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Dogs get pregnant when their season comes, which takes place once every 8 months. The fertile period best known as “the heat” may last up to 3 weeks. At this time, your dog may get pregnant or start to get into fights with male dogs, as she is not ready to mate. Dog’s pregnancy can be a sheer and unwanted disaster, as bringing up puppies requires much more dedication of time and money than keeping an already adult dog. But look at this from the bright side: if you keep an expensive breed at home (let’s say a French bulldog , for instance, of rare color in addition) and your dog mates with a representative of the same breed, you may get several thousand dollars “heavier” eventually. Selling puppies can be challenging but can bring decent money. However, it doesn’t mean that such occasional pregnancy will make a breeder out of you – don’t do it! Let specialists do their job and next time just desex your dog to prevent any “amorous adventures”.
How to Tell If a Dog Is Pregnant
Dog pregnancy lasts 2 months (usually between 61 and 65 days). However, you may not notice any obvious changes happening with your dog until she is far into her term. There is no such thing as “dog pregnancy test” hence you should know several traits that will indicate that your dog is pregnant:
- One month after the mating, you may notice a mucus discharge.
- Her breasts become bigger in size and change color after 1 month from the date of mating. You may also notice a semi-clear fluid discharge occasionally coming from breasts.
- It is not something uncommon for pregnant dogs to vomit in early stage of pregnancy – just the way humans do. If your dog’s morning sickness continues, you should pay a visit to your vet.
- Your dog will gain more weight in the tummy area 5 weeks after the mating. Not only her breasts will gain size but also the overall build will be more round. Gaining up to 50% of body weight above normal is rather common.
- First-time dog mums may not show dramatic increase of the tummy, but wait until the 40th day after the mating when the tummy shows more “roundness”.
- A pregnant dog shows almost an opposite change in behavior: she becomes quieter than usual; her appetite drops or increases more than usually.
- Nevertheless, these traits may indicate that your dog is not feeling well; hence, the only option is to pay a visit to the vet and consult with him.
- Pregnant dog’s appetite increases when her pregnancy becomes visible. This is why the change of diet is due.
- If you unsure whether your dog is pregnant or not, you can visit your vet and ask him to perform pregnancy test (measured in hormones ratio) at 3-4 weeks after mating or perform ultrasound check. After 1 month of pregnancy, your vet will tell you the exact number of puppies on the way.
Every dog is evolutionarily made to handle her pregnancy on her own. However, your constant stand-by, soothing words may ease her condition before the labor begins. Looking for a quiet place is a sign that labor is soon to happen. You should build a nest for her in a warm and secluded area. The nest is made of a soft mat/underlay (made of old blanket or mattress) surrounded with walls. The birth nest for a dog is an easy construction: you build a carcass made of 4 splines hammered into a square with 3 plywoods hammered to the bottom of the square. Place the square base with the plywoods in a distant corner; put the mat/underlay atop the square base and it is done.
Dog Pregnancy Basics
Take a look at our compendium dedicated to dog pregnancy. Let’s begin with some raw statistics:
- Female dog (also referred to “bitch” later in this text) is fertile during her heat cycle only.
- Adult dogs experience heat every 6-8 months.
- Dog pregnancy lasts 58-65 days, depending on breed.
- Pregnancy can best be diagnosed by special blood hormone test ad by ultrasound (see also Extension.missouri.edu).
Though mating is a natural occurrence, owners should pay attention to following measures that will ensure the pregnancy’s security:
- The dog’s vaccination must have taken place not long ago, prior to pregnancy.
- Before the pregnancy, any dog must be treated against any parasites and worms. If the anti-parasite treatment is not performed before the pregnancy, it must be done right after the birth of puppies.
- Both mating parties – the stud and the bitch must be checked for canine brucellosis. It is a disease that may provoke late term abortion, infection of reproductive system and even lead to sterility of both dogs.
Nutrition during the term
A pregnant dog needs good nutrition to support the developing fetuses. Hence, the caloric intake may increase by 50%. Any extra supplements that you may consider necessary, must be fed to dog only after the recommendation of the vet, as any trial and error application may result in an upset to the already balanced diet. The absolute must for a pregnant dog is a dog food – dry and wet, rich in real meat protein. Premium blends are usually made of solid beef, lamb, chicken, pork, but not of meat by-products. So before buying any food, consult with your vet on the directions (proper eating regime, caloric intake, the balance of macros) and always read the description of the product on the back of the can to know exactly what you are feeding to your dog (see also Best puppy food).
Exercising is important at all times, even when the dog is pregnant. Of course, you must not practice excessive training routine, as that may affect the condition of the pregnant dog.
Gentle and consistent walking is all it takes. Exercise plays an important role before, during and after dog pregnancy. The best exercise is walking, as it is the least dangerous activity that doesn’t threaten the lives of unborn puppies and doesn’t affect the dog’s joints. After the eventual birth, resume walking with your dog short distances a couple of weeks after the whelping (see also Puppy training).
Whelping is relatively easy to control and you should ease your dog’s comfort. To do so, build a whelping box as we mentioned it above. Also, check your dog’s temperature twice a day, every 12 hours, beginning at 56th day. Normal temperature is 100-101 degrees Fahrenheit but should you notice a drop to 97, get ready – the labor is due within next 24 hours. Before helping your dog with whelping, prepare clean towels for cleaning newborn puppies. If the dog doesn’t cut the cord herself, you should cut the cord with scissors previously decontaminated with alcohol. Cut the rope one inch from the puppy’s belly!
The labor consists of 3 stages.
Stage 1 – pre-labor. This stage precedes the active labor. The dog seems to be restless, will refuse to eat and will be digging her whelping box.
Stage 2 – labor. Otherwise called “active pushing state”. Puppies emerge in fetal sacs, which should not be unsealed until the pup is completely out. After the puppy is out, you will see the navel cord attached to the placenta. Each puppy comes with his own placenta and it should not be broken open. It may be retained until other contractions soon to come. Most dogs open the sac themselves but if your dog doesn’t do it, use your fingers to tear the sac, extract the puppy and clear his muzzle with the towel to clean away all liquid. Also, the dog should cut the cord, but if she doesn’t, tie the cord off using a thread an inch away from puppy’s body and also cut the cord between the placenta and the knot. When the puppy is completely “detached”, rub him with a towel to clean all fluid away and expel the remaining fluid from its lungs. Dog may take a rest for a couple of minutes before next puppy comes out. Should the contraction cease for long time, contact your veterinary immediately.
Stage 3 – postnatal. After all puppies are born, your dog will focus on caring for them. At this moment, you may offer her some food that will help her make milk for pups. You may notice that your dog continues to bleed (moderately) from rear, which is normal, and the amount of discharge will reduce gradually every day. However, should you notice that there is too much blood, contact the vet immediately.
Now as your dog cares for her pups, you should care after your dog. What you should do:
- Within the 24 hours of the birth, take her to the vet who may give her a medication to help the uterus cease contractions and reduce it to normal prenatal size.
- Dog’s breasts must be checked for sores, too warm hardened spots that may indicate the mastitis infection.
- Check her temperature twice a day. Should it raise above 102 degrees, contact the vet is such high temperature is a sign of postnatal infection.
- Any significant discharge of vaginal blood, any foul smell may also indicate a problem that must be dealt without any delay.
- Keep the whelping box clean; provide your bitch with plenty of fresh water and food.
A couple of weeks after the birth, you may dismantle the whelping box, set just a big sleeping crate instead or lay an old thick blanket in a dry and warm corner.
Complete Pregnancy Guide
Your dog was in heat, mated and now you may expect puppies to come soon.
Check your calendar, mark the 56th day from the breeding – it is the decisive day when whelping is about to happen. But before this day comes, you have almost 2 months of constant care ahead. First rule of proper prenatal care is never leave your dog alone – if you have to get out, take her with you. While your dog is pregnant, do not feed her with food rich in calcium, especially in the last 2 weeks prior to eventual whelping. All you need to be feeding your dog with is just premium dog food. Check the eating directions with your vet. Calcium supplements are given only after the birth and during the active labor to help with contractions. Now let’s go through the pregnancy term, week by week.
Your dog shows moderate morning sickness, her temper changes. Keep her fed with ordinary food (presumably, premium that you should be doing at all times). Some vets recommend feeding your dog special tripett enzyme that promotes good overall health in all breeds. The better the dog’s digestion works, the better she feels herself in general. Also, don’t forget your exercising routine – walks, fetch games are still necessary.
Warning: do not give your dog any medications during pregnancy. If you did not worm her prior to mating, you may still do it but using mild meds prescribed for already pregnant bitch only. Any flea treatment must be ceased as well as any vaccines.
Between days 7 and 14 cells inside the womb divide by two, increasing its number in geometric progression. At this time, the embryos enter the uterus. The care tips remain the same as for the week one.
On day 18-20 embryos implant in the uterus.
Between days 27 and 31 the vet can palpate dog and detect pregnancy. But after day 32 fetuses will be enveloped in sacs and fluid making the palpation impossible. Fetuses increase in size by 100%, future puppies’ faces shape. During this week embryos are very susceptible to any alien substances that may damage the growth of the embryo. This is why you should keep your dog at home and go out with her for toilet needs only. Dog’s breasts begin growing and you may notice some vaginal discharge.
At this time, while almost the half of pregnancy has elapsed, you should limit any serious physical activity of your dog: no jumping, no long runs, no games. If you have a small dog, limit her in agility. Some owners add a bit of calcium to the common eating regime by supplying with ¼ cup of cottage cheese every other day. In addition, you may give your dog multivitamin recommended by your vet but as for the calcium intake – none of the calcium pills must be given! Anyway, ask your vet first, before changing the meal regime as well as buying any supplements that you may find helpful.
Intrauterine fetuses look already like formed dogs – paws, whiskers, claws are already developing. While still in uterus, eyes of puppies develop in open position and remain closed until the very birth and during a week or so after the whelping. Dog’s weight increases dramatically, the tummy swelling cannot be unnoticed. As for the food matters, start gradual change from usual solid chow to puppy kibble. At this time you should feed your dog two times – in the morning and in the evening. Begin the day with relatively big and healthy snack; add a multivitamin and an optional cottage cheese/whole egg. In addition, you may visit the vet to perform ultrasound check of your dog to see how many puppies are soon to be born.
Pregnancy is noticeable. Puppies acquire their skin color (skin pigment) from their mother, while the mother continues to swell in the tummy area. At this moment, you should start adding some cottage cheese or a whole egg alongside with multivitamin to the food. Do not add calcium supplement! Build a whelping box and put it in a quiet area and encourage your dog to sleep there. Remember, that the whelping box must be space enough for your dog to stretch out completely and must not have any front wall so that the dog won’t have to jump it over.
Puppies continue to grow; the dog mom sheds her tummy hair to make her breasts easily accessible for puppies when feeding. At this time all food must be balanced and be or premium quality. Any home-cooked food must be avoided. Do not feed the dog just meat – add some wet dog chow (“for pregnant dogs” labeled), add a bit of boiled veggies as a source of fiber. Any physical activity like playing and jumping must be ceased. During days 48 to 50 switch the food regime back to the regular kibble. Also, cease giving the cottage cheese/egg so that the dog’s body goes into calcium storing mode.
This week is decisive as at its end whelping can begin at any moment. You may call your vet and ask for an ultrasound check appointment to determine the exact number of pups. This week is decisive thus you should not give your dog no bones, no puppy food, no cottage cheese or any source of calcium. Stick to regular dog food.
This is the week! Her nesting behavior will show itself in its best: dog will be searching for a quiet area and digging for a soft secured spot in some distant corner. This is where the whelping box should be placed. Check dog’s temperature several times a day to know whether it is at the good point and not beyond it. Appetite may disappear and whelping can take place any time.
The Post-Pregnancy Care
Now that all puppies are born, it’s time to execute several required tips to ensure the safety of both the bitch and puppies.
Here is the list of vital care tips:
- Within 48 hours after the birth, invite a veterinarian for check-up of the bitch and puppies.
- Now that the adult momma dog has to feed not only herself but a pack pf puppies as well, her caloric intake must excess ordinary volume. No particular change in food or label is needed – just give her approximately twice as normal. Also, provide clean fresh water at all times – change the bowl twice a day.
- Speaking of exercising: during first 2-3 weeks, the mother will spend all her time with pups. She will do walking as much as she really needs to. Hence, there is no point taking her out for long walks other than for toilet needs.
- Due to increased caloric intake, your pet will relieve herself more often than usual. Her stool will be soft but should diarrhea happen and continue, you should contact vet immediately.
- Mammary glands must be cleaned daily. Should any discoloration of the skin appear, swelling or sores, contact your vet.
- Reddish vaginal discharge occurring during first week is normal. But excessive bleeding must be treated immediately by a veterinarian only (see also Highstreeteppingvetclinic.com).
- Dog momma will be spending most of her time with the puppies. However, if she refuses to care after them or breastfeed them, call the vet.
- It is normal for dogs to shed coat when nursing. You should brush your dog every day to help reduce the hair layer. However, if you notice completely bald spots in her coat – contact the vet. Slight weight loss is also a common norm but if you see that she is way too thin, consult the doctor.
- If you decide not to breed your dog anymore, schedule an appointment for spaying after the milk production has ceased.
- The temperature in the room where the whelping box with puppies is kept must be 70 degrees Fahrenheit at least. Make sure the underlay of the box is warm and soft enough in order not to conduct the cool from the floor.
- A happy puppy is a round puppy who doesn’t cry for any apparent reason in the presence of his mom. If anything contrary happens – crying, uneasy behavior, even though the dog mom is near, contact the vet.
- If your puppies are of the breed that needs to have their claws cut or tail docked, must undergo these operation while at age of 2-5 days.
- Puppies open their eyes after 2 weeks. Anything beyond this norm is considered a warning sign!
- As soon as puppies open their eyes, you may begin feeding them with milk via a pan. Also, you may add tender puppy food, but gradually – beginning with a table spoon once a day.
- Young puppies are vulnerable to different parasites. You may take a sample of stool and bring it to the vet laboratory for examination.
- Immunization is the main vaccination routine that usually starts at the age of 6 weeks. Your vet only can tell you exactly what vaccines must be performed (more about Puppy vaccination schedule and costs).
Post-pregnancy care is relatively easy to do, provided that you know all the sign that may indicate a serious problem.
All veterinarians speak of one universal rule – if there is something about the health of the momma dog and her puppies that bothers you, you should pay a visit to your vet who will tell for sure. Above, we have provided a comprehensive list of signs that show whether the health is under threat or not. Print the list on a separate sheet, attach it to fridge and check all points mentioned every day.