How to Take Care of A Pregnant Dog: Valuable Information for any Dog Owner

how to take care of a pregnant dog
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Learning how to take of a pregnant dog can take some time and experience in order to perfect it but a bit of guidance and knowledge on how it should be done will surely be of great help.  Just like in people, pregnancy in your pets can be either simple or complex depending on the circumstances that they are in. There are several factors which can affect the outcome of their pregnancy and that include their genetics, health and nutrition, as well as their environment. In the end, understanding pregnancy and its factors will help you achieve a successful pregnancy for your pet.

Breeding a dog should not be taken lightly. Your pet’s puppies will also be a part of your responsibility as an owner and you should have the dedication and patience to take care of them during their first few weeks or even during their lifetime if no one wants to adopt them.

Pregnancy in dogs

You must think about these possibilities before allowing your dog to mate and get pregnant. If you cannot commit to the responsibilities that will entail the birth of the puppies, then you may as well prevent that pregnancy at the outset. There are already a lot of stray dogs which are being put down on kennels because there are not enough resources to go around.

How to know if your dog is pregnant

This may seem to be a funny question but there are a lot of cases when a dog did appear to be pregnant but it turned out to be a false one. Your dog may develop all the tell-tale signs of pregnancy such as a bigger belly, swollen nipples, lethargy, and even morning sickness but turn out to be a false pregnancy.

Pregnant dog

There are certain instances when this could happen such as a hormonal imbalance which tricks the dog’s body into thinking that there are developing fetuses in her body when there is not, and infections or inflammations of the uterus where the uterus can expand giving the look of a pregnant dog.

Dog pregnant with puppies

It is quite difficult to tell whether your dog is actually pregnant since tests can only be carried out about a month after the breeding. The dog will secrete a hormone called relaxin which becomes quite abundant when the egg is fertilized. Your vet will then test for the presence of this hormone in your pet and if it is confirmed, then you have a positive pregnancy. Your vet can also palpate or feel the abdomen of your pet to see if there are bumps which indicate the presence of the fetuses inside the uterus.

This method is reliable within the first 30 days of pregnancy since fluids begin to fill the amniotic sac right after that and which will make it difficult for palpation to locate the fetuses.

What to do if your dog is pregnant

When you have established that your dog is indeed pregnant then it is time to think about how you can take care of them. At this point, your dog is beginning to give life to several puppies which will be born in a very short term of about two months or 57 to 68 days from the date of breeding.

Dog pregnancy timeline

Due to the short developmental period for the puppies, it is important to make sure that you don’t commit mistakes during this time that could affect their health. Here are some steps on how you can protect the health of your dog as well as her puppies during pregnancy:

  • Prepare the place where they would be giving birth. This may seem to be quite an early and advance step but the fact is that the earlier that you train your dog on where she should give birth, the lesser stress would it give to her. Birthing dogs prefer areas that are quiet and dark so you should find a place that fits this description early on. Make sure that it is an area where there is little to no traffic either during the day or at night to prevent future problems when your dog actually begins to give birth.
    You don’t have to put a whelping box yet as there is still a long time before she actually gives birth and it could get dirty or destroyed if you place it there at this time. The more that they become used to this place, the easier would it be for them to give birth in it.
  • Provide them with a healthy and nutritious diet. It is important to give your dog a healthy diet even before they breed since the puppies’ development will depend on the nutrients that have been stored in the mother’s body long before the pregnancy. But, this does not mean that you should feed them the same amount of food all throughout the pre-natal period. Your pet’s body will undergo changes that will require changing the amount of nutrients that they need as well.
    During the first half of their pregnancy or from day 1 to 30, it is not that important to significantly increase their nutritional supply. This is due to the fact that the puppies will grow no more than 30% of their full size during this period. Adding more food than what the developing fetus needs at this point will lead to weight gain on the part of the mother and this can present a problem either during the whelping or even on the development of the puppies.
    Supplementation will only be recommended if your dog is underweight but if she is otherwise healthy, adding more vitamins and minerals can actually disturb their hormonal balance. Adding a lot of calcium or vitamin D for example, can affect the hormones that naturally release calcium in their body which can lead to eclampsia when they begin to nurse their puppies.
    Calcium can only be an important part of their diet during the last days of the pregnancy in order to relieve birth pains and help them contract the uterus. In terms of their caloric intake, you can begin to double the size of their meal portions after the 30th day of their pregnancy. This is the time when the puppies will be forming rapidly and this will give a higher demand for nutrients.Most vets recommend premium dog food or puppy food as these meet the caloric and nutritional requirements of pregnant dogs.
    But make sure to give the meals in smaller portions but more frequently as the dog’s stomach will not be able to accommodate a large meal due to the growing size of the puppies. Recommended portions of food should be at least 29 to 30% protein, 15 to 17% of fat, and the rest are carbohydrates. Make sure that their foods are easy to digest so as not to tax their body of energy for digestion. Water should also be available at all times since your dog will have an increased need for hydration during this period.
  • Provide enough exercise. The mother’s muscle tone is an important aspect of pregnancy as well as the birthing process. Your dog needs strong and supple muscles to help carry the weight of the developing pups as well as to give birth to them when the time comes. The uterine muscles should be strong enough to expand and contract that it can successfully expel the fetuses one by one.
    Remember that your dog will have at least two puppies to give birth to and this will require a lot of strength and energy for the mother. To maintain their muscle tone, you must give them sufficient exercises such as walking and a bit of playing catch during the first 30 days of pregnancy.
    You can walk your dog for about 30 minutes each day and you can also engage in light game activities such as playing catch or fetch. Heavier activities such as working, agility exercises, and the like should be avoided as this can exhaust the dog and divert nutrients intended for the fetuses into the mother’s energy requirements. After the first 30 days, walking is the only activity that will be allowed for your pet since your dog will have a heavier belly by this time and it would be risky for them to jump or run fast.
  • Minimize stressors in their immediate environment. Your dog will be very sensitive during this period and they can either withdraw or seek a lot of attention during their pregnancy. Although it could be good to have a lot of people paying attention to your pet, it could also mean stress to them. As much as possible remove all sources of possible stress from your pet’s immediate environment such as noise, dirty surroundings, toxic materials, rearranging of furniture, a lot of guests coming in and out of the house, or a change of residence. This will put your dog in a lot of stress and it can cause them to miscarry.
    During the last 4 weeks of your pet’s pregnancy, it would be best to separate them from the other dogs if you have any. This is to prevent any occurrence of rough play or fights where the pregnant dog’s belly can be bumped or hit with such force that it can kill the puppy inside. Dietary changes can also be a source of stress for your dog during pregnancy. Avoid giving them a new diet to help “provide” for their increased dietary needs. Feed them their usual food but about 10 to 25% more during the first 30 days and then double the servings after that period.
  • Ask for your vet’s recommendation with regards to medications. During pregnancy almost all types of medication are not recommended but if your pet really needs them, then you should ask your vet for their recommended treatments. They can prescribe de-wormers and anti-flea and tick treatments which are known to be safe for pregnant dogs. Vaccination, however, should be avoided as it can affect the fetuses.
    There had been some cases where puppies were born blind or deformed due to vaccination during pregnancy. The serum of these vaccines can definitely have a negative effect on the puppies since their immune system are not yet fully developed. If possible, it would be better to have your pet vaccinated before they are bred. The increased amount of antibodies after the administration of the vaccine will help ensure that her puppies will have a strong immune system as well.
  • Be there for your dog when they give birth. Although there are dogs that do not like having people around when they are giving birth, it is still important that you watch over them during this process. This time will be a very difficult period for your pet especially if it is their first time to give birth. Be there to comfort and assure them when the contractions begin to help relieve them of the pain.
    Massage and pet them just to provide a bit of comfort during the whole process. Your presence is also important since anything can go wrong during the birthing. Your dog may get too tired to push or stimulate their puppies when they are born.
    Touching and stimulating the puppies are important in order to “wake” up their biological systems especially those required for breathing. The amniotic sac may also remain stuck in their face if the mother is not able to lick them away and they can get suffocated. You can also help the mother by giving a gentle tug on the puppies if they are spending a lot of time in the birth canal and has not been able to come out completely even if the mother was pushing.
    If you see your dog in an extreme amount of pain, is not bringing out another puppy after the first one, is not responsive to her pups or when there is a clear indication that there is a problem with her puppies then you should bring her immediately to the veterinarian.
  • Have your pet checked up by your vet at least three times during the whole pregnancy period. In order to make sure that your pet is carrying on just fine with their pregnancy, it is important to have them undergo some check-ups during the beginning, middle, and last phase of their pregnancy. This is to make sure that any developmental problems are detected during these crucial phases and further problems avoided.
    Your pet’s first check will be about 21 to 30 days after breeding. This is to determine whether your dog is really pregnant or not. The second one will be at about 35 to 45 days into her pregnancy and this is to get an ultrasound of her puppies. At this stage, you can determine how many puppies will be in the litter. Although others will recommend an X-ray, this may actually harm the puppies due to the radiation.
    The last check up will be a few days before the birthing which can vary from the 57th day to the 67th day from breeding. This is to make sure that everything is fine for the birthing and that there are no complications whatsoever that can affect it. At this time, your vet may recommend some calcium supplements for your pet to help aid uterine contractions.

Your dog will be capable of getting pregnant once she turns 6 months old and above and they will have a fertile cycle which occurs every year. It is not recommended to have your dogs bred during the first two cycles as their bodies are still developing during this period and any pregnancy can greatly affect both their health and their puppies as well. It is therefore important to avoid any unwanted pregnancies by keeping your dog on a leash and out of reach of other male dogs during their first two cycles.

Also, breeding a small female dog with a large male dog can also present problems during birthing so make sure that you either can afford a caesarean operation on your dog or that you look well after them to avoid any unwanted encounter with a larger breed. Pregnancies come with corresponding responsibilities especially when the puppies are born. Make sure that you can give them the time and care that your dog and her puppies would need once they are born.

Puppies with mother

There are a lot of things to consider when preparing for your dog’s whelping and during the whole period of their pregnancy they should be given all possible care to help strengthen their bodies for the process.

This includes giving them a good place where they can give birth, providing them with a nutritious diet, removing stressors from their immediate environment, giving them sufficient exercise, and having them checked by your vet. In all things that are related to your pet’s pregnancy, it is still a vet’s advice that will be of the highest value so make sure that you are in constant contact with their vet.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.