It’s all fairly straightforward stuff, but it's crucial in keeping both mum and her pups healthy. Here’s what you need to know about caring for a pregnant dog:
I think my dog is pregnant. Does she still need to see a vet?
In a word, yes. You may have a strong suspicion that your dog is pregnant. You may have even noticed a change in her appetite, weight gain, or a darkening or swelling of the nipples. Still, there's no substitute for an expert opinion.
A vet can not only confirm the pregnancy; they can give you an expected due date, an estimation of the litter size, and advice on what, and how much, you should be feeding your dog.
Your vet can also check if the dog is having a false pregnancy. This is when a dog experiences the symptoms of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. False pregnancies are quite rare, but it's something that still needs to be ruled out.
They can also provide you with some emergency contact details. There's always the possibility of complications before and during a birth so having these at hand could make all the difference.
How to care for a pregnant dog
The right nutrition is really important during any pregnancy. It will keep mums strength up, as well as providing the puppies with everything they need to develop properly. If you haven't already, switch to a high-quality organic dog and supplement the diet with multivitamins. Speak to your vet about which ones work best for your dog, although many experts recommend fatty acids and fish oils.
As mum and the puppies get bigger, they’ll start to need more and more food. Again, a vet will advise you on the right amounts, but the American Kennel Club suggests gradually increase your dog's food portions until she's consuming between 35-50% more calories than normal (you should be aiming to hit this during the 5th week of pregnancy.)
Just before giving birth, many dogs will stop eating altogether. This usually happens within the last 24-48 hours of the pregnancy. If your dog is at the last stage of her pregnancy and suddenly stops eating, then don't worry. It's perfectly normal. Just make sure she stays hydrated.
Regular visits to the vet
Regular check-ups will help keep your dog healthy throughout her pregnancy. The vet can monitor the puppies progress, and keep a close eye on mum too. They'll be able to spot any potential problems and advise on what will happen during the next stages of the pregnancy. After week six or seven they can also perform an ultrasound - this will show you how many puppies are on the way!
A pregnant dog still needs her exercise, but try not to tire her out, especially in the last few weeks. Dogs will naturally become a bit more reserved during the last stages of pregnancy so make sure she gets lots of peace and quiet during this time.. Worming From day 40, introduce some worming medication. This will stop both mum and her puppies getting worms, and it should be administered during and after the pregnancy. Fenbendazole is a good choice for pregnant bitches, but always read the instructions before using it.
Pregnant dog care: setting up a whelping box
Dogs need a warm, comfortable place to deliver their puppies so you'll need to set up a whelping box or bed. If you don’t, the dog will have to find her own spot, like the bottom of your wardrobe!
Set up the whelping box in a quiet part of the house, and start getting your dog accustomed to it. Ideally, you want her sleeping in the whelping box long before she gives birth. Line it with newspapers, then cover with warms blankets and towels.
If your dog hasn't given birth before, talk to a vet about what you need to do during labour. Generally, dogs do most of the work themselves, but you'll need to be on hand to make sure everything goes smoothly.
And remember that this an exciting time. It may seem a bit stressful, and its only natural to worry, but don't forget to make the most of this experience. This is a really big moment for you and your dog so try to enjoy it. After all, there’s a litter of puppies on the way!