Dog Pregnancy Guide
- by Rufus and Coco
If your dog is expecting a litter but you're feeling a bit lost when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of dog pregnancies, you've come to the right spot. Our comprehensive guide is your go-to resource, packed with vital information to help you provide optimal care for your furry friend throughout this special journey.
How to Care for Your Pregnant Dog
When Can Dogs Become Pregnant?
Most dogs reach sexual maturity at the age of six months, but there are breeds that can become sexually mature a little earlier at four months. These are mostly small, and toy dog breeds that tend to develop faster than their larger counterparts.
Giant breeds can be expected to experience their first heat cycle around 18 to 24 months.
Regardless of breed, female dogs can go into heat every six months - usually in the spring and in the fall. Small dogs might experience three reproductive cycles throughout the year, but most dogs have just two.
The signs of heat periods in female dogs range from a swollen vulva to bloody discharge. In terms of behaviour, they might seem more or less restless and actively seek out mating with males - but this usually happens in the second part of the heat cycle as during the first few days, they reject the advances of males.
Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs and Pregnancy Length
Pregnancy in dogs typically lasts for 60 to 65 days. There aren’t a lot of initial signs that you might notice, especially if your dog spends most of their time outdoors. Nausea is not very common with pregnant dogs and might appear as an occasional symptom only after the first 3 weeks of pregnancy.
The second part of the pregnancy is characterised by typical signs such as weight gain, a reluctance to engage in overly strenuous exercise, or some transparent or mucous vulval discharge.
There are some changes in behaviour that you might notice, too. Your pet might become more affectionate and cuddly. And during the last part of the pregnancy, they might look for a nesting area.
What Should You Feed A Pregnant Dog?
During the first two weeks of the pregnancy, there aren’t going to be any major changes in terms of nutritional requirements, so you will be able to feed your dog their normal kibble and wet food.
However, once the first few weeks have gone by, it is highly recommended that you switch to a nutritionally-dense variety, whether that be for nursing mothers or puppies. Because of the size of the uterus, pregnant dogs can’t eat as much at a time, which means that the food that they get should be richer in calories, balanced, and complete.
Your vet may advise you as to what nutritional supplements you can use to make sure that the pregnancy and delivery go as planned. Try our Reel Fish Crunchers if you want your dog to get some extra healthy omega fatty acids.
Can Pregnant Dogs Be Vaccinated?
Biological products such as vaccines are typically a no-go when it comes to pregnant dogs. The placental barrier allows for the transmission of nutrients between the mother and the foetuses, but medications (vaccines included) can cross it and could create complications.
Some drugs are teratogenic, which means that they can negatively influence the puppies’ development and cause foetal abnormalities. For flea control, it’s highly recommended that you use topical or alternative solutions such as shampoos (our Flea Flee shampoo is a good example) instead of heavy insecticides.
Hopefully, your dog received all of their shots before they became pregnant. If the vaccination plan is not complete, the recommendation is for you to keep your pet indoors or as separated from other animals as possible.
Vaccinated mothers transmit partial immunity against some diseases to their offspring, especially if they were vaccinated years upon years before their pregnancy -- They do so through their milk. This is one of the reasons why the vaccination plan for puppies starts at 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Do Pregnant Dogs Need To Be Groomed?
Grooming necessities don’t change along with the pregnancy. Depending on the time of the year when your dog is pregnant, they might also shed a lot, requiring you to rely on a Self Cleaning Deshedder Brush.
Not all dogs like taking baths, so you may need to use a Water Free Wash. Our 4in1 Detangler & Pamper Spray will come in handy, too, if you have a dog with a thick and heavy coat like a Chow-Chow, for example.
Pregnant dogs appreciate a little more pampering, so using a Pet Grooming Glove on a weekly basis or even more often is another great idea.
What to Expect During Labour
If this is your dog’s first-ever pregnancy, you may have to be in constant contact with your vet to get as much needed guidance as you can. First-time deliveries can be a little more challenging, especially in cases where the mother is small and the father is large. If you know that your small dog breed mated with a giant breed, your vet might have to perform a C-section instead of allowing her to give birth naturally.
Dogs can show nesting signs about 24 to 48 hours before the actual delivery begins. They will retreat to a safe spot or their pet bed. Their body temperature will drop under 37.8 degrees Celsius. Around 12 to 6 hours before delivery, your pet will start pacing or trying to dig. Some dogs also experience nausea or shaking.
Puppies will be delivered every 30 to 60 minutes. They are born covered by a membrane, and while the mother usually chews through it with her teeth, she might need your help if she is tired. Try to avoid touching the puppies too much so as to allow the mother to mark while cleaning them.
At the end of the delivery, your dog will eliminate the placenta. It is highly important that this happens as if it remains in the birth canal, it could lead to a severe infection.
The same applies to puppies that can no longer be delivered - if you see your dog straining for more than an hour, call your vet to find out if they can see your pet.
Essentials for Dog Pregnancy
Some of the basic things you’ll need to ensure that your dog remains healthy and that the puppies are born in good shape are listed below:
A high-quality diet for nursing dogs
Dental chews or a water additive such as our own Breath Buddy
Plenty of fresh water, including during the delivery
A rectal thermometer to check on your dog’s temperature when she begins nesting or having contractions
Plenty of blankets or a very comfortable pet bed where she can give birth
Disposable gloves for when you’re cleaning the puppies’ nostrils to make sure they can breathe
Your vet might also recommend that you give your dog a liquid diet consisting of dog soups or patės for a few days before and after the delivery, along with calcium or general mineral supplements.
While navigating your dog's pregnancy and delivery may present some challenges, it's important to remember that these are natural processes that you can support in the best way possible. Regular veterinary check-ups during the pregnancy will provide valuable insights into the well-being of both your dog and the developing puppies, allowing you to anticipate the litter size and ensure your dog's continued health.
In the event of any complications during the delivery, time is of the essence, and it's crucial not to hesitate in seeking veterinary assistance. Instances such as puppies getting lodged in the birth canal, haemorrhages, or seizures caused by low calcium levels in the blood require immediate medical attention. Your swift action and prompt collaboration with a veterinarian can make all the difference in safeguarding the well-being of your beloved pet and her precious pups.
Estimated Pregnancy Length From Ovulation to Parturition in The Bitch and Its Influencing Factors: A Retrospective Study in 162 Pregnancies, F. Mir et al, Reprod. Domest. Anim, 2011, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21382106/
Teratogenicity in Dogs and Cats - A Review For Practitioners and Toxicologists, L. Pichler, Vet. Med. Austria, 2007, https://center.ssi.at/smart_users/uni/user94/explorer/43/WTM/Archiv/2007/WTM_09-10-2007_Artikel_2.pdfPassive Immune Transfer in Puppies, Sylvie Chastant & Hanna Mila, Anim. Reprod. Sci., 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7125514/