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How to Care For a Pregnant Dog

How to Care For a Pregnant Dog

Taking care of a pregnant dog is a big responsibility, but well worth the extra effort. Here, our Gillette vets share tips and advice to help you provide your dog with everything she needs to stay healthy throughout her pregnancy.

Sign That Your Dog Could Be Pregnant

When your dog is in the first few weeks of its pregnancy it can be hard to notice anything different about the behavior and physical demeanor. But, during this time they may vomit or have a decreased appetite. On average, dogs can be pregnant for approximately 62-64 days however, the exact dates will vary depending on your dog's breed and other factors. Here are some signs that your dog may be pregnant:

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Swollen stomach
  • Increases appetite
  • More tired than usual
  • Irritability
  • Unusually affectionate
  • Vomiting (in the first few weeks)
  • Decrease in appetite (first few weeks)

What to Do if You Think Your Dog Is Pregnant

The first thing you need to do if you believe your dog is pregnant is call your vet. When your dog has been pregnant for approximately 4 weeks your veterinarian will be able to perform an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. When 35 days have passed they may also be able to perform blood tests. When your dog's pregnancy is confirmed there are several things you need to do to keep them healthy.

Pay Extra Attention to Her Nutritional Needs

When your dog has been pregnant for about four weeks you should put them on a high-calorie diet that contains the nutrients they need to be healthy. There are some high-quality brands of food designed for pregnant dogs, your vet will also be able to recommend the dog food that will suit you and your dog best. Do not feed your dog large breed puppy foods because they often don't include a lot of the nutrients your pregnant pup requires such as calcium and phosphorous. 

Since your dog won't have as much room in its belly it's usually recommended to feed them smaller meals more frequently. 

Book a Vet Exam as Soon as Possible

You should take your dog to the vet to make sure they are healthy during their pregnancy and don't have any conditions they can pass down to their puppies. This includes a fecal exam to check for intestinal parasites. Do not give your dog any over-the-counter dewormers because they could be harmful to her and the puppies. 

If your dog's pregnancy is planned make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and parasite prevention before they become pregnant.

Create a Secluded & Comfortable 'Nesting' Place for Puppies to Be Born

Towards the end of your dog's pregnancy make a comfortable, warm place for them to nest that is away from any excitement and other pets. You also need to make sure there is enough space for them to come and go as they wish.

Keep Your Pregnant Pup Away from Other Dogs

Three weeks before they give birth and three weeks after, make sure your dog stays isolated and away from other pets to prevent them from contracting the herpes virus. This infection isn't as dangerous for adult dogs, but it can be life-threatening and deadly for puppies.

Monitor Her Temperature

You can tell if your dog is going to give birth within 24 hours by checking its temperature rectally. In this time frame, her temperature will drop below 100f. 

Whelping—What to Do When Your Dog is Giving Birth

When your dog starts giving birth it will have mild contractions for about 6-12 hours. This stage can make them restless. Your dog may start wandering in and out of its nesting area, or dig, pant, and vomit. Then they will start having stronger, more frequent contractions, that will lead to the birth of puppies.

Your dog will strain for about 10 - 15 minutes before they start giving birth to their puppies. They should have one puppy every 45- 60 minutes however, sometimes they will take a break and wait up to 4 hours between puppies. They can give birth to puppies either head or tail first, neither is abnormal. 

After your dog gives birth to each puppy they will pass fetal membranes which are greenish-black colored masses.

Watch your dog and make sure they are not straining for more than an hour or taking breaks that are longer than four hours. If this is the case, you will need to take them to the vet immediately.

Signs of Trouble to Look Out For

After your dog has given birth you will need to watch for the following signs:

  • Fever
  • Vaginal Discharge
  • Not producing milk
  • Inflamed/ infected breast tissue
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting 
  • Decreased appetite

If your dog isn't feeling well or you notice any of the above signs call your vet as quickly as possible and let them know your dog is nursing so they can prescribe medications or treatments that are safe.

Caring for Newborn Puppies

When puppies are born, they are born with a protective fetal membrane that is removed by their mother. If the mother doesn't remove this sack you will have to do it yourself so the puppy will be able to breathe. You can do this by breaking the sac, wiping away any fluids from their nostrils, facing the puppies head down, opening their mouth, and stroking the puppy's body with a towel wiping away any remaining fluids.

You may also notice the umbilical cord not being removed during birth or by the mother. If so, you will have to break it yourself. You will have to be careful not to pull on the cord because it could damage the puppy's organs. You will need to tear it gently about an inch away from the puppy's body, using your thumb and first two fingers.

Right after the puppies are born you should call your veterinarian. They will tell you when to start taking the puppies to the vet and provide you with advice on the next steps you should take. They might also ask you to bring the puppies in to see them right away to make sure the birth went well and the puppies don't have any conditions, such as umbilical hernias or cleft palates. They may suggest waiting until the puppies are a bit older for their first veterinary appointments.

During the Puppies' First Couple of Weeks

As tempting as it is to hold and cuddle these new adorable furballs, it's essential not to intervene too much with the mother and her puppies during the first couple of weeks. This can be stressful for the mother and babies. Newborn puppies are also very susceptible to illness. The mother may also show aggression to any person or animal that approaches them because they are very protective.

Puppies can't regulate their own body temperature until they are approximately 3 - 4 weeks old. You will need to provide them with a warm clean box/ bed that they can share to stay comfortable and warm (the area should be 97oF). You also have to make sure there is a cooler area for them to go to if they get too warm. 

If the mother will allow it, you can slowly start socializing the puppies with the other pets and people in your home. Starting this at a young age can help them fit better into the household.

When the puppies are 3 - 4 weeks old you can start weaning them off of their mother's milk and start introducing hard puppy food. You can also mix the hard food with water or soft puppy food to make it easier for them to eat. Leave the food somewhere they can access it easily themselves. By the time they are 5 - 6 weeks old, their mother will have them mostly relying on solid puppy food.

As The Puppies Get Older

When the puppies get older, the mother will start wandering away from the puppies to take a break and socialize with the other pets and people in your home. Make sure the mother keeps going back to check on her puppies.

If you notice any runts in the litter (puppies growing at a slower rate, or don't have as much energy) call your vet because they may have an underlying health condition.

You shouldn't send the puppies to a new home until they are at least 10 weeks old. This gives them enough time with their mother and siblings to learn basic dog behaviors and etiquette, as well as to complete the weaning process. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog pregnant? Our experienced vets can help you to keep your pregnant dog healthy throughout her pregnancy. Contact our Gillette vets today to book an examination for your beloved four-legged family member.

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