What are the signs of canine pregnancy and what special considerations should be made for pregnant dogs? Here are a few things to consider when caring for your pregnant dog.
The early signs of pregnancy in a dog are vague and non-specific, and include a change in normal behavior, a loss in appetite, weight gain, possibly some vomiting, and perhaps a noticeable increase in the size of her nipples. Your dog may also become more clingy and affectionate. These changes take place during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
If you want to know for sure, you’ll need to visit your veterinarian. A pregnancy test can be performed as early as twenty-six days after a dog (female dog) has been bred. Your vet will perform a simple blood test to look for a hormone called relaxin, which remains in the bloodstream of pregnant dogs throughout pregnancy and up to two weeks after whelping.
Your vet can often feel puppies in your dog’s abdomen after five weeks, and an ultrasound can determine whether your dog is pregnant after only three weeks. After seven weeks, the doctor will be able to see how many puppies are there and check their size, to make sure you’re both prepared for any potential delivery complications.
A dog’s pregnancy lasts between sixty-three and sixty-five days. During this time, she may prefer smaller, more frequent meals, since the puppies will be taking up space in her abdomen and there’s less room for her stomach. A balanced diet is important for pregnant dogs, and calcium supplements should be avoided to eliminate the risk of eclampsia while she’s feeding her babies. If you supplement calcium during pregnancy, you switch off her body’s natural calcium regulation system. So, when she needs extra calcium to produce milk, her body can’t meet the demand straight away. This results in trembling and seizures, and can be fatal.
The size of the litter and the size of your dog will determine how firm or distended her abdomen looks and feels. As the weeks go by, she will gain weight and her abdomen can become quite pendulous. You can often feel the puppies moving during the last couple of weeks of her pregnancy. Her nipples may leak a little milk as she gets closer to her delivery date.
Exercise is important during pregnancy, but it should be gentle and not too strenuous, similar to that for human mothers approaching the final stages of their pregnancy. If any bleeding or vaginal discharge develops, or if your dog stops eating or becomes very lethargic, it may be time to call a veterinarian for advice.
In the final days before delivery, your dog will become restless and begin her nesting behavior. That’s an indication that it’s time to provide her with a proper whelping box for the birthing process. Towards the end of her pregnancy, your dog’s temperature will drop from a normal 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit to between 97 and 99 degrees. This is a sure sign that she will deliver her pups within 24 hours.