Caring for Your Dog During Pregnancy
Bringing puppies into this world is always a huge decision and should not be taken lightly. If you are considering breeding your dog, please make sure that all of the proper health testing is conducted before your dog is pregnant, and have your dog checked over thoroughly by a vet before the breeding takes place. Females should absolutely not be bred before they are 2 years old.
Breeding a very young dog can be very harmful for the mother and the babies. Also make sure that your dog is not overweight before she is bred. If she is overweight, it can cause serious complications during the pregnancy.
What to do After Breeding Your Dog
Once bred, you should calculate 63 days out from the day of the breeding, and plan on having puppies within a day or two of that date. You have just about 9 weeks to prepare for the puppies.
After the breeding takes place, do not vaccinate her. If she is due for vaccines, you will need to wait until after the puppies are weaned before administering the shots. Consult your veterinarian about giving your dog any medications during pregnancy, including de-worming tablets.
When your female has been bred, it is very hard to tell if conception has occurred until about 4-5 weeks into the pregnancy. During this first month, do not increase the food intake.
Continue your normal exercise regimen, and continue to participate in your daily activities, but don‘t allow her to become stressed out during this vital stage of the puppies’ development.
The First Few Weeks of Your Dog’s Pregnancy
During the first few weeks (especially around week 3), it is common for your dog to experience slight loss of appetite. She may also being acting a bit lethargic. If she does not want to eat her dinner, try feeding her some white rice cooked in chicken broth, or a cooked egg.
If her lack of appetite lasts for more than 2-3 days, or is accompanied by other symptoms (unquenchable thirst, fever, vaginal discharge, etc.) take her to the vet immediately, as she may have a take her to the vet immediately, as she may have pyometra, a deadly infection of the uterus.
Week 5 Onwards
At the 5 week mark, you should see a noticeable difference in your dog’s abdomen and belly area. The abdomen should be firm, and starting to fill out. The nipples will be a little swollen as well. At this point, it is a great idea to start breaking up her meals, so instead of feeding one large meal per day, break it up into 2-3 smaller meals per day. For example, if your dog currently eats 2 cups of food every night, begin feeding her one cup in the morning, and one cup in the evening.
The puppies are going to start crowding into the stomach area, so smaller meals will keep her feeling better, since her tummy room is getting smaller. You will also want to switch from her regular food to a high quality puppy kibble. Continue to feed puppy food until she has weaned the pups.
As soon as your girl is beginning to show that she is pregnant, it is a very good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian, especially if she hasn’t had one yet.
Your vet should be able to answer all of your questions, and suggest whether or not you need to increase her food for the remainder of the pregnancy. You can even ask about getting an ultrasound, if you are curious about how many puppies are due.
At 5-6 weeks into the pregnancy, you should also begin giving her a few supplements to assist her with the stretching of her muscles, and to ease the labor when the time comes. These can be found at a health food store, and are best used in powder form.
The 3 herbs that will help her are:
- Mother’s Wort
- Red Raspberry Leaves
Once per day, include ½ teaspoon (for every 20 lbs of body weight) of each herb in with your dog’s dinner. So if your dog weighs 40 lbs, give about 1 teaspoon of each herb, once per day. It is helpful to add a little water to the food/herbs so that your dog isn’t eating straight powder.
From weeks 6-8, do your best to keep your dog comfortable. Do not force her to exercise, and avoid having her jump up or down from anything. Make sure that she is kept cool and relaxed. It’s a good idea to keep other pets and small children away from her because she may be more irritable during these final weeks of pregnancy.
By week 8, you will want to make sure that you have a place set aside to raise the puppies. Get a whelping box suited to the size of your dog.
It is especially important with large breeds that the box has a guard rail around the edges that the puppies can fit under, but that keeps the mother from laying down on the pups and smashing them when they are next to the edge of the box. Even if your dog does not decide to whelp her puppies in the box, she will usually allow you to move the litter into the box so that she can raise them there for the first several weeks.
An important note in preparing for the birth of the puppies is to monitor your dog’s temperature. Using a rectal thermometer, check her temperature every day (or even multiple times per day) during the last week of the pregnancy.
The regular temperature should be right around 101 degrees Fahrenheit. As the arrival gets closer, it will start to drop, and as soon as her temperature is down in the 97-98 degree Fahrenheit, she will very likely be having the puppies within 24 hours. However, be advised that sometimes the temperature can drop very quickly, and you won’t even realize that it has dropped. That is why it is very important to read up on the other signs of labor, so that you know what you are looking for.
If you have any questions during the gestation period, or during labor and whelping, be sure to contact your veterinarian for further assistance. This information should not be substituted for professional advice from your vet.
Emma Green is a doggie mom to a Parson Russell Terrier who will be having puppies soon. She has been working with animals her entire life, and especially loves dog grooming. She is also passionate about emergency preparedness and occasionally writes for Food Insurance. Feel free to email Emma with any questions about dogs or being prepared at firstname.lastname@example.org | Image Credit