Caring for a Pregnant Dog
By Anna Lynn Sibal
If you own an un-spayed dog that has been in heat and which you have allowed to mate, the next question that would naturally come to mind is: Would she get pregnant? And if she is pregnant, how should she be taken care of?
A dog's sexual maturity usually comes as early as when she is six months old, but it can be as late as 16 months. This depends on the dog's breed and the individual makeup of the dog. While your dog may go into heat at that age, it is not really advisable to let her mate and become pregnant until she reaches the age of 18 to 24 months.
When she does get pregnant, you can expect her to carry the puppies for nine weeks or 63 days. However, in some cases, your dog can deliver her puppies between 58 to 68 days.
Signs of Pregnancy
Unlike in humans, confirming dog pregnancy is not possible through urine or blood tests. The earliest possible time that a veterinarian may be able to diagnose your dog’s pregnancy is 25 to 35 days after she has mated. By then, the vet will be able to feel her abdomen.
But like humans, dogs do show signs that they are pregnant. Here is a list of the common symptoms that a dog displays when she is pregnant, but this can vary from dog to dog.
1. A change in her normal behavior. Just like with most human women, expectant dogs will show mood swings and even antisocial behavior. If your dog is a snobby one, she may become clingy. A normally affectionate dog would be snarly and would prefer to be left alone.
2. Lack of appetite. Your dog may become picky with her food during the first few weeks, or she may not want to eat at all. After a few weeks, however, this loss of appetite would be replaced by voraciousness; she would be eating for more than two, after all.
3. Growth in her mammary glands. Six weeks or so into the pregnancy, you will see the nipples of your dog begin to enlarge. This obviously means that your dog’s body is preparing for producing milk and nursing puppies.
4. Gets easily tired. Dogs, just like pregnant human women, lose interest in any physical activities when they become pregnant. The hormonal changes in their bodies make them get easily tired, so they would be sleeping a lot.
5. Weight gain. As the pregnancy progresses, your dog’s belly would become firm and increase in size, indicating growth of puppies in her womb.
Taking Care of Pregnant Dogs
If you suspect your dog of being pregnant, what then should you do? The first thing you should do is to make an appointment with your vet so the vet could evaluate your dog’s health.
Once it is confirmed that your dog is pregnant, you should do something about her diet. Her food intake will need to be increased, and she should be fed a high-protein diet. A lot of fresh water is also a must for pregnant dogs. On the final month of her pregnancy, you should start including puppy food in her meals to supplement the dietary needs of her unborn puppies.
Your dog should not be moved much when she is pregnant. However, she should be given moderate exercise, like short walks and gentle play, to keep up her strength. Also, you should limit her time outdoors so she would avoid getting infection.
As her birthing time approaches, she may become restless and seek seclusion. She would probably start building a nest made of papers or bedding that she herself has shredded. You should keep small children away from her starting this time because she is highly likely to become irritable.
When She Gives Birth
The nesting behavior is a clear indication that your dog is about to give birth. At this time, you should be preparing for her birthing too.
As the time for birthing approaches, you would need to build a large box which she could use as her birthing and nursing bed. It should be big enough and deep enough to fit your dog and her upcoming litter. Since the birthing process would be a messy one, the bottom of the box must be covered with newspapers, old towels and sheets.
You should also start monitoring her temperature. She is ready to give birth within 24 hours when her temperature drops below 100°F. You will get your confirmation when she becomes really restless, urinates frequently, and has vaginal discharge.
When she starts going into labor, just let her be. All you need to do is to make sure that her environment is quiet and calm. When she is done giving birth to her puppies, try to give her something to eat and drink. Later on, try to get her to go out for a while.
Just like with human pregnancy, dog pregnancy is a delicate time. During this time, your dog would need all the care she can get, and caring for her as much as you can would make the pregnancy and the birthing much, much easier for the two of you.