How to care for a pregnant dog?
How can you tell if your dog is pregnant?
After 25, sometimes 30 days of pregnancy, your dog's udders will start to swell. She will also produce a non-bloody vaginal discharge at this time. It is quite possible that your dog's behaviour will change, some pregnant dog tend to be less hungry and may appear moody. Finally, you will see her belly swell with her puppies around day 45 or 50.
How long are dogs pregnant?
Overall, all breeds of dogs are pregnant for about 9 weeks (just over 2 months). Just like in women, it can happen that a pregnancy lasts a little less or a little longer.
What to do if your dog is pregnant?
If you suspect a pregnancy, your dog should be examined by a veterinarian. This will confirm the pregnancy and ensure that there are no problems with the foetus(es). From day 21 of the pregnancy, your vet will be able to find relaxin - a hormone that only a pregnant dog releases - to confirm her pregnancy status. Your vet is also likely to feel your dog's abdomen to check for swelling of the uterus and the presence of "lumps", which are the future puppies! After 28 days, your vet may suggest an ultrasound to estimate the approximate size of the litter.
The only sure way to know exactly how many puppies are in the litter is to do an ultrasound after the 49th day of pregnancy, but this can expose the puppies to radiation which can sometimes be dangerous. Your vet will most likely advise against this.
Litter size varies from dog to dog, depending on age, breed and the quality of the father's sperm. In smaller breeds, a litter may contain only one puppy, but in larger breeds, there may be as many as 17!
How do you care for a pregnant dog ?
Ideally, your dog should be up to date with her vaccinations before she becomes pregnant. Mothers pass on their immunity to their puppies through their milk, so it is very beneficial for both mother and puppies to have optimal antibody levels. If she is behind on her vaccinations when she becomes pregnant, discuss this with your vet as some vaccines can be given safely during pregnancy.
The same applies to parasite treatments (fleas, worms and ticks). The mother can pass on worms to her puppies, so ask your vet how to worm her during pregnancy, which product is safest to use, and when the puppies should be wormed after birth. Some veterinarians recommend daily deworming (Fenbendazole) from day 40 of pregnancy until 2 days after birth to prevent transmission of worms from the mother to the puppies.
It is important to ensure that your pregnant dog continues to exercise, but be careful not to let her become exhausted! After 4 weeks of pregnancy, shorter but regular walks are recommended. From day 49 onwards, it's time to cut back considerably on any strenuous activity that could lead to premature delivery.
From the 42nd day of pregnancy, you can start feeding your pregnant dog more regularly (about 3 to 4 small meals a day), as the development of the foetus accelerates from this point on. It is advisable to feed your dog specific puppy food, as this contains higher levels of energy and protein.
How do you prepare for your dog's delivery?
Between the eighth and ninth week of pregnancy, your dog will start to become restless in preparation for giving birth (in dogs this is called whelping). This is when she will start to produce milk.
It is important to provide her with a place to nest and whelp, such as a large cardboard box, paddling pool or crate, that is quiet and where she feels safe. This area should be padded with blankets, sheets and towels (that you don't mind getting dirty). She should be able to climb in and out easily (but don't leave the puppies in there!). She will spend a lot of time in this area while she is getting ready for work. Her appetite may decrease, she may start panting, and about 24-48 hours before birth, her temperature will drop to 97°F.
If you have children or other pets, it is essential to keep them away from your dog while she is preparing to give birth, so that she can relax properly and feel more serene. You should also keep the room she is in warm and quiet, as it is essential that the puppies are as well.
In early labour, your dog may need to urinate more frequently and usually she will discharge a green discharge from her vagina, a sign that the placenta has come off. If the puppies do not appear after a few hours of green discharge, contact the vet.
Mothers can usually handle the birth on their own: they deliver the baby, remove the puppies from their amniotic sac and chew on the umbilical cord on their own - all the while giving their puppies a good lick! The birth of each puppy usually takes between 20 and 60 minutes, so labour can last from a few minutes to several hours.
However, if she is exhausted or if one puppy is delivered very quickly after another, you may need to help her remove the puppy or puppies from their amniotic membrane to help them breathe. If your dog does not seem willing or able to cut the umbilical cord herself, take a piece of thread and tie it tightly around the cord about an inch from the puppy's body. Tie another loop further into the cord and then, using disinfected, sharp scissors, cut between the two. If the puppy doesn't cry, gently pinch the back of his neck. It is important that he cries as this allows the fluid in his airways to drain away, just like our babies. If he is having trouble crying or breathing, you can try sucking the fluid out of his nostril with a pipette.
If you have any questions during your dog's labour, don't hesitate to contact his vet.
Can there be complications during delivery?
If the mother is trying hard but no puppies appear, or if there are fewer puppies than expected, or if more than an hour has passed since the last puppy and you are expecting more, it is essential to call your vet urgently as this may be a birth complication. Smaller breeds of dogs and those with a short nose or flat face) are at greater risk of pregnancy complications (Pugs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, etc.) and are more prone to difficulties during whelping and may need professional help.
They are also at greater risk of conditions such as eclampsia, which can occur at any time between the last stages of pregnancy and up to three weeks after birth. This is when the body releases calcium from their bones to meet the body's demand during milk production and foetal development. It is essential that you are aware of this phenomenon when caring for a pregnant dog of one of these breeds and that you discuss any concerns with your veterinarian.
After delivery, encourage the mother to stretch her legs and relieve herself. Then put clean towels back in place and let her nurse and bond with her puppies !