What are some signs that my dog might be pregnant?

The first signs of a pregnant dog are an enlarged abdomen and weight gain. There may also be mammary development and behavioral changes. The dog might exhibit mood swings, increased appetite, lethargy, or even vomiting, similar to morning sickness in humans.

Dr. Shane Pedersen
Westside Family Pet Clinic

How soon should I bring my pet in to see a veterinarian if I suspect my dog is pregnant?

Most pregnancy tests for pets require the dog to be at least 30 days pregnant for accurate results. There are some blood tests that can detect pregnancy sooner, but these are usually expensive. It's recommended to wait until the 30 days and then do an ultrasound. At this stage, the health of the pup and the amnion can be evaluated.

What are some things that I can do at home to prepare for my dog's pregnancy?

Two key elements to prepare for a dog's pregnancy are proper feeding and creating a safe place for the mother to give birth. This could be a plastic swimming pool or professional whelping equipment.

How should I feed my dog while they are pregnant to ensure proper nutrition?

In the latter part of the pregnancy, it's recommended to feed the dog puppy food. This helps increase the protein intake and assists with milk production. That extra protein is also going to help the mother in trying to keep her weight. Typically, a lot of these young mothers will lose a lot of weight, so we do everything we can to keep up their muscle.

What is whelping?

Whelping is the process of a dog giving birth. It typically happens on day 63 of the pregnancy, but can occur five days before or after that.

What are some of the things that are needed for whelping?

Proper nutrition for the dog and a suitable place for whelping should be prepared beforehand. Whelping can be messy, so having plenty of towels or rags on hand is recommended.

What should I be doing while my dog is in labor?

Stay calm and observe if the dog seems stressed. Please remember that many times we try not to get too nervous about the time between puppies, as long as it's around an hour. Sometimes it's amazing - the female can deliver two puppies at exactly the same time. And sometimes there's a gap of an hour or two. It's always difficult to predict, but we need to remain calm and closely observe the female for signs of stress. Obviously, if it's been less than an hour but the female appears to be in distress, then it's important to contact your veterinarian. However, it could also be that it's been two hours, and your female is not in distress. In that case, I probably wouldn't be too concerned. But once again, it may be a good idea to consider calling your veterinarian to check for any potential issues.

Are there some other possible complications that I should be aware of?

Dogs can experience pseudopregnancy, where their body behaves as though it is pregnant even though it isn't. Other complications can include preeclampsia, excessively large or small puppies, or the amnion not developing appropriately. It's recommended to have prenatal development exams and x-rays around day 53 of the pregnancy to assess how many puppies there are.

How can I help my dog recover after giving birth?

The primary goal is to support them, especially if you have a young female, to ensure everything goes smoothly during the whelping process. It can be challenging for them, especially when there are many puppies to keep track of and in the right positions. Assisting them with this is typically straightforward. Additionally, after whelping, they often require a warm environment. Whelping can be quite messy, and a good bath helps them feel better. Following that, it's important to let her take care of her puppies.

Often, a mother pet will rest a lot while attending to her young. If you have young puppies that are crying excessively, there may be an issue with them, and this can make the mother very nervous. It's important to identify early on if we need to supplement these puppies a little to assist both them and the mother. These are typically the most important aspects to consider during the whelping process.

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