Understanding Dog Pregnancy

People decide to breed their dogs for many different reasons. Some want to have one of their dogs’ offspring, while others see breeding as a way of making money. No matter what the reason may be, you shouldn’t breed your pet without taking the time to think through the process, as there are already too many unwanted animals in shelters.

If you do decide that breeding is the right choice for your pet, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the basics of dog pregnancy. Knowing the stages and signs of dog pregnancy will help ease the breeding process for you and your pet.

It is impossible to compare dog pregnancy to that of humans because the differences between human and canine gestation period are numerous. But understanding the very distinct features of the canine gestation period is helpful in making dog pregnancy healthy for your pet and her puppies.

The Canine Gestation Period

The canine gestation period averages 62 days but can range from 54 to 72 days. So, much like humans, it is flexible. The breed generally does not affect the canine gestation period. Whether your pet is a sheepdog, Chihuahua or poodle, the gestation period will last approximately nine weeks.

Signs of Dog Pregnancy

Other than the obvious enlarged belly, there are only a few rather-vague signs of dog pregnancy, including:

Increased Appetite: Probably the most reliable indicator of dog pregnancy is an increase in appetite during the canine gestation period. Almost immediately after conception, the bitch will start wanting more food.

Nausea: Early a dog pregnancy, your pet might experience nausea and/or a loss of appetite. If her vomiting becomes severe as the canine gestation period progresses, you should take her to the vet to prevent dehydration and to rule out possible illness.

Nesting and Mothering: Also early in the dog pregnancy, the bitch will start nesting. She might even start caring for a toy, which is a mothering instinct and seems to get stronger as the canine gestation period progresses.

If you think you might be experiencing a dog pregnancy, take your pet to a vet to have the dog pregnancy confirmed. Your vet can determine if she is pregnant through a blood test, ultra sound or, if late in the canine gestation period, an x-ray.

Dog Pregnancy: Care and Feeding

When your pet is pregnant, you should care for her and feed her throughout the canine gestation period in basically the same manner as you did prior to the dog pregnancy. The only dietary change you should make is to switch her to a high-calorie puppy food during the second month of the dog pregnancy. This will provide the extra calories she needs to support herself as well as her growing puppies.

Your pet will eat increasingly more food as her puppies develop. By the second month the dog pregnancy, she should be eating three meals a day. Also, during the final week or so of her gestation period, your canine may need to eat every three to four hours, in order to support the rapidly growing puppies she is gestating.

Vaccinations and Dog Pregnancy

If you intend to breed your pet, make sure her vaccinations are current before the breeding process begins. This way, when your dog does become pregnant, her puppies will have access to her antibodies. These antibodies will help protect the puppies until they receive their own vaccinations.

If, however, you experience an unexpected dog pregnancy, hold off on vaccinations until after the puppies are delivered.

Whelping Puppies: Labor and Birth

About a week prior to the due date, begin taking your dog’s temperature every day. Approximately 24 hours before labor begins, her temperature will drop a few degrees, though it should be normal during the rest of the canine digestive period. Catching the temperature drop will help you narrow the delivery window.

You should also start gathering whelping (birthing) supplies prior to the due date. Get a box large enough for the upcoming family with sides high enough that several-week-old puppies cannot climb out. Line the box with towels and be sure to have lots of extras ready so that you’ll be prepared for the frequent changes. You will also need scissors, dental floss and iodine on hand for cutting, tying and cleaning umbilical cords.

Stages of Labor

It may be difficult to differentiate, but there are separate stages of canine labor. It is important to familiarize yourself with the signs of these stages, as knowing them will help ensure a successful birth.

Like humans, canine labor is characterized by three stages:

First Stage: The first stage, which often goes undetected and which typically lasts from six to 12 hours, occurs when the cervix is dilating. Your dog will also experience some uterine contractions during this time.

During this stage, you might notice the following in your dog:

  • panting
  • restlessness
  • shivering
  • unwillingness to eat
  • vomiting.

Your dog may also seek out a private place during this stage. If you notice any of the above behaviors, encourage your pet to go to the whelping area.

Second Stage: The second stage of labor is known as the hard labor stage. Your canine will go through this stage for each of her puppies. For example, if she births five pups, she will have five hard labors.

Canines respond differently to hard labor. Some will simply strain, pant and push. Others will howl, and some might even try to run.

Stage two typically lasts 10 to 30 minutes for each puppy. You should not, however, let hard labor last longer than one hour per pup. If it is taking your pet this long to deliver each puppy, she is probably in need of help, either from you or your vet.

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