How to Dry Up a Dog's Milk Supply
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There are different circumstances in which you may need to help stop a female dog from producing milk. This could be because she begins lactating following a false pregnancy, or continues to lactate after her puppies have been weaned or die unexpectedly, or even in the case of a disease or illness. There are different methods by which to stop a dog from producing milk, including using medication that should always be prescribed by a veterinarian.
In this AnimalWised article we will explain how to dry up a dog's milk supply and in what cases it is recommended you do so. We insist on the importance of veterinary supervision to avoid causing any harm to your dog. The health and well being of the dog (and her puppies, if she has them) should come always first.
When should a dog's milk dry up?
How does a female dog naturally stop producing milk? In normal circumstances, a dog will stop lactating once her puppies are weaned, that is once they stop breastfeeding. Weaning puppies from breast milk should be a natural and gradual process, and should take place between 4-8 weeks after birth. If left to herself, a bitch can continue breastfeeding her litter for up to 10 weeks. However, this is not recommended because it puts a strain on her health. In addition, if the puppies are to be given up for adoption, they will need to be ready for their new homes in about two months and should start to be weaned by weeks 3-5.
If weaning is carried out correctly, and with no complications, the mother dog's milk supply should begin to reduce and dry up as weaning progresses. The dog usually produces milk in response to the level of demand, or the quantity her pups need. So, if you want to help the process of drying up her milk, you can start by separating the pups from their mother a few hours before feeding them solid food. This will encourage them to eat more and, even if they do suckle again later, they will only drink small amounts of milk. This, in turn, will signal the dog's body to decrease milk production. As the puppies begin to eat more solid food they will eventually stop breastfeeding, and the mother's milk supply will dry up.
Home remedies to dry up a dog's milk
Before you consider how to stop a dog producing milk, a veterinarian must confirm that this measure is necessary. Under normal circumstances, it is not advisable to abruptly stop a dog's milk production, since puppies should ideally feed on breast milk during their first weeks of life. The suction caused by pups suckling on the dog's breasts stimulates the flow of milk. The mother dog may aid this stimulation by licking her breasts and you can do so, if needed, by palpating the area. If there is no stimulation, the dog will eventually cease producing milk. This happens about three days after the stimulation stops and is a part of the natural weaning process described in the previous section.
Sometimes, the dog suffers health problems, or the puppies are still born or move to their new homes early. In such cases it may be necessary to hasten the drying up of the dog's milk. Here are some remedies you can try to dry up your dog's milk faster. Remember to always consult a vet before implementing them.
Reduce food and water intake
One way to help dry up a dog's milk is to reduce or restrict her food intake. During pregnancy and while she is breastfeeding, you have probably been feeding her more as her body requires more food and energy for these processes. Reducing her food and water will affect milk production and help her milk supply dry up. First, withhold food and water for 24 hours. The following day, feed your dog a quarter of her usual ration. Move up to half on day three, and then three fourths on day four. Finally, put her back on her pre-pregnancy daily ration of food. If you had changed your dog's diet to help with pregnancy and lactation, now is the time to go back to her regular diet.
Use a pet cone to stop stimulation
If you notice that your dog licks her breasts excessively, continuing to stimulate the flow of milk, you can take measures to prevent this. The most effective way is to use an Elizabethan collar, also called a pet cone. This will physically prevent her from licking her breasts. It may also provoke stress and, while you should not deliberately cause your dog stress, the stress hormones secreted interfere with milk production. If the collar does in fact stress out your dog, this will also help dry up her milk faster.
Feed your dog parsley
Parsley is a well known natural remedy for drying up the mammary glands. It is believed to reduce prolactin levels which can help decrease milk supply in lactating humans. Since prolactin is also responsible for milk production in dogs, and parsley is safe for dogs, consuming parsley for a few days could help dry up a dog's milk. Keep in mind that only leaves and stalks should be used, as parsley oil and seeds are toxic. You should always consult a veterinarian before trying natural food-based remedies. If you are wondering how to give your dog parsley, here is a recipe for dogs using carrots and parsley.
How to dry up a dog's milk during a false pregnancy?
False pregnancy or pseudopregnancy occurs when the body believes gestation is taking place, even though this is not the case. This usually happens due to hormone imbalances. Dogs experiencing false pregnancy can develop maternal behavior, treat a toy like a puppy and even produce milk. If the false pregnancy is accompanied by lactation, you can try the home remedies described above to dry up the dog's milk supply. Keeping the dog distracted and using withdrawal dolls have also shown to be useful. Of course, the best way to prevent your dog form suffering a pseudopregnancy and unnecessary lactation is to have her sterilized.
If you want more information about false pregnancies, here is an article explaining how to diagnose, remedy and prevent phantom pregnancy in dogs.
Pills to dry up a dog's milk
Although pseudopregnancy can usually be resolved without further complications, it is sometimes necessary for the vet to prescribe a pills to stop the dog from producing milk. These are drugs such as cabergoline that have an anti-prolactin effect and dry up milk in the mammary glands. Diuretics such as furosemide for dogs can also be given to stop milk production. Some vets may even use mild tranquilizers. While these treatments will stop the female dog from lactating, they will not prevent false pregnancies recurring. The only definitive solution to pseudopregnancy and related milk production in dogs is to have them sterilized.
Pills to dry up a dog's milk may also be prescribed if the puppies are born dead, die suddenly or are given up for adoption before being fully weaned. Pills are not usually the first resort when you want to help a dog stop producing milk, but you should always follow the advice of a trained professional whether you decide to use pills or home remedies.
When to stop a dog lactating after giving birth?
In some very specific cases you may have to stop milk production in a dog that has just given birth, and stop her from feeding her whelps. This is only if the mother dog suffers from a health problem and is risks worsening her condition or passing the disease on to the pups through her breast milk. It is quite rare, and and only a veterinarian can decide on this measure. Unless instructed to by the vet, never stop a new mother dog from producing milk, because breastfeeding is essential for her puppies' survival.
If your dog suffers from any of the following diseases you should stop breastfeeding and lactation:
- Eclampsia: this disease is characterized by a decrease in calcium levels. Its onset can be very sudden, and symptoms can include panting, restlessness, spasms and even seizures. The bitch will require urgent veterinary treatment and intravenous calcium is often administered. Usually, puppies are removed until the female recovers. In some cases, breastfeeding can be continued if the dog receives oral calcium supplements. However, if the symptoms return, breastfeeding should be stopped and lactation suppressed.
- Acute septic mastitis: mastitis is a breast infection that causes swelling in the breasts and intense pain. The milk secreted may appear different than normal. This infected milk can be toxic to the puppies, who should be removed and fed artificially. The vet will normally prescribe antibiotics to cure the infection. The milk can be gently extracted from the breasts after softening them with hot compresses. This should help decrease production, dry up the milk and help the dog recover.
- Acute metritis: metritis is a bacterial infection in the uterus that can prove fatal. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, vomiting diarrhea, and smelly lochia. If the dog is too sick to feed her puppies, you will have to make sure that they have a proper diet. A dog with metritis usually requires hospitalization, and the infection and separation from her pups will cause her milk to dry up.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Dry Up a Dog's Milk Supply, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.
1. Eglash, A. (2014). Treatment of Maternal Hypergalactia. Breastfeeding Medicine, 9(9). 423-425.
- Carlson, L. D., and Giffin, J. M. (2002). Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. John Wiley & Sons.