If you think or know your dog is pregnant, visit your veterinarian to discuss her needs. A dog’s pregnancy in dogs is about 63 days long, approximately nine weeks. While you are waiting for the big day to come, it’s important that you take good care of your pregnant dog.
Welcoming a new litter of puppies into the world is very rewarding, but dog pregnancies can be confusing and stressful, as well as time-consuming and costly.
Dr. Sakshi Sharma, MVSc. J&K
If you are considering breeding your dog, there are so many things you need to know. You should be familiar with your breed’s standard and individual breed health test recommendations, as well as the responsibilities. You will also need to know the signs of pregnancy in dogs and how best to care for your pregnant dog signs of dog pregnancy.
It is important to know that diagnostic testing isn’t the only way to determine whether a dog is pregnant, although it is the most accurate. There are other reliable signs of dog pregnancy you can watch for, including:
- Increase in appetite
- Weight gain
- Increase in nipple size
- Swollen belly
- Tires more easily
- Nesting behavior
- More affectionate
- In addition, some dogs may vomit and have a decrease in appetite for a few days in the first few weeks due to changes in hormones.
Besides these signs here are some important things to remember:
Dogs need more calories and nutrients while they are pregnant. This is the extra requirement that is used to nourish the growing fetuses. It is best to feed your pregnant dog food that has been formulated for growth requirements. Usually, this means feeding puppy food. By the time she is halfway through her pregnancy, your dog will require roughly twice the calorie intake that she needed before pregnancy. She should continue to eat this diet while she is nursing her puppies otherwise she can go into a negative energy balance.
In general, your dog will not need any special vitamins or supplements while she is pregnant as long as she is getting the proper and balanced diet. However, your veterinarian will make recommendations based on your dog’s individual needs.
Your dog will likely need to see the vet a couple of times during her pregnancy. An ultrasound and or blood test can be done as early as 21 days into pregnancy to confirm it. Around 45 days into the pregnancy, your vet can take x-rays to determine the number and size of the pups.
Note: Do not vaccinate your dog during her pregnancy.2
If your dog experiences vaginal bleeding or discharge during her pregnancy, you should contact your vet for advice.
If you notice any signs of illness while your dog is pregnant, do not wait to bring her to the vet. Things that can normally wait a few days might be more serious in a pregnant dog. Complications can cause harm to the puppies and the mother dog.
Your dog can still exercise during most of her pregnancy, but should not do any hard or stressful activities after four to six weeks into the pregnancy. Gentle walks are the best activity for pregnant dogs.3
Always contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s health.
Preparing for Puppies
As the end of your dog’s pregnancy approaches, you’ll notice a significant enlargement of her breasts and nipples and might even detect some milky fluid as the milk glands develop and enlarge. Her abdomen will increase in size and may sway a little as she walks. At the very end of the pregnancy, you might even be able to see or feel the puppies moving around inside the mother.
By this time, you want to prepare yourself and your dog for whelping, or puppy birthing. The best way to do this is to set up a whelping box. Whelping boxes offer a safe, warm, draft-free, easily cleaned location for your dog to have her puppies. There are whelping boxes made that can be purchased or you can even use a small children’s plastic swimming pool. The whelping box should be easy for the mother, but not the puppies, to get in and out of. Your dog may prefer to have it in a quiet area of the house but in an area that you can have easy access to.
Once you have purchased or built your whelping box, take some time to get your dog accustomed to it. If you don’t introduce her to the whelping box beforehand, she might decide to deliver someplace else.
Whelping or simply dog birth
When your pregnant dog’s time approaches, look for the warning signs of labor. Pregnant mothers may stop eating a few days before whelping and may also start trying to build a “nest” — hopefully in the whelping box.
Many pregnant dogs close to delivery start to pant heavily. A drop in rectal temperature usually precedes delivery by about 8-to-24 hours from a normal temperature (100-to-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit) to 99 degrees or even lower. Many bitches ready to whelp may not eat or eat very little.
Abdominal contractions may begin slowly and gain strength and frequency – sometimes they’re strongest for the first delivery accompanied by straining and moaning. You may see the water sac come out when there’s a puppy in the birth canal, and within one hour the first puppy should be delivered.
Each puppy is born enclosed in its placental membrane and in each case, the mother licks the puppy vigorously and tears this membrane off, sometimes eating it. If she does not remove it, you will have to do it, as puppies cannot survive for more than a few minutes before their supply of oxygen runs out. You may need to rub the puppy with a clean towel until you hear him cry.
Possible Dog Labour Complications
Sometimes during delivery, things go wrong. If you experience any of these signs, call your veterinarian:
- Your dog’s rectal temperature dropped more than 24 hours ago and labor isn’t starting.
- The mother is exhibiting symptoms of severe discomfort, or if she doesn’t deliver the first puppy 2 hours after contractions begin especially if she has passed green discharge.
- More than 2 hours pass in between the delivery of puppies, or your dog experiences strong contractions for an hour without birth or if the mother seems exhausted.
- Trembling, collapsing, or shivering are warning signs of serious complications that could put both the bitch and the puppies at risk.
- It’s normal for dogs to deliver a dark green or bloody fluid after the first puppy, but if this happens before the first puppy, call the vet.
- Your dog shows no signs of whelping 64 days after her last mating.
- All of the placentas aren’t delivered.
- Puppies aren’t nursing.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time for dogs and owners, but it doesn’t have to be. The more you know about dog pregnancy ahead of time, the better prepared you will be to care for your dog.
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