a healthy adult. Breeders with large litters will often allow the bitch to free feed during the first 3-4 weeks of lactation, unless she only has one or two puppies. Free choice feeding while nursing only one or two puppies is not advised because it allows the mother to make much more milk than she needs, potentially predisposing her to mastitis (inflammation of the milk glands).

ECLAMPSIA - Milk Fever

Eclampsia is caused by low blood calcium levels (hypocalcaemia) in dogs. The lactating (milk producing) bitch is especially susceptible to blood calcium depletion because the body cannot keep up with the increased demand for calcium. This is because dogs lack the ability to quickly move calcium into their milk without depleting their own blood levels of this mineral.

Eclampsia can be extremely dangerous, and fortunately the signs are fairly easy to recognise. Panting and restless are the early clinical signs, milkd tremors, twitching, and muscle spasms. The bitch can become aggressive, whine, salivate and pace, often staring into space and becoming disorientated. If your bitch starts to have tremors, you must seek veterinary advice/help.

If, after whelping, yhour bitch is worrying puppies unusually, unable to get comfortable or turning aggressive towards them, this is a clear sign that something is starting up. Be sure to rule out a retained placenta, or an infection.

Some of the symptoms will include....

  • Poor behaviour towards puppies
  • Appear restless and nervous
  • Walk with a stiff gait and may even wobble or appear disoriented
  • Dis-orientation - Staring into space
  • Become unable to walk and her legs may become stiff or rigid
  • Fever, with body temperature even over 40º C.
  • Affected bitches often develop muscle tremors
  • The respiration rate (number of breaths per minute) will increase
  • Facial itchiness
  • Sickness and Diarrhea (note dogs can also have diarrhea if they have eaten too many placentas)
  • High temperature
  • Dilated pupils


  • Calcium supplementation given during pregnancy
  • Inappropriate calcium to phosphorous ratio in the diet while pregnant
  • Low body weight to litter size ratio
  • Poor nutrition during pregnancy
  • First litter

A serious and potentially life-threatening condition, but it can be treated quickly and the dog's health stabilized if she is treated as soon as symptoms become apparent. If your dog has a high fever, your veterinarian will try to cool her down with a cool water soak and fan to bring the body temperature down to a normal range. Your veterinarian will treat your dog with intravenous calcium until her levels have increased to a safe level, and until her body alone is able to maintain calcium levels.

Your veterinarian may advise you to take the puppies away to prevent them from nursing, to be hand fed with a commercial milk for 24 hours, or until the mother’s serum calcium is stabilized. If, after the mother stabilizes, you opt to let the puppies continue nursing, you may need to return to your veterinarian to monitor calcium levels in your dog's blood. Depending on whether her body is able to begin producing sufficient amounts of calcium on its own, she may need to remain on calcium supplements for some time.

A lot of breeders will routinely give an additional calcium supplement for the first five days after whelping, and it is a good idea to always have some on hand. I have heard of people giving ice-cream during the whelping process (after the first puppy has been born), but looking at the calcium levels in ice-cream I can't see that this can be of any benefit.


You can buy calcium tablets and liquid. Liquid is more suitable for small breeds or fussy dogs as they do generally take the tablets quite readily but they are quite large in size


Zol Cal has calcium Gluconate which only has a 9% elemental value of calcium. Collo Cal D has calcium chloride which has 40% elemental calcium, so it’s much better quality (purer calcium) and lower doses needed. Collo cal D also has a higher amount of Vit D in it which aids the absorption of the calcium.



Any recommendations made on this website should be reviewed with qualified professionals and readers should assume all risks.