Caring For Your Pregnant Dog

If you are caring for a pregnant dog, discuss with your vet about a high-quality and well-balanced diet to meet the increased energy needs for milk production and growth of puppies. As the pregnancy advances, the mother dog requires more food but will not be able to eat as much in one go as the growing pups take up more space in her abdomen. Offer her smaller and more frequent meals. Supplements or medications should only be given to pregnant dogs as prescribed by your vet.

The whelping date can be estimated by calculating 63 days from date of mating (if it is known). Speak with your vet about suitable dewormers to prevent intestinal parasites from being passed on to the puppies.

Normal gestation period

  • Approximately 63 days with each trimester lasting about 21 days.
  • Most dogs show no signs of pregnancy in the first trimester.
  • Continue the daily walks but avoid strenuous exercises.
  • Avoid overfeeding as an obese pregnant dog will have birthing difficulties.
  • Weight gain becomes noticeable.
  • An ultrasound can be done to confirm pregnancy by detecting fetal movement and heart beat.
  • Abdominal palpation can also be done by an experienced vet and if the mother dog is cooperative.

around day 40

  • The mother dog’s abdomen, mammary glands (breasts) and teats (nipples) are visibly larger.
  • There may be some milky discharge from the nipples.
around day 45
  • X-rays can be taken to estimate the litter size so you know if all puppies are successfully delivered during birth.
  • During the last 2 weeks of pregnancy, you can see and feel the puppies moving inside their mother’s belly.

Pregnant dogs like Angel (rescued stray) will deliver their pups about 63 days after mating. From day 45, X-rays can estimate the litter size when the pups’  skulls & spines are sufficiently mineralised.

One week before estimated whelping date
  • Take rectal temperature twice daily. A drop in temperature by 1 degree Celsius indicates that labour may follow in the next 24 hours.
  • Your dog’s behaviour may change prior to labour => e.g. more restless, lose appetite, licking vulva
  • Nesting behaviour => e.g. looking for secure spot, digging up bedding materials
normal delivery
  • Abdominal muscular contractions commence and the mother dog will strain and make heaving motions.
  • The mother dog will usually chew through the umbilical cord and lick the pup to remove fetal membranes to initiate breathing.
  • If the mother dog fails to do so, gently remove the membranes and wipe the pup’s mouth and nostril to clear the airway. Gently rub the pup with a towel until it starts to whimper and breathe normally.
  • The delivery time between each pup is about 10 to 30 minutes.

A post whelping check is recommended 24 to 48 hours after birth so that your vet can thoroughly assess the condition of mother & newborn pups. Your vet can also make sure no placentas or dead puppies are retained which can cause metritis, an infection of the uterus.

difficult birth and emergency delivery
  • Gestation lasts more than 64 days with no signs of labour.
  • Foul-smelling, dark green discharge from vagina.
  • No pups delivered after 60 minutes of active contractions.
  • Delivery time between each pup exceeds 30 to 60 minutes.
  • A pup becomes stuck halfway during birth.

If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary attention immediately. Emergency caesarean section may be required to ensure the mother and pups survive. Our Mount Pleasant After Hours Emergency Clinic is situated at 232 Whitley Road S297824. Tel 6250 8333. 

after birth complications

Mother dogs who develop after birth problems such as mastitis and milk fever require immediate vet attention. Their puppies have to be hand-reared while they rest and recover.

  • Mastitis: The mammary glands can be infected from a blocked milk duct, scratch or cut and become hot, hard and painful. Milk secretion may be thicker and tinged with blood. Do not allow puppies to nurse from an infected gland. The mother dog requires immediate medical attention to prevent serious bacterial infection in her blood stream.
  • Eclampsia or “Milk Fever”: This is a life-threatening disease caused by low blood calcium levels (hypocalcaemia) in the mother dog’s body. She may appear anxious and restless with muscle tremors, convulsions and seizures.  It is more common in small dogs with large litters.

Didn’t plan for the pregnancy?

  • Accidents do happen. If your unsterilised dogs mate and your family is not prepared to care for puppies, speak with your vet about terminating the pregnancy safely.
  • Please consider sterilising your pets to prevent unwanted litters in future.
  • Sterilisation also prevents serious health conditions such as pyometra (infected uterus) and reduces the risk of mammary cancers in female dogs and prostate diseases in male dogs.

If you are thinking of letting your family witness the miracle of birth before sterilising your dogs or cats, do reconsider. Thousands of street & shelter animals are waiting for homes. Speak with our vets about sterilisation.