Caring for a pregnant dog is a big responsibility. Not only are you caring for your pregnant bitch but you’re also caring for the puppies that haven’t been born yet. There are some things you can do to help your bitch have a healthy, happy litter.
Have your bitch checked by your vet before you breed her. Make sure that she’s in good physical health and up-to-date on her vaccinations. Your bitch’s health and physical condition determine how her pregnancy progress. If she’s healthy then her puppies will get a good start in life. Plus, she can pass on her own disease immunity to many disease to her pups.
In case you’re wondering, it is all right to continue to give your bitch her heartworm preventive during pregnancy. Some flea preventives also claim to be safe to give to pregnant bitches. Please read the labels to see what your particular brand states. If you have any questions you should call the manufacturer and ask.
Feed your bitch a balanced and nutritious diet. Your bitch should be eating a good diet before you breed her. Continue to feed her the same good food for the first seven to eight weeks of her pregnancy. Don’t overfeed her. Overweight bitches can have problems with their deliveries. The last week or two of her pregnancy you can begin to switch your bitch over to a food for puppies so she gets some additional calories. This is when she needs to have extra food. Continue to feed her more food while she nurses. The puppies will be making enormous demands on her body.
Make sure that your bitch gets some exercise while she’s pregnant. Flabby bitches have problem deliveries. Bitches with good muscle tone have an easier time with whelping. If you simply take your bitch for a walk everyday she will be in better shape to deliver her puppies.
Avoid over-supplementing your bitch during pregnancy. Giving your bitch too many vitamins and minerals can cause birth defects and result in problems during delivery and problems with the pupies. Do not give vitamins and minerals without discussing it with your veterinarian.
Do not give your bitch extra calcium during pregnancy. Too much calcium in your bitch’s diet can result in eclampsia, which is a breeder’s nightmare. Leave the calcium alone and ignore advice from other breeders who tell you to give your bitch cottage cheese and other things with calcium in them.
Spend time with your bitch petting her and making her feel good. Many bitches become more affectionate during pregnancy so do what she wants to do and give her lots of loving.
As your bitch’s due date approaches you’ll need to be very attentive to her. Watch for the signs that labor is near: restlessness, panting, her temperature drops below 99 and stays there, a glassy-eyed look, contractions along her flank that you may be able to see.
When your bitch begins to have the puppies you have to find a way to be both supportive and to stay out of the way. Watch closely but allow your bitch to do everything, unless she needs help. Be ready to take the puppies as they are born so you can cut the cords and dab the puppy’s umbilical cord with iodine. Then give the puppy back to his mother right away. It is best for you to cut the cord so the mother doesn’t have to tear the cord with her teeth. Some bitches can tear too hard and give the puppy an umbilical hernia. At other times the bitch may be so concerned with getting the puppy’s sac opened that she goes ahead and cuts the cord herself. That’s fine.
Although you may think that the puppy should nurse immediately, your bitch will probably be too concerned about the next puppy she has to deliver to nurse. She may keep the puppy warm but the whelping area may be wet. Be prepared with a shoebox or other small box with blankets and a heating pad so you can keep the puppy warm while your bitch has the next puppy. The puppies may not have a chance to really nurse well until all of them have been born.
Once all of the puppies are born you can put them with their mother and allow them to nurse fully. Your bitch will probably be exhausted. This is a good time to offer her some chicken broth or a bowl of vanilla ice cream. At this point the sugar and calcium in the ice cream will do her good.
It may be several more nights before you get any sleep. Many breeders are afraid to sleep when they have a young litter because bitches can accidentally lie on a puppy and smother one. Something can always go wrong.
You should be feeding your bitch plenty of food at this point. She should be eating puppy food or a diet for a lactating bitch so she’ll have enough nutrition to feed her puppies. They’ll be making more and more demands on her body for the next month until they’re weaned.
At this point you’re no longer caring for a pregnant dog. You’re caring for a nursing mother.
Caring for a pregnant dog carries with it a lot of responsibilities. You need to consider everything in your dog’s environment from her nutrition to her exercise to her veterinary needs. And her needs will be changing from week to week as the puppies grow and develop inside her.
Needless to say, while you’re caring for your pregnant dog you should try to keep the stress in her life to a minimum. The more pleasant you can make things for her, the better. Wolves may not have the option of sleeping on a bed or being groomed or getting special treats but when it comes to your pregnant bitch you should do everything you can to keep her happy. Happy bitches give you happy puppies.