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The Emotional Journey: Supporting Your Dog Through Pregnancy and Beyond

Dog pregnancies can be both fulfilling and demanding, requiring careful attention and care. Similar to humans, pregnant dogs undergo hormonal, weight, appetite, and behavioral changes. This means that they also need veterinary care before, during, and after, just like pregnant women need doctor checkups. 

This guide will teach you how to tell if your canine buddy is pregnant, how to care for them, what to expect during the birthing or whelping process, how to prepare a whelping place, and when to call for help.


Signs of Dog Pregnancy

One might not observe any behavioral changes in their furry friend over the first several weeks. Your dog may be putting on weight and developing more noticeable mammary glands. Many dogs will start showing signs of nesting behavior toward the end of their pregnancy, such as dragging blankets to a safe location and moving pillows. According to the American Kennel Club, the following are signs of dog pregnancy.

  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Enlargement of the nipples
  • Swollen belly
  • Irritability
  • Less energetic
  • More loving

Unlike human beings, dogs do not have a pregnancy test kit that can be bought from the drugstore. Hence, relying on alternative approaches can help confirm whether a dog is pregnant. Diagnostic testing is the most accurate approach to determine whether a dog is pregnant. One method to establish a dog’s pregnancy includes an ultrasound, which can be done between 25 and 35 days of gestation. Fetal heartbeats are usually detectable with an ultrasound, allowing you to estimate how many puppies your pregnant dog is carrying. The mother’s heartbeat is two to three times slower than that of the puppies. One of the best ways to confirm pregnancy is with an X-ray. However, since the puppies’ skeletal structures don’t become visible on an x-ray until 55 days or later, this is best done at that point. This is the ideal time to have an x-ray to accurately count the puppies, so you’ll be ready to know when your dog is done giving birth. There is also a blood test that can be done to check the dog’s hormone levels. Lastly, some veterinarians might be able to detect pregnancy by palpating a dog’s abdomen, but this method is unreliable and may be harmful to growing puppies.


Proper Care for the Pregnant Dog 

Once you have established that your dog is pregnant, there are a few things you should do to ensure her health throughout the pregnancy.

Making sure your pregnant dog has enough food is one of the most crucial things you can do for her. Unless your veterinarian instructs you otherwise, you won’t need to make any dietary modifications for your dog during the first two thirds of her pregnancy if she is currently eating high-quality dog food and is at a healthy weight. Small, regular meals should be given, since large ones may cause pain. Additionally, intake should be increased gradually.

Pregnant dogs should not engage in strenuous exercise. Avoid making the pregnant dog’s situation more stressful by avoiding enrolling her in obedience classes or bringing her to dog shows. Dogs who are pregnant should engage in calm, low-impact activity, just like any other expectant mother.

Your dog’s health can be maintained throughout pregnancy with routine veterinary appointments.



Stages of Dog Labor

The gestation period or pregnancy length is around two months, or 63 days, from the time of ovulation. Progesterone and luteinizing hormone (LH) monitoring is used to identify when ovulation occurs. This testing is often carried out by reproductive veterinarians. 

There are three stages of labor in a woman’s pregnancy, just like in dog labor!

The first stage is the start of contractions. In this stage, the cervix relaxes and there is onset of periodic contractions. Although, it is unlikely that you will witness the contractions during labor. During this phase, your furry friend will act agitated, enter and exit the nesting box, pant, dig, and occasionally even throw up. Some of them probably won’t eat as well. The first stage can last up to 12 hours. 

Stronger and more frequent uterine contractions mark the start of the second stage of labor, which results in puppy delivery. Puppies are born every 30 to 60 minutes after a tough 10- to 15-minute straining period. It is typical for some puppies to be born with their tails before their heads. 

The placenta, or all of the fetal membranes, must pass during the third stage of labor. The membranes, which are also called afterbirth, are greenish-black in color and should not smell bad. Each puppy’s membranes should pass in 15 minutes or less. As a result, with every puppy born, canines will rotate between stages 2 and 3.



Preparing for a Dog’s Birth

Whelping is the term for the birthing process in dogs. To make sure mom and puppies are healthy, it is important to have your pregnant dog evaluated by a veterinarian three weeks before whelping. 

A few days prior to delivery, pregnant dogs would stop eating and begin constructing a “nest,” ideally in the whelping box. Make sure the puppies have access to a strong whelping box in preparation for whelping. It should be a broad, low box so that the mother can tend to her offspring. To absorb the fluids discharged during the birth, place newspaper layers within the whelping box. 

Keeping the home as peaceful and orderly as possible during this crucial stage of the pet’s pregnancy should be the owner’s main priority. Delay extended visits from guests or hosting a large number of guests, if at all possible. Majority of dogs adjust just fine, but an anxious or insecure pregnant dog seeks for a different, more private, and less exposed place to give birth.

Remember to give the mother water to drink. Do not leave your fur baby alone. To keep the puppies from getting cold during this period, cover them with a soft cloth and keep them warm in their whelping box.

After a few hours, all of the puppies should be arranged along the mother’s abdomen, and you should keep an eye on her to make sure they can all suckle. Make sure the puppies are all breathing and breastfeeding normally by keeping a watch on them.


Know when to call for help

During the whelping process, it is natural for the mother to take a break. Things can also go wrong during the delivery. It is crucial to recognize when to become worried and contact your veterinarian. Among the warning signs are:

  • If your dog exhibit severe straining for longer than half an hour
  • If she needs more than four hours to relax
  • If within thirty minutes fetal membranes are seen in the birth canal but no puppy is born
  • If the mother appears to be in severe pain
  • If the mother doesn’t deliver the first puppy two hours after contractions start, especially if she has passed green discharge
  • In the event that not all puppies are delivered within a day
  • Not every placenta is delivered
  • Puppies do not breastfeed

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