When your dog is expecting puppies, worrying is normal but you don’t have much time to waste! A typical canine pregnancy is about 9 weeks long and every moment is important. Knowledge is power in this regard. Be prepared for puppies with these steps.
Visit Your Veterinarian
Check-ups with your veterinarian are vital during various stages of dog breeding and pregnancy and beyond. This is to ensure that the mother is healthy every step of the way so that a good litter of healthy pups will be safely born and be able to thrive. If your regular vet is far away or won’t be available to help, consider finding a different caregiver to ensure the process goes smoothly. A veterinarian who makes house calls and has access to the equipment like portable ultrasounds could be the ideal choice for your furry companion.
Gradually Change the Diet
Switching the mother to a puppy chow is a popular option for pregnant dogs to give them the nutrients they need to share with their developing puppies. Always change food over gradually, as a sudden change can cause upset to the digestion system. While pregnancy alone can do that, you don’t want to add another stressor to the situation.
If you do not switch to puppy chow, check to be certain that your dog food contains sufficient calcium, minerals, and fat. Your dog’s eating habits may well change. It is best to keep a supply of food on hand for her at all times so she can eat multiple smaller meals a day when the need strikes. If you have concerns about nutrient intake or questions about which foods are right for your dog and her growing pups, be sure to direct them to your veterinarian.
While important for all dogs, small bouts of frequent exercise are crucial for pregnant mothers to have healthy puppies. Her normal routine can be carried on until week four of the pregnancy. After that, cut down play periods and walks so exercise is not as strenuous. Four or five shorter walks a day are preferable. If the mother is up to date on parasite control and vaccines, she can exercise and socialize at a dog park until about week four. Along with all your other concerns, activity level should be discussed with your vet regularly.
Prepare a Whelping Box
The whelping box should be made available even before the due date in case the pregnant mother feels like nesting. It should be roomy enough for her to move around easily, but not so large that the puppies, when born, will have far to crawl at first. The use of children’s swimming pools as whelping areas is a popular choice. Whatever the container, it is most important that it be quiet, safe, and comfortable.
Recognize Signs of Labor
A pregnant dog about to give birth may grow restless and swollen. This generally indicates the first stage of labor and can be between 6 and 18 hours long. Be sure to call your vet to notify them about the progress and get any advice you may need.
Your dog will then noticeably strain with contractions and pass a yellow-green fluid as the placental water sacs of the puppies break. This is the second stage of labor—time to meet the pups. Puppies generally are birthed between 10 and 30 minutes after intervals of forceful straining. If an hour or so passes without result or you suspect there are more puppies to come, talk to your vet and be prepared to take her to your vet immediately. If mom chews off the umbilical cords and goes about licking her pups to clear their airways herself, the pups will be taken care of and there is no reason to worry. If not, you may need to help with cleaning and initial care.
When all the pups are born, make sure they make their way to mom to nurse. Offer your new mom a small meal, water, and potty break. Don’t be surprised if mom needs time with her puppies to care for them herself. Instinct should kick in and they should all be fine for a while—don’t interfere too much. The morning after, you should call your vet to schedule a checkup of the litter as well as mom.
Having a pregnant dog is an exciting time. Having puppies is a joyful event that should be made as stress-free as possible for all involved. Talk to your veterinarian, do some research, and take these steps to be prepared for your new pups.