How to tell if your dog is pregnant and help it with gestation
By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
Dog Breeding and Pregnancy
Pregnancy. An idea to meet with fear or to greet with yaps of happiness. Often, it is the former, considering the difficulties that pet owners have to help their dogs overcome.
In times of need, it is important for us to know how to help our furry friends overcome the many obstacles they face. This is particularly so with new mothers, who need more help with the birthing process.
The period of gestation is trying for us, so we can imagine how it is for a much smaller sized, female dog. How do we help it through this somewhat difficult period and ensure that it remains healthy? What are the common signs of canine pregnancy? How does a baffled owner tackle the needs of his pet’s post pregnancy?
These are questions that this article will answer.
Why is it important for an owner to know how to help a dog through its pregnancy and birth?
Vets may not be accessible.
If you live in an area where a veterinarian is not easily accessible, knowing how to help your pregnant female dog through her less than comfortable period of gestation can be somewhat imperative. It may sometimes be a little too late before it can receive the required veterinary care.
This happened to a group of Pekingnese my maternal grandmother once owned. She did not understand much about veterinary care for her pet. When her Pekingnese became pregnant, she whelped the puppies with no assistance. It was fortunate that the puppies arrived in this world healthily. We adopted one and named him Spook, who lived a good many years.
Pregnancy is a potential life threat for our dogs.
We know that mothers face risks during the birth process, and it is the same with our female canines furkids. The obstacles they face can be far more than ours when it comes to giving birth, considering that they whelp an entire litter of 6 or so at once.
The risk is high for the young puppies too, so ensuring proper care for them is essential.
We are more aware.
Our female canine friend, just as we do, have a maternal instinct and know almost at once what it takes to take care of puppies after birth.
Sometimes, they need a little guidance and protection, especially with issues like cleanliness and finding proper breeding spots within their environment. Pet owners should certainly step up to help out with such matters.
Early signs of canine pregnancy
Sudden changes in appetite
It would be good for owners to monitor their pets’ appetites for sudden changes. Dogs, like humans, may show a variation in their appetites. These changes can be erratic, just as they are for women. Pet owners may find their dogs eating less, not more, though of course the reverse is entirely possible too.
Bearing the possible changes in mind, owners should certainly watch their dogs!
Changes in behavior
If a normally active pet suddenly becomes sluggish, the presence of pups might be weighing her down. She might also be slow to come when called.
Some animals might suddenly become more affectionate during this time, while others do the exact opposite and wish to be alone. Watch out for subtle, or sometimes extreme, changes in behavior.
Notice changes in the dog’s body.
The dog might start having enlarged nipples even in early pregnancy. Dogs that have given birth before may have drooping nipples.
The presence of relaxin
Relaxin is a compound the dog produces when it is pregnant. If a veterinary test affirms its presence, be prepared to welcome new furkids into the home.
Signs of canine mid-pregnancy
By the fourth week of gestation, your female would have reached the middle stage of her pregnancy. During this time, you might notice her eating more to feed the little ones growing within. If you notice your dog wolfing down her food or begging for more, she might be pregnant, especially if she is prone to roaming outdoors.
The same changes described earlier might be applicable during the middle stages of her pregnancy. If she did not show any behavioral signs earlier, she might start doing so now,displaying the same hints of increased affection or contact avoidance.
By mid-pregnancy your dog might be growing slightly more padded. Her nipples will enlarge with milk and in addition, she might produce a milky discharge.
Let a vet listen to her belly.
A vet will be able to derive the status of the puppies’ health by listening to her belly for their heartbeats. He can also feel them as he presses on the dog’s belly.
A vet discusses pregnancy
Late pregnancy signs
Changes in size
By this time, your female will look unmistakably pregnant. She will have an enlarged belly and find it hard to maneuver. Some dogs do not carry a full littler, and their bellies will not be as large.
Changes in the belly area
You will begin to feel the puppies moving around in the mother’s womb. Just as babies do, feel the puppies kicking around in her tummy.
Changes in behavior
By this time, the dog would have found a place to nest if the owner has not already provided one for her. Notice too that she will become agitated just before birth.
Stages of canine birth
Stage One : Contractions
As with women, canines also experience the contraction of the uterus. It ends when the cervix is open and the puppies are ready to come through the cervical canal and into this world.
Stage Two : Passing of the pup
No, this is not a festival for dogs, of course. The pups in the litter slowly come into the world. We should not be concerned unless it takes more than four hours, in which case she could have delivery problems like Dytocia, which I shall discuss later.
Stage Three: Passing of the placenta
Stages two and three alternate with each other, as the mother passes the placenta that wraps each pup as the pup is born.
How do we care for our dogs before and after pregnancy?
Caring for a pregnant female can be overwhelming, especially for an owner who is encountering canine pregnancy for the first time. There are little things we can do to ensure that our pets are more comfortable.
Ensure that she rests.
Let your female rest as long as she needs to, as carrying a litter of 6 scrambling pups is definitely exhausting.
Feed her enough.
Your dog’s weight will begin to increase by about 15-25%. A good quality puppy food will help her and her pups during lactation or the last few weeks of her pregnancy.
Feed her a normal diet during the early stages of pregnancy as overfeeding her would result in the growth of fat deposits and will not help her or her puppies much. Foods high in digestible protein are essential for a dog during pregnancy.
Avoid contact with other dogs.
Unfortunately, your dog has to be a little anti-social during this time, especially with male dogs. Any excitement might trigger disturbances with the puppies.
Follow up with veterinary appointments.
If you stay close enough to a vet, make sure that you follow up with the vet’s appointments to ensure that your dog is in good health during gestation.
Make sure that she does not jump.
If the female is anything like my dog Cloudy, she would be active and tend to jump around, especially onto high places or shelves. For her safety and the pups, ensure that she does not do so.
Ensure that her water is clean.
Give her filtered or boiled water. Do not give her water straight from the tap as the bacteria present is harmful.
Keep her clean.
Make sure that you clean and brush her regularly. Clean her teeth and free her of parasites. In short, ensure that she is very, very clean.
Give her a place to birth.
Your dog would want to search for a clean place where she can give birth, as is her maternal instinct. However, if you do not provide her with one, she might find it on her own.
This place should also be a safe place for the newborns to call home.
Create a heat source for the puppies. They must have adequate warmth.
Ensure that the newborns ingest their mothers mile 12 to 16 hours after birth. Their mothers’ placenta does not contain enough antibodies, so they have to suckle the mother’s milk as it would have the required amount.
The common problems of canine pregnancy
Dogs face a myriad of problems during the painful stages of birthing. Here are some and when we spot them, we should call for immediate veterinary attention.
small cervical size
uterine inertia or the inability of the uterus to contract and push the puppies out.
enlarged size of the puppies
Abnormal position of the pups (they should emerge head or rear legs first)
birth defects of puppies that cause enlarged parts of the body.
Signs of dystocia
The pregnancy has lasted more than 70 days
The dog has been in Stage 1 labor without a pup being produced
Stage I normally lasts 6 to 12 hours. The dog nests and her temperature
Strong contractions have extended over an hour without a pup born.
Prolonged resting phase continues over 4 hours with more pups to be born.
Vaginal discharge is foul.
The Mother-to-be vomits excessively or is extremely lethargic.=
Please consult a veterinarian for proper treatment of your pet.
Sedatives may be administered to calm a nervous mother.
Medication can be administered to stimulate contractions of the uterus if uterine inertia is suspected as the cause. .
After prolonged labor, the mother may have low blood sugar or low blood calcium. In this case, your veterinarian will give calcium and dextrose injections which can help strengthen uterine contractions.
If easy passage birth is not possible,your veterinarian will deliver the young dogs via Cesarean section.
Call your vet if the female experiences a huge blood flow after whelping.
A female may, because of uterine inertia or related problems, retain pups and their placenta. Signs include:
lack of appetite
- green vaginal discharge
Post whelping problems
Eclampsia (milk fever)
Low blood calcium (mothers are prone not to produce enough during birth)
Smaller breeds are more at risk.
Eclampsia is a very serious disorder but fortunately the signs are fairly easy to recognize. Affected dogs may:
Nervousness or restlessness
A stiff gait when walking
Fevers with the puppy having a body temperature of over 105 degrees fahrenheit.
Affected mothers often develop muscle tremors
The respiration rate (number of breaths per minute) increases
Seizures or death may occur without treatment
Seek veterinary attention. A vet can confirm eclampsia with a blood test.
Appropriate calcium supplementation is necessary to prevent eclampsia. Do seek a vet’s advice for proper administration.
I strongly advocate sterilizing one’s pet if you do not intend to breed your female. If the intention is to breed, ensure that homes are available for the puppies BEFORE the decision is made, or that you already have the intention to keep them. This is to reduce the unwanted number of animals in shelters.
by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
All Rights Reserved
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