Pregnancy, delivery and providing milk for her young takes a heavy toll on a dog’s body, and as anyone who has kids of their own will know very well, the body changes during and after pregnancy, and takes a long time to return to normal afterwards – if at all.
Just as having babies can cause permanent changes to a woman’s body, so too can it with dogs – and there’s not a huge amount of information out there to be found by first-time breeders and those seeking to have a litter from their own dog about what to expect afterwards, and what is normal.
These post-pregnancy changes can of course vary from dog to dog, depending on things like their age, the size of their litter, the size of the puppies, how they were delivered, how many litters the dam may have had before, and the dog’s fitness and condition both prior to and during her pregnancy.
In this article we will explain the type of changes you should expect from a dam’s body after she has her pups and after they are weaned, in terms of her weight fluctuations and general appearance. Read on to find out how a female dog’s body changes after she has a litter and weans her puppies.
As you would expect, dams put on a lot of weight when pregnant – both as a result of the pups growing inside of them and due to the added food she will need to eat to support their healthy growth.
When a dam delivers her litter, her weight and shape won’t return to normal immediately, but they do lose a lot of weight right away as a result of birthing the pups – often as much as 10%.
This will mean that your dam obviously looks very different after delivering her pups, but she will still be weightier than before she got pregnant and her stomach and abdomen may appear large and distended for some time to come. Her nipples will also become larger, darker and distended with milk, which she needs to nourish her pups.
Whilst the puppies are still reliant on their dam to provide milk for them, the dam needs to eat much more than she normally would to remain healthy, keep her strength up, and to ensure that she produces enough milk.
However, feeding a litter costs the dam a lot of calories, and she is unlikely to gain weight during this time as a result of her additional food intake. The loss of weight experienced as a result of giving birth will usually continue at a more gradual rate whilst the litter is being fed, slowly bringing the dam’s shape and weight back down again, although again, she is unlikely to return to her pre-pregnancy weight at this stage.
However, some dams actually lose a lot of weight whilst nursing their litter, potentially dropping below their pre-pregnancy weight at this point.
When your dam weans her litter, her body no longer needs a huge amount of calories to support the additional demands placed upon it by her young. This means that when your dam’s litter is fully weaned, her own appetite will drop off too, and she will begin to eat more normally once more.
A dam whose weight and shape remained higher and larger than normal whilst feeding the pups will usually lose the majority of their excess weight gradually, particularly when they begin to get back into a normal routine of regular walks and exercise.
However, a dam that lost weight whilst feeding her pups and particularly, dams that became underweight during this time will begin to regain weight at this point, which again tends to happen slowly and gradually and can take a while to complete.
Few dams will completely return to their pre-delivery shape after they’ve had pups, and there are a number of physical changes that your dam may exhibit for the long term, or even for the rest of her life.
She may carry a little extra padding around her lower abdomen and her stomach may remain a little larger and more pendulous, as the muscles in the stomach don’t always spring back into shape.
A notable pouch in the lower abdomen may be present on some dams who have had a litter in the past, and caesarean delivery may lead to a scar or noticeably darker patch of fur over the area of the scar too.
Your dam’s nipples will also begin to shrink back to size and appear less prominent the more time that passes after weaning, but for some dams, their nipples will remain larger and more obvious than they were before she had the pups, and they may never go back to exactly how they were before.
Dams that are older when they have a litter tend to show more obvious signs of having had pups, as their skin and muscles are less elastic and don’t return to normal as quickly or effectively.
Dams that have had more than one litter, or litters that were large in terms of the number of pups or the size of the pups often take longer to recover as far as they are going to as well.
You can help to support your dam’s recovery after pregnancy with the right balance of appropriate exercise and a healthy, nutritious diet, and generally if everything she needs is provided, her shape and weight a year or so after the pups have been weaned is likely to be a fair approximation of her ultimate appearance and final weight and condition.