How to Care for Pregnant Dogs

How to Care for Pregnant Dogs

How to Care for Pregnant Dogs

Are you a dog owner who wants newborn puppies at home? Or a dog breeder who is looking forward to breeding his bitch? If you are neither of the two, this blog is perfect for learning how to care for pregnant dogs! New owners or breeders expecting pregnancy in their dogs should ensure they understand the breed, signs of pregnancy, and birthing process. Take note that there is a huge difference in the way of taking care of dogs than pregnant dogs.

At K9 Fertility Clinic (linked to the home page), we make sure to take care of your dogs, not just under our care but also to provide blogs that can help you look after your pregnant dog during their pregnancy without coming to us. We have provided dog owners with this ultimate guide to care for pregnant dogs.

Signs in Dog’s Pregnancy

tired pregnant dog

How to tell if your dog is pregnant? Dogs can be pregnant in two (2) different ways: natural mating and dog artificial insemination, which is beneficial if you want to avoid your dog undergoing the natural breeding process.

If you have access to veterinary or fertility clinics, the best and most accurate way of confirming pregnancy is through diagnostic testing. However, if you want to wait for signs of pregnancy before going to clinics, these are the pregnancy signals you have to watch out for:

  • Weight gain
  • Swollen belly
  • Gets tired easily
  • Preparing for her nesting location
  • Swollen nipples
  • Gets irritated easily

Knowing how to care for pregnant dogs means paying attention to their vaginal discharge, vomiting and morning sickness, and decreased appetite, especially in the first few weeks of pregnancy, because of hormonal changes. On the other hand, note that these signs of pregnancy in dogs are also present during a false pregnancy. If your dog inhibits these signals, you can confirm the pregnancy in clinics through tests.

Changes in a dog’s abdomen can show around a few weeks before giving birth. It usually can be noticeable on the 40th day of pregnancy in dogs. But in most cases, a dog’s pregnancy does not show physically until the second trimester.

In veterinary and fertility clinics, pregnancy diagnosis in dogs is made in four (4) ways: hormone test, ultrasound and scanning, palpation, and x-ray. These methods are reliable in verifying pregnancy in dogs and are mostly done within the day.

How Long are Dogs Pregnant?

Mastering the reproductive cycle in dogs is important in understanding how their pregnancy progresses. A female dog that is in heat lasts for 18 to 21 days. There are four stages during this cycle where breeders or owners must determine the best time to get their bitch pregnant.

The dog’s gestation period can go from 58 to 68 days after conception. Although it still may vary by several days depending on the day of conception. The information below is important to learn how to care for pregnant dogs.

Stages of Dog Pregnancy

Since the gestation period in dogs is short, unborn puppies are rapidly growing before dogs give birth. During the first month, embryos travel to the uterine horns to be fertilized and are embedded in the uterus lining during the second week. It is also where a veterinarian can detect a heartbeat from the fetus.

In the second month, different body parts, such as eyelids, toes, claws, coats, and the skeletal system, start developing. On Day 50, x-rays are mostly likely to show how many puppies are in the womb of the bitch.

A pregnant dog starts the whelping process during the third month of the pregnancy. Once the development of the puppies is complete, they will start to position themselves into whelping to the birth canal. It usually happens on the 58th day and the last few days of the pregnancy in dogs.

Making Food for Your Pregnant Dog

Giving the proper diet your pregnant bitch needs is one of the most important ways to take care of your dog. For dog owners giving their dogs good quality pet food, any changes to their diet are unnecessary, especially during the first weeks of their pregnancy. Giving more than the amount of their food is harmful to pregnant dogs.

Owners can continue with the usual diet of their pregnant bitch even without additional supplements and vitamins as long as they are given the proper nutrients. We advise dog breeders and owners to increase their food by giving small frequent meals during the last few weeks of the dog’s pregnancy. Large dog food meals can harm the bitch, mostly for smaller breeds.

Can My Pregnant Dog Exercise?

Breeders with pregnant dogs are advised to limit exercise during the first two weeks of its first two weeks of pregnancy. After the first few weeks, your dog can return to her normal exercise routine. But still, when pregnant dogs are nearing the last trimester, strenuous activities such as course training, guarding, or working activities are better avoided.

Understanding the Whelping Process

During her pregnancy, a female dog automatically develops a mother’s instinct, where she usually looks for a quiet place to whelp. Nearing the last trimester only means one thing, you are about to see the newborn puppies of your pregnant dog. Most dogs naturally give birth. However, unlike large breed dogs, other dogs need to have a caesarian section due to their size.

As your pregnant dog is heading towards the last few weeks of her pregnancy, please keep track of her temperature. In usual pregnancy cases, a dog’s temperature drops to 100°F from normal temperature within a day of labour.

Some visual signs of labour in dogs during early contractions include restlessness of your pregnant dog, panting, digging, vomiting (in a few cases), and going in and out of the whelping box. This early stage of labour lasts for at least 12 hours.

The second stage of labour presents more frequent and stronger contractions. Puppies are usually born during this stage which is called whelping. Take note of the time interval between puppies. It should only take 30-60 minutes and a hard-straining of 10-15 minutes.

Warning Signs to Seek Veterinary Care

Before and during the pregnancy, ensure your dog takes a stool sample to avoid intestinal parasites. These can spread to the bitch’s puppies in the womb and even during nursing.

First-time breeders and owners get scared for their pregnant dogs. To avoid this, monitor and keep track of your pregnant dog’s changes. If a pregnant dog is over 63 days, this is a sign to ask for a veterinarian immediately. Watch for the following symptoms: If present, bring your dog to the veterinarian clinic.

  • First labour is done without a puppy
  • Over an hour strong contractions without puppy
  • Foul smell and bloody discharge
  • Vomiting 

During labour, a female dog may also experience failure in labour which is one of the serious complications because of the following reasons:

  • Size and shape of the vaginal canal
  • Dog breed
  • The uterus can no longer contract
  • Whelping position of the puppies
  • Size of the unborn puppies
  • Defects in the development of the puppies
  • Death of a puppy while still in the womb

While giving birth, if you notice some of these signs, you should also give your veterinary a call:

  • Hard-straining for more than 15 minutes
  • Green discharge without puppies
  • Breaks for more than 2 hours
  • Fetal membranes in the birth canal without puppies
  • There are still puppies in the womb after 24 hours

If unsure about your pregnant dog’s health, go to a veterinarian immediately for proper veterinary care and appropriate medication. It can help you and your pregnant dog achieves a successful pregnancy. Read more of our blogs here.

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