Looking After a Pregnant Dog
The pitter-patter of puppy paws. Nothing is more precious than a litter of newborn puppies. However in order for mum to give birth to a healthy litter, her owners have to take proper care of her before and during her pregnancy.
Prior to BreedingThere are only two legitimate reasons to breed a dog, according to author and Veterinary nurse, Charla Dawson. “Number one is to better the breed, number two is for the love of the breed. If your dog is not up to breed standards, then please do not breed her.”
When planning to breed your female dog, there are a lot of pre-pregnancy checks that need to be made in order to ensure she has a healthy pregnancy.
Take her to the veterinarian for a wellness examination, which should include: her weight – if she is overweight she should be put on a diet one to six months prior to breeding; a faecal examination for parasites – she must test negative for hookworms, roundworms and heartworms, as well as intestinal parasites. If she tests positive, she must be de-wormed twice, by the vet, prior to breeding. Bitches must be parasite free because they will pass the infections on to their puppies via the womb and milk, and as puppies have little or no immunity at birth, the consequences of infection can be severe.
It is also recommended that dogs not be bred until they are at least 12 months old. “Many dogs are accidentally bred on their first heat when they are not much more than puppies themselves, “reports Ron Hines, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine). “Breed dogs on [their] second or third heat period. By this time, the length of the dog’s estrus cycle will have been established and you can plan for the event.”
Is She Pregnant?Just because a male and female were bred together, does not mean she will become pregnant. But there are a couple of ways to tell if she is. One method is to check her vulva – it becomes swelled during breeding/her heat cycle and will remain so if pregnant. Another way to check is via a blood test. The test can be done 28 to 30 days into the suspected pregnancy. The test checks for the hormone relaxin, which is produced when the implanted eggs become fertilised.
During PregnancyA dog’s gestation period is about 63 days and it is important to keep your dog in good physical condition prior to and during her pregnancy as obesity can create blood-sugar irregularities, as well as delivery problems, which can put the puppies at risk.
Take her for regular walks, but avoid obedience training or any other type of activity that may cause her stress.
During the final three weeks of pregnancy, she needs to be placed in seclusion, this includes cutting off contact to other dogs in the household. At this stage in the pregnancy, the mother-to-be is at risk for canine herpes virus, which can cause a cold in non-pregnant adult dogs, however, it can cause a miscarriage to pregnant dogs.
NutritionAround week four or five, add premium puppy food to her diet, but not one formulated for large breed puppies.
Do not add supplements to her diet, especially calcium. “Supplementation can suppress her natural calcium-releasing hormones so that when she really needs extra calcium during nursing, she will not have the proper hormone balance to get it,” according to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center.
At around the six-week mark, her appetite and weight will begin to increase. At this time, increase her food by about 25 per cent. Because the puppies are pressing on her internal organs, she will most likely not be able to eat the one or two large meals she did prior to becoming pregnant. Therefore, it will be necessary to feed her smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
Prior to DeliveryA couple of weeks prior to her due date, create a birthing/whelping box that is located in a draft-free room that is also away from a lot of household traffic. Provide her a box that is lined with blankets, towels or old clothes, is easy to clean and that has sides to it.
Introduce her to the box about one week prior to delivery so she can get accustomed to it.
Delivery DayYou know your dog is going into labour when she becomes nervous, pants, shivers, loses her appetite, vomits and starts to nest. This phase usually lasts about 12 hours. Contractions also begin during this first phase.
As the contractions increase, she will expel a watery fluid and the first puppy will enter her pelvic canal, causing her to push more. About every 30 to 60 minutes a puppy will be born. Between each birth, the mother will rest and care for the newborns.
Each puppy will be born surrounded by a thin, white membrane the mother will normally break. The membrane surrounding the nostrils must be broken to avoid suffocation.
After each birth, a placenta will usually be expelled. The mother will likely eat the placenta – it contains required protein and nutrients – she will also chew the umbilical cords to separate her from her pups.
Post DeliveryYour vet must examine the puppies shortly after their birth. Puppies cannot regulate their body temperatures, therefore, their whelping box needs to be heated with pads and lamps that the puppies can move away from in order to avoid becoming overheated.
Puppies must stay with their mother until they are fully weaned– at about six to eight weeks of age.