How to Take Care of Pregnant Dogs?

Like humans, dogs experience similar changes in hormones, weight, appetite, and behavior. As a pet owner, you must provide optimum pre-natal and post-natal care to your dogs.
Closely follow the signs of pregnancy in dogs. Many signs do not show up until the first month has nearly passed. Once you start noticing the changes, you can begin providing additional care as per your veterinarian's recommendations.

Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs
Dogs are typically pregnant for 62 days, plus or minus 2 days. The pregnancy is divided into three trimesters, and a healthy, well-fed dog will gain about 15-20% beyond her weight at breeding. The abdomen usually swells 20-50%.

The first sign of pregnancy in dogs includes vaginal discharge approximately one month into the pregnancy. Her teats may also start swelling

Many dogs can be discrete about their mating; hence you must not realize you have a pregnant dog. You can take your dog for an ultrasound to confirm otherwise.

The behavior of Pregnant Dogs

  • Some pregnant dogs may seek the comfort of the pet owner more often. Others prefer to be left alone and seclude themselves.
  • Nesting behaviors include shredding bedding and other materials around your home.
  • Pregnant dogs may become less active and lethargic and may not want to eat regular foods. Morning sickness is usual in many dogs.
  • The dog may scratch at the floor and some dogs may begin to hoard food and other items.
  • During pregnancy, your dog may become unusually irritable to noise and strangers.

Regular short walks and light playtime are all good exercises for pregnant dogs.

How to Best Care for Pregnant Dogs?

Caring for a pregnant dog starts from the time when she's pregnant until the post-pregnancy stage. You would need to look into her nutrition, exercise, and health and provide utmost care whenever needed.

Nutrition

Nutrition is the first and foremost priority of every pregnant dog. Good nutrition is essential to maintain the ideal weight of a pregnant dog. Both over and underweight dogs can suffer from reproductive consequences.

  • Along with maintaining an ideal weight, you should ensure to provide more macronutrients, protein, and calories per pound of food. Most pregnant dogs don’t need additional vitamins or supplements as long as she’s getting the proper diet.
  • The food should have 1600 kcal digestible energy per pound of food and at least 22% protein. Ensure to provide 3-4 smaller meals a day as her puppies can press on her stomach and make it hard for her to eat a big meal! Don’t forget to provide a fresh bowl of water every now and then.
  • Many vets recommend feeding a pregnant dog food that has been formulated for growth according to AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) requirements.
  • The highest energy requirement for the mother occurs between weeks 6 and 8 of gestation. Her energy requirement maybe 30-60% higher than normal adult maintenance rations, depending upon the size of the litter.
  • Do not feed a puppy food designed for large breed puppies as this will not have the correct calcium phosphorous balance to support the developing bones of the fetuses or healthy milk production in the mother. Folic acid and essential fatty acid supplementation may be beneficial to support developing fetuses.
  • If your pregnant dog seems to be losing weight, you can try moistening the food or switching to a more nutritionally dense food to ensure optimum nutritional feeding.
  • Lactation
  • The nutritional need for a mother dog may steadily increase over the next 20 to 30 days as the puppies grow and nurse more. 
  • After the first month, the mother may be eating two to four times the amount of food she ate before pregnancy. 
  • In the third or fourth week, the puppies will probably start nibbling at her dish, which is a good way to introduce them to solid food.

Veterinary Care

Starting from diagnosing pregnancy in dogs to constant care leading up to the delivery, you would need to take your dog to the vet couple of times during her pregnancy.

  • Around 45 days into the pregnancy, you can take her to the vet for x-rays to determine the number and size of the pups.
  • Dogs do not need to be vaccinated during pregnancy.
  • If you notice any signs of illness, immediately take your dog to the vet.
  • Few days leading up to the delivery can be difficult as pregnant dogs often stop eating. Consult with your vet in such a case.
  • Pregnant dogs must be administered wormer called "Fenbaendazole" every day from day 40 of pregnancy until 2 days after the puppies are born. This will prevent passing worms from mother dogs to pups.

Whelping

Whelping is known as giving birth. You should prepare an environment for the pregnant dog to nest and deliver pups. Unless you take them to the daycare, you would need to prepare whelping at home,
Whelping boxes are safer, warmer, and comfortable options for pregnant dogs. You must introduce your dog to the whelping box and get her accustomed to it.

Whelping Supply Checklist

  • Newspaper to line the whelping box during delivery for an easy cleanup
  • Non-skid bath mats for bedding after whelping is done
  • Dry, clean towels to clean the puppies
  • Paper towels to help with clean up
  • Thermometer to check your dog’s temperature before whelping
  • Unwaxed dental floss to tie off the umbilical cords
  • Clean scissors to cut the umbilical cords
  • A heating pad or hot water bottle to keep the puppies warm (be careful of it not being too hot)
  • Iodine to clean the puppies’ abdomens after the cord is cut and dab on the end of the cut umbilical cord
  • A baby scale in ounces

Puppy Care/Weaning

The puppy care starts with worming when they are 2 weeks old. Record their weights with kitchen scales and let us know their weight so we can calculate how much wormer each puppy needs.

Puppies are ready for weaning between 6 and 8 weeks old.

On day one of weaning, withhold mother’s food, allowing the puppies to eat their food while they are away from their mother. They can all be together that night, and the pups will suckle a bit

On day two of weaning, the pups are separated from their mother and she is fed about 25% of her pre-breeding portion and formulation.

Over the next 4 or 5 days, increase to her full pre-breeding portions. The puppies should not be allowed access to nurse during this time as that delays drying up milk production.

For more detail on how to take care of pregnant dogs check this info graphics in brief. 

Pregnancy can be a stressful time for both dogs and pet owners. By learning about dog pregnancy ahead of time, you can better prepare yourself to take care of your dog.
Urban pet Hospital & Resort is the best pet hospital in Des Moines. Get in touch with your certified veterinarian to learn more about handling and taking care of pregnant dogs, preventive measures, and nutritional needs.

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