Pregnancy in dogs can be a wonderful time to care for your beloved pet. A pregnant dog experiences changes in hormones, weight, appetite, and behaviour – just like humans. If you think your dog may be pregnant, you may want to start looking for the signs of pregnancy in dogs. Many signs do not show up until the first month has nearly passed, so be prepared to notice changes. Your pregnant dog will need more affection and attention during this time. Be cautious not to force the pregnant dog into strenuous activities, and be sure to consult a veterinarian about medications and food for pregnant dogs. Your veterinarian is the best source of information on pregnant dogs, but the following description of signs, behaviours, and caring for pregnancy in dogs can also help.
Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs
Knowing the signs of pregnancy in dogs can help you prepare to care for your pregnant dog. Unless you are breeding, dogs can be discrete about their mating and you may not realise that you have a pregnant dog on your hands. She will begin to have vaginal discharge approximately one month into the pregnancy and also swelling of the teats. Depending on the species and size of the pregnant dog, the abdomen may be a good sign of pregnancy. The abdomen usually swells 20 to 50 %, but this may not be noticeable until a few weeks prior to the pregnant dog giving birth. If the signs of pregnancy in dogs are showing, consult the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can confirm that you have a pregnant dog by ultrasound, feeling the abdomen and through the use of an endocrine test to detect hormones that are made by pregnant dogs.
Behaviour of Pregnant Dogs
The behaviour of pregnant dogs will change, in part due to hormonal changes and due to the same mothering nature that all mammals experience. Pregnant dogs may become less active and lethargic and may not want to eat regular foods. Beware if the pregnant dog becomes withdrawn or loses her appetite, as this can be a sign of pregnancy complications. However, it is normal for pregnant dogs to experience morning sickness from the hormonal changes, which can affect the appetites also. These behaviours of pregnant dogs are also signs of depression, so you may want to consult the veterinarian if these behaviours are persistent. The dog may scratch at the floor and some dogs may begin to hoard food and other items. This is a normal behaviour for pregnant dogs as they begin to experience nesting urges. Another change in behaviour of pregnant dogs is their demeanor. During pregnancy, your dog may become unusually irritable to noise and strangers while others want more attention and affection.
Caring for Pregnant Dogs
Caring for pregnant dogs is important for health and nutrition of the dog and her puppies. Feed the pregnant dog premium adult food that is high in protein, fat and minerals. The pregnant dog’s eating needs will increase about one and a half times the normal rate, so you may need to purchase more food for pregnant dogs. Do not withhold food from a pregnant dog, as she will need extra nutrition for strong and healthy puppies. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on performance foods for pregnant dogs. The pregnant dog may also eat more frequently, but in smaller amounts. This is normal, especially if she is experiencing morning sickness.
At other times more food for pregnant dogs is necessary because she may suddenly be ravenous. This is also normal, especially during the last few weeks of pregnancy in dogs as this is when the puppy’s fetal growth is the highest. The increase of food for pregnant dogs may continue through the first few weeks of nursing. Caring for pregnant dogs includes a concern for obesity and blood sugar problems that may place the unborn puppies and the mother at risk. However, this is not the time to place the pregnant dog on an invasive or extreme dietary change. Also, a consultation with the veterinarian can help you discover if she has blood sugar problems. It is generally not a good idea to add dietary supplements when caring for pregnant dogs. Too much calcium or other minerals and vitamins may cause problems with the pregnant dog’s health and her puppies. Please consult the veterinarian for information on food for pregnant dogs and adding dietary supplements.
Exercise for Pregnant Dogs
Exercise for pregnant dogs should not be intense. Do not add stress to the pregnant dog’s situation by taking her to dog shows or committing her to obedience training. As with all pregnant mothers, a pregnancy in dogs means calm, non-strenuous exercise. Regular short walks and light play time as well as attention are all good exercises for pregnant dogs. Do not over-stimulate the pregnant dog, but also don’t let her become lethargic. During the last three weeks of pregnancy in dogs, it is important that the pregnant dog be separated from other dogs and animals. Indoor exercise for pregnant dogs is preferable to outdoor walks during this time.
This will prevent her from contracting parasites and illnesses that can impact her and her puppy’s health. Another reason exercise for pregnant dogs should be done indoors during the last three weeks is the possibility of canine herpes, a serious illness that can cause stillborn puppies.
Treatments for Pregnant Dogs
Treatments for pregnant dogs that include a vaccination such as flea, worm, and parasites cannot be administered at home without consulting a veterinarian. There are few treatments for pregnant dogs, and avoiding medications as much as possible can protect the unborn puppies. External and internal parasites like roundworm and fleas do require specific treatments. It is important to consult the veterinarian, as you do not want to expose the puppies to these parasites at birth. Some treatments for pregnant dogs are fine, such as continuing heartworm prevention medication. All heartworm treatments for pregnant dogs are safe. There are several roundworm and hookworm treatments that are important to protect the newborn puppies from exposure. However, not all flea treatments for pregnant dogs are safe.
Pregnancy in Dogs and Whelping
Pregnancy in dogs lasts approximately 63 to 65 days. The birthing process of pregnant dogs is called whelping. It is important to have the pregnant dog examined by a veterinarian at least three weeks prior to whelping; this will ensure that both mom and puppies are healthy.
During the last few weeks of pregnancy in dogs, she may become very attached to the owner. Some pregnant dogs will not whelp until they are with their owner, so be cautious about going on vacations toward the end of the pregnancy. The pregnant dog will also be seeking a quiet and secure place to whelp her pups. A secluded area such as a large closet or bedroom that gets little use will work well for whelping. Prepare for whelping by having a sturdy whelping box available for the puppies. This should be a low, wide box so that mom can look after her puppies. Layer the whelping box with newspaper to absorb the fluids released during the birth.
Pre-birth Care of the Dog
As your dog’s abdomen grows, she may begin acting more tired, thirsty, and irritable. Make sure she has a place to go when she wants to rest apart from hectic family life. Most dogs will want to stay close to their owners, but may appreciate short periods to themselves where they won’t be bothered and can begin nesting. As mentioned above, provide a whelping box for the puppies several days or weeks in advance. Keep it in a clean, dry area, and don’t let other animals or children around it, as the smell may alarm the mother who is preparing to whelp there. Shortly before birth, the pregnant dog may rustle through newspapers or even carry pieces of family clothing to her whelping box in her preparations for nesting, or whelping. Protect her secluded area by keeping lights low and family members or visitors away from the area. Avoid doing things that could startle or upset a pregnant dog, like having new carpet installed or removing long-time furniture with which she is familiar. Unfamiliar scents, sounds, and sights can be upsetting to the dog that is preparing to whelp. An owner’s goal should be to keep the household running as smoothly and calmly as possible during this critical time in the pet’s pregnancy. If possible, postpone visitors’ prolonged stays or the children having lots of sleepover guests. Most dogs adjust fine, but a nervous or insecure pregnant dog may look for another, more distant and less exposed area to have her babies.