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Health and Veterinary Care for Pregnant Dogs

What to Know When Your Dog Is Expecting Puppies

By Madeleine Burry. March 26, 2013 | See Comments

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Health and Veterinary Care for Pregnant Dogs

A dog's pregnancy should last around 9 weeks. Here's what you should know about the health care she'll need.

Your dog’s pregnancy will last around 64 to 66 days, or around 9 weeks. Here's how to care for pregnant dogs.

First, if you're planning on breeding your dog, make sure to check out her health. She should have received all her vaccines and shots, and be dewormed and in good health before becoming a mom. Dogs should become pregnant after they have been in heat a few times, which generally means they are over a year old. Your dog may have as many as 15, and as few as one, puppies in her litter. Generally, smaller breeds will have smaller litters. The number of dogs born in a litter is also generally smaller for very young moms and very old moms.

Nutrition and Exercise During Pregnancy

During your dog’s pregnancy, you’ll want to make sure to provide extra food. From around the middle of the dog’s pregnancy through the end, your dog will need extra nutrients to sustain herself and the puppies. Since your dog will have less room in her stomach as the puppies grow within her, it’s recommended that you feed your pregnant dog several small meals each day, rather than one very large meal, which may be difficult for her to tackle. Puppy food can be a good option, since it's higher calorie than regular dog food.

Your dog should continue to have gentle exercise, such as walks, chasing balls, and catching frisbees, during the early weeks of her pregnancy. Toward the midpoint of your dog’s pregnancy, she should only have light to moderate exercise -- no roughhousing -- and shorter walks are advised.

The Impact of Your Dog’s Breed

Some breeds, especially those with large heads, can make for a challenge when it comes to your dog’s labor. For Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and Boxers, the size of the head compared to the dog’s body can lead to stillborn puppies and problems for the mom giving birth. Caesarian sections may be necessary for these dogs, and are often planned in advance so that your dog doesn’t go into labor. Mastiffs have an unusually long birthing canal, and so C-sections can often be necessary for this breed, since labor becomes very challenging, especially after the first puppies are born. It’s a good idea to check in with your vet or a breeder prior to your dog’s pregnancy to see if they think a C-section will be necessary, or if the gestational period and labor will be challenging for your dog.

Vet Visits During Pregnancy

You may want to visit the vet to determine if your dog is pregnant. Your vet can confirm that your pet is expecting with a hands-on examination or with an ultrasound or x-ray around the fourth week of your dog’s pregnancy. Of course you should also visit your vet if your dog becomes ill during pregnancy, or gets parasites. In general, you should avoid giving your dog any drugs or worm treatments while she is expecting without a discussion with your vet.

A visit around the seven week mark will help your vet evaluate your dog’s general health and set expectations for the dog’s labor. If your dog’s labor does not go smoothly -- for instance, if contractions continue for over 30 minutes without a puppy being born  -- you’ll want to call your vet.

After the puppies are all born, both mom and puppies should go to the vet for a check-up to make sure that all are in good health.

More on Dog and Puppy Care

How to Buy Puppy Supplies
The Benefits of Fish Oil for Dogs and Cats
The Proper Nutrition for Feeding a Puppy

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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PREGNANT DOGS at a glance

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  • 1Provide your dog with extra food during her pregnancy, since she’s eating for more than one!
  • 2While your dog should stay active during her pregnancy, avoid strenuous exercise and keep walks short.
  • 3Check in with the vet frequently, especially if your dog’s breed tends to have difficult pregnancies.
  • 4Plan on having a visit to the vet after the birth to check on the health of mom and puppies.