Whilst is very important to take care with your pet during pregnancy, preparation for delivery is also crucial.
The day has arrived! Your dog is finally ready to give birth. Don’t know what to do? From gestation to delivery, learn all you need to make sure everything goes well.
The pregnancy in a dog lasts on average 63 days, but varies depending on the breed and the number of foetuses. If you have doubts about whether your dog is really pregnant, there are some signs that you should consider. As a rule, there is an increase in the volume of the belly and the breasts and the animal tends to becomes more docile and calmer, spending more time sleeping and resting. In addition, there is a gradual increase in appetite due to the higher demand of energy and nutrients necessary for the development of the embryos. From the second half of gestation, the dog starts showing a clear and viscous discharge.
Once you suspect your dog is pregnant, you should take her to the vet to confirm the diagnosis and to make sure that everything is going well with the pregnancy. It is also important to keep an eye on the female throughout all this period and if she experiences any signs of sickness, vaginal bleeding or discharge, don’t wait to take her to the vet for advice.
Food is particularly essential during this period. Pregnant dogs need more calories and nutrients so it is important to make sure they ingest increasing amounts of protein as well as supplement in calcium, minerals and vitamins that are crucial for the embryo development. The veterinarian can recommend a good commercial food containing supplements specific for pregnant females. Also be aware that the total amount of food should increase gradually during pregnancy to the point that by the end of this period, the dog should be eating approximately 30 percent more food each day. It is also very important to have fresh and clean water always available. Finally, make sure the pregnant dog continues exercising, but avoiding strenuous or stressful activities particularly during the second half of the pregnancy.
The birth day approaches…
Before giving birth, it is very important that the future mother becomes familiar with the place where delivery will occur. You should prepare a wood or cardboard box with sufficient space for the female to be comfortable, allowing her to lie down and to stretch her legs. You can cover it with newspapers, which must be changed every day. It is also important to keep the box in a warm and quiet place so that the animal can feel comfortable. When the delivery time approaches, the female will show some restlessness, loss of appetite, thirst, frequent urination, fast breathing, pain symptoms and she will be looking at hot and dark places. Usually, delivery is a natural event, and the animal should be able to perform it on its own.
The time has come!!
The birth begins with the first abdominal contractions and finishes with the birth of the puppies and placenta expulsion. It should be up to the dog to choose the right place to give birth, and if she refuses to do it in the box, do not contradict her. Moreover, some females demand full attention from the owner during delivery, while others prefer to be on their own. In the later case, make sure you are attentive and keep an eye on her without her noticing.
They were born…
Once puppies are out, generally the mother breaks the umbilical cords with her teeth. If this does not happen, you can cut the umbilical cord with disinfected scissors at a distance of two to three centimetres from the puppie’s belly. Also make a ligature with a thick wire about one centimetre of the belly. Finally, disinfect the animals navel. It is natural for the mother to lick the puppies after birth to make sure they are clean and to stimulate their breathing. If this does not happen, rub the animals with a soft towel. If the puppies still not breathe or cry, hold them upside down so they can release the mucus from the throat and nostrils allowing them to start breathing.
The best food for the puppies
As soon as the pups are born, they should start sucking the first milk from the mother. The milk produced immediately after delivery is called colostrum and is very rich in a type of proteins called antibodies, that helps protecting the new-borns against diseases. If the puppies are having trouble getting to the mother breasts you can help them to reach them. Similarly, if the puppy is having difficulty breastfeeding you can use a bottle of milk powder. Cow’s milk is not recommended since it has ccomponents that are not digested by dogs, leading to diarrhoea. It is also important to take in consideration that during breastfeeding, the mother is spending a lot more energy so the amount of food intake should be increased.
One step independence
After delivery, the mother will want to remain in the box, going out only to eat, drink water, defecate and urinate. Little by little, she will spend less time with the puppies. Intensive contact with the offspring finishes with weaning which occurs approximately 30 days after delivery and coincides with the growth of the teeth. At this point, the puppies can start eating their own commercial foods.
6 alerts to take into account:
• During and after birth, avoid the contact of the female with males, as sometimes males can kill the puppies due to jealousy.
• Make sure you take the mother and puppies to the vet 24 hours after delivery to certify that everything is normal.
• If needed, the tails should be cut around the third day after delivery.
• Wait at least 50 days after delivery to separate the puppies from the mother and between each other because only at this point they learn to relate to other animals.
• Do not get surprised if the puppies are born with their hind legs first.
• It is normal for the mothers to eat dead dogs and placentas.
Out of Curiosity
Pregnancy durations vary widely within the animal kingdom. Here are some examples:
By Ricardo Ribas
Veterinary, Doctorate in veterinary sciences and Researcher in the field of oncology