When your pregnant dam comes close to their delivery date, they begin to produce colostrum to nourish the new pups, which ultimately turns into the milk that will nourish them through the first few weeks of their lives. Normally this whole process, including the drying up of milk production once the pups are weaned, happens naturally without any need for human intervention, as it has for millennia before humans got involved!
We have already covered potential ways to increase the amount of milk that the dam produces if needed, but what if the pups are old enough to be eating solid food and close to going on to their new homes, but the dam is still nursing the puppies? You may need to look at some of the various ways in which you can help to dry up your dam’s milk production when this is no longer needed. Read on to learn more.
One of the most important factors that dictate how much milk your dam produces and how long they produce it for is the demand for her supply from the puppies. For as long as your dam is happy to feed the pups, and the pups keep requesting milk, the chances are that milk production will continue. Most dams begin to proactively wean their pups at the appropriate age, but some will continue to provide milk for longer than this, or accept pups that want to suckle.
One of the best ways to reduce the supply of milk itself is to reduce the pup’s demand for it, and this means making plenty of appropriate puppy food available to the pups, ensuring that they like it, and encouraging them to choose it over milk. Once the demand for milk from the pups lowers, so too will milk production, eventually drying up entirely.
Pups usually begin to wean when the dam has had enough of feeding them! This usually happens at around the age of 5-6 weeks for the pups, as their teeth and claws begin to develop and make nursing potentially painful or irritating for the dam. Up until this point, the dam will usually make herself constantly available for nursing, and it is important to keep an eye out for the signs that your dam is trying to discourage the pups from nursing in order to take advantage of this chance to begin tempting them with other food.
A nursing dam needs to eat significantly more than normal in order to be able to produce enough milk and nutrients to feed her pups. This means that towards the later stages of her pregnancy and for the first few weeks after delivery, your dam will be eating a lot of food!
At the age when the puppies should be being weaned, your dam’s need for food should also drop off somewhat, as the pups begin finding their own sources of nutrition aside from milk. Tapering off the amount that you feed to the dam during this time should help to reduce her milk production, and her willingness to nurse, contributing to complete and successful weaning.
Obviously this still means that food should be available to the pups in place of the milk that they were previously living on, and at this stage, you should begin to introduce them to the concept of routine meal times with several small meals per day, rather than them having access to feed freely at all times.
The process of weaning the pups onto solid food and the drying up of the milk is one that happens gradually over the course of a couple of weeks, rather than being something that happens overnight. The process of the milk drying up is one that happens in stages, as demand drops off, food is reduced, and the dam becomes less and less willing to nurse. Once the pups are fully weaned, your dam’s milk production should stop entirely within around a week.
If your dam continues to produce milk in significant quantities after this time, you may need to speak to your vet about medical ways to dry up the milk, to avoid your dam from developing sore and distended nipples, and possibly, problems such as mastitis.
It is worth noting that your dam’s nipples will not usually return to their normal shape and size immediately after their milk production dries up, and some dams may take weeks or months for their nipples to become less pronounced. Providing that they are not still producing milk, this is normal and not an issue, and in some bitches, the nipples will never really return to their former size and shape, staying prominent for the remainder of her life.