Dog Pregnancy: Tips and Care
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
A pregnant dog is a serious matter and isn’t something to be taken lightly. The primary recommendation from veterinarians is to spay or neuter your dog, but if breeding is something you are considering, you must consult with your veterinarian first, before your dog is pregnant. Ideally, veterinarians want to allow breeds to progress in a positive way and want to avoid "breeding in" in health problems. Your veterinarian will educate you on the risks and complications that can occur during a dog’s pregnancy that could result in a Caesarian section and high veterinary costs.
Now, if your dog is expecting puppies, you are probably excited, nervous, confused, and stressed. You will also have many questions about caring for her during this time, such as: Should she eat a different type of food? Should she exercise less? Read on for information to get you started, along with tips on keeping your dog comfortable.
How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?
If you are unsure your dog is pregnant but have noticed she has gained weight, had an increase in appetite, or an increase in nipple size, there is a good chance she is expecting. Make an appointment at the vet for diagnostic testing to find out for sure. Since dogs are only pregnant for about two months, (usually 63 days), you’ll need to move fast. At between 25 and 35 days of gestation, veterinarians can perform an ultrasound to detect the heartbeats and determine how many puppies your dog is carrying. Your veterinarian can also test your dog’s hormone levels to look for relaxin, a hormone that is only released during pregnancy. X-rays are also an option, but cannot be performed until a few weeks before your dog gives birth. Your veterinarian will determine a due date and give you tips on tending to your pregnant dog.
Pregnant Dog Care
There are many variables to reevaluate when you are caring for a pregnant dog. Once you have visited the vet for the prenatal checkup, you will be armed with the information you need. Your vet’s advice will most likely include tips about:
- Food – Pregnant dogs need proper nutrition, just as humans do. Your veterinarian will check your dog’s weight to make sure it’s at a healthy level and confirm that her food provides the proper nutrition needed. Your vet may recommend increasing your dog’s food intake during the last five weeks of the pregnancy. It’s important to follow your vet’s instructions regarding the amount of food in order to prevent obesity and increased stress on the puppies.
- Medications – Your dog’s vaccinations should be up to date before she gets pregnant, but if not, your vet will provide recommendations on what is safe and what should be avoided during pregnancy. Flea and heartworm treatments should continue during pregnancy, as roundworms and hookworms can be passed on to unborn puppies. Again, your vet will recommend the best treatment.
- Exercise – If your dog is in good shape, exercise is encouraged since it’s important for her to keep her strength up in preparation for labor and birth. Regular walks are all that is needed, be sure to avoid intense activities since they may be stressful for both mom and her puppies. As her due date approaches, take more frequent, shorter walks to keep her from getting too uncomfortable or worn out.
Vet visits during your dog’s pregnancy will increase in frequency, depending on your dog’s age, breed and current health. It’s important to stay on schedule and visit the vet on a regular basis during the pregnancy in order to prevent complications and keep both your dog and her puppies healthy. You’ll find that a few changes to your dog’s care and routines are all that is needed to help prepare her for the big day when her puppies arrive. If you are feeling overwhelmed at any time your dog’s pregnancy, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian for advice. It’s a stressful time not only for you, but for your dog. But with a little advance preparation, it doesn’t have to be!
READ MORE ABOUT PET SAFETY