Just like humans, dogs need proper care and nutrition when they are pregnant. They also need check-ups and regular exercise. Always remember that a healthy dog is far more likely to produce healthy puppies.
Once your dog shows signs of pregnancy, do not hesitate to go to a veterinarian. There are cases when dogs show signs of false pregnancies. Once the vet validates your dog’s pregnancy, you can start preparing for it. The first thing you should do is ask the vet for advice as to what food to give your pet. It is typically not advisable to give a pregnant dog supplements. If your vet asks you to do so, he probably has a good reason for it but do your research first and ask around.
This initial check-up can identify health concerns early on, but more importantly, your veterinarian can check for fleas or other parasites in the blood that would need to be treated. If in case your dog’s vaccinations are incomplete, remember that some vaccines can cause abortion. If you want the protection or antibodies to be passed on to the litter, this should be done prior to breeding and not during pregnancy.
Here are a few things you can do to prepare:
- A pregnant dog needs more protein in her diet. She will probably eat more because she is eating for more than just two—she’s eating for a litter. Give her high quality dog food. It is also advisable to give her puppy food because it contains more nutrients she needs for her litter. You can mix it with her regular food. Do not overfeed or underfeed her. Overfeeding can result to excessive weight gain and this can be a problem when she gives birth. It is normal for your pet to gain 15-25% of her weight at this time. Underfeeding, on the other hand, may cause weakness. Your dog needs all the energy she can get for her labor and deliver (whelping).
- Regular exercise keeps dogs fit and avoids obesity. This is something that should be done even if a dog is not pregnant, so there is no reason to stop now. Exercise does not just keep dogs in shape. It is enjoyable and good for her mental health as well. However, letting your pregnant dog run loose is not advisable, because you wouldn’t want to expose her to diseases especially in the three weeks before she is due. At this time, it is advisable to keep her indoors.
- Prepare a whelping box or an area where your dog will deliver. Make sure that there is enough space for her to move and rest, so that she doesn’t crush her litter. If you are using a box, make sure it is deep enough to contain the puppies. You may also use a pen to contain them if you will use a bigger space. Make sure to line the box or area with old clothes or towels for better cleaning. Newspapers aren’t recommended because the ink makes the puppies seem dirty. Plus, the inks used in the paper may not be healthy for the puppies. Introduce the delivery area at least two weeks before delivery, so that your dog can become comfortable with it.
- When your dog’s due date is near, monitor her temperature. If it falls below 100 degrees, it is a sign that she is about to go to labor. This gives you time to prepare or make arrangements. Dogs should not be left alone to whelp, because some situation may arise that requires medical attention.
- You should also examine your dog’s mammary glands every day. These glands provide colostrum and milk for the puppies to ingest. Firm and painful mammary glands may indicate mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland. If you catch this early, your veterinarian can show you how to apply hot compresses or perform milk stripping two to four times a day to keep the problem from getting more serious. In most cases, the puppies should still be able to nurse.
As for the puppies, have your veterinarian examine them soon after delivery. The puppies should ingest colostrum within the first 24 hours after birth. Weigh the puppies every day to document weight gain. The Puppies should gain weight daily, although there may be a short lag in the first day or two after delivery. Weight loss or the absence of weight gain may mean serious problems, so consult your veterinarian if this occurs.
Puppies cannot regulate their body temperature, so you must keep them warm for the first two weeks of life. Drafts pose the greatest threat for puppies. You can provide supplemental heat sources, such as heating pads or heat lamps on low thermostat settings. Just make sure the puppies can get away from the heat source to avoid becoming too hot. The puppies should remain with their mother during the first several weeks; she will feed them, help keep them warm, stimulate them to urinate and defecate, and teach them appropriate canine interactions.
As your new puppies begin to grow, open their eyes and explore their environment the fun really begins!
-Photo Credit: From Wikimedia Commons by Sagaciousphil