Canine Pregnancy Guide
By: Rebecca Prescott
In many ways canine pregnancy is not that different from human pregnancy, although it is somewhat shorter, averaging sixty-three days. A dog’s diet, as well as their consumption of medicine needs to be monitored during pregnancy, just like a woman’s should be, and you may notice changes in your dog’s emotions and social behavior. She can even experience morning sickness!
Most dogs will gain 15-25% of their original body weight during pregnancy, although this does depend on the number of puppies they are carrying and some do not put on noticeable weight until the last week before whelping.
Nutritional intake needs to increase during canine pregnancy and lactation; your dog may even double the amount she eats. During lactation she will need a high protein puppy food, and you may want to gradually introduce this during the last two weeks of her pregnancy, or even earlier. If you are concerned about providing the right pregnancy diet to meet your particular dog’s needs you should consult your veterinarian.
You should try to avoid nutritional supplements during canine pregnancy, even though these may seem like a good idea. Your dog will naturally produce everything her puppies need to thrive during lactation, and supplements may interfere with this process. This is particularly applicable to calcium supplements. If you use a good quality, high protein dog food, supplements will not be necessary.
A lot of canine medication is safe to use during pregnancy. If you give your dog regular preventative medication for heartworm you should continue this throughout pregnancy and lactation. Some medicines to get rid of other types of parasite, such as hookworms or roundworms, can be used but you should consult your veterinarian before administering these. It is important that your dog does get treatment for these conditions as otherwise she can pass them on to her unborn puppies.
Vaccinations should not be given during canine pregnancy. However, if possible, it is a great idea to have your dog vaccinated just before becoming pregnant as this will ensure she has a high level of antibodies to pass onto her puppies during lactation.
About halfway through her pregnancy you should take your dog to the veterinarian for a wellness check and to confirm the pregnancy. The veterinarian will be able to do this by examining the stomach, but a blood test can be done to provide a conclusive result.
You may want to have a radiograph done three weeks prior to the deliver to count the puppies. Knowing how many puppies to expect will help you to prepare for the delivery. Remember that your dog can become pregnant by more than one male during any one heat stage so you may be surprised at the number of puppies she is going to produce.
During the last three weeks of your dog’s pregnancy you may want to isolate her completely from contact with other dogs. This will ensure she does not pick up the herpes virus. While this is usually harmless in adult dogs, it can trigger a miscarriage in your pregnant dog.
You may find she wants to stay close to you during this time anyway. She may dislike being left alone and will probably become more affectionate, if a little irritable. As the delivery date approaches she will start to look for a safe place to give birth, and you should give some thought to where this will be.
As with human pregnancy, it is important to remember that canine pregnancy is a natural process, and your dog has been blessed with the natural ability to carry it through. With a little extra attention to nutrition, and some protection from common diseases, this should be a stress free time for you and your dog.