A dog’s pregnancy lasts for approximately 63 days however dogs don’t follow a textbook so this can vary. It should not go beyond 72 days. Hopefully you will know when your bitch was mated.
A pregnant dog is called a brood bitch, she should be in the best possible health before she becomes pregnant and eats a good quality, well balanced diet.
When the time comes you will need:
In addition you should take note of this advice:
- A birthing box which is big enough for the dog to lie down full length and stretch out in. Ideally the box should have a shelf or rail all the way around the inside to prevent the bitch from lying on her puppies. There is no need to have a lid on the box but if it has one, the box should be of sufficient height for the bitch to stand. The box should be placed in a warm quiet area and the bitch should have free access to the box so that she gets used to it before the birth.
- Plenty of clean newspaper to line the bottom of the birthing box.
- Vetbed bedding to cover the newspapers at the bottom of the box. This is especially good as any fluid will drain through it so that mom and puppies are not lying on a wet or damp bed.
- Several flannels or small towels to wipe puppies with if necessary.
- Puppy formula milk powder and bottles.
- Dental floss
- Pen and paper to write down times of birth and to count the placentas to make sure none are retained inside the bitch.
- Vets telephone number.
- For the first few weeks there will be no noticeable changes to the bitch so there is no reason to change her routine. By the fifth to sixth week the puppies will be growing rapidly, her stomach will be rather rounded and her teats may become pink and more prominent. It will be obvious that she is pregnant. At this stage she will need to be fed plenty of good quality puppy food such as Purina as this is higher in calories and calcium, approximately one and a half times her normal diet intake is required. As the pregnancy continues this should be divided into smaller meals throughout the day to prevent her feeling uncomfortable as she already has a tummy full of puppies.
- You should keep up your worming regime during pregnancy however, not all products are suitable for use with pregnant bitches so you should take advice from your vet on which products are safe.
- Only one person should be present whilst the bitch is giving birth, do not handle the puppies any more than necessary as the bitch may abandon them if there is too much human intervention.
- For the first few weeks after birth children should only be allowed to look at mom and babies. When puppies are a little older, children should sit on the floor and stroke them. Be careful that over excited children do not drop puppies on the floor or squeeze them too tightly. Contact with children and their associated noises are good for both children and to help socialise the puppies and get them used to the noises of everyday life.
Stages of Labour
First stage labour (Whelping)
First stage labour is not easy to spot even to experienced breeders. The bitch will probably become restless and show signs of discomfort. She will keep changing positions trying to get comfortable. She may keep going to her birthing box and then leaving again.
Second stage labour (Whelping)
Second stage labour should be obvious as the bitch starts to experience heavy contractions. Before the first puppy is born, she may expel a bag of water, not to be confused with urine. This should be easy to establish by cleaning up with white kitchen roll. Shortly after this she may whimper or groan as she pushes to enable the first puppy to be born.
Sometimes bitches will have difficulties during labour so it is important to know what to look for and when to call your vet. If she goes into labour without any puppies being born within one hour, if there is excessive bloody discharge or greenish discharge without a puppy being born, it is more than two hours between puppies, if there is a puppy or fluid filled bubble stuck in the birth canal, the bitch has intense contractions/straining for more than 20 minutes without a puppy being delivered, if the bitch is depressed, lethargic or has a high body temperature. Any of these signs indicate that there is a problem and you need to seek veterinary advice.
The majority of puppies are born head first and enclosed in a bubble of fluid with the umbilical cord attached followed by a placenta. The bitch should break open the membrane bubble and chew through the umbilical cord. If she does not you must do this and clear the fluid from the puppy’s nose and mouth. Then put the puppy under the mother’s nose for her to continue cleaning it and stimulating it to breathe. If she does not do this, rub the puppy quite firmly with the flannel until it gives its first squeak and then return it to mom straight away. The bitch may eat the placenta and this is natural and it is commonly believed that the placenta is full of nutrients. If she does not eat the placenta remove it. To sever the umbilical cord firstly tie quite tightly round it with dental floss about one inch from the puppy’s tummy and cut the long pieces of dental floss close to the umbilical cord. Then either sever the cord using your thumb and forefinger nails or if you are feeling squeamish use scissors. The cord will shrivel and fall off after a few days. Have a warm lined box ready as when contractions continue you should remove any previously born puppies and keep them warm in the box where mom can see them so that they do not get injured whilst others are being born. Occasionally puppies will be born feet first (breech) and can become lodged in the birth canal with the rear legs hanging out. Resist the temptation to pull the puppy out and seek veterinary assistance immediately. Also, a puppy may be too large to be born naturally and you need to contact your vet as a caesarean section is required. The bitch may become too tired to continue when it is obvious that there are puppies remaining waiting to be born. Again, it is time to seek the services of your vet.
Once all of the puppies are born you should quickly replace soiled bedding then leave mom in peace and quiet to recover as she will be very tired. Make sure that she has food and water available and give her a chance to rest with her puppies. Check that all of the puppies are feeding, checking on them every couple of hours. Mom will probably only leave the birthing box to go to the toilet or to have some food and water. When she does, replace any soiled bedding with clean bedding. Mom’s teats need to be checked daily to make sure that they are not hot or hard as this can be the sign of a blockage called mastitis.
Puppies are born both deaf and blind. Eyes will start to open around 10 days of age and they will be able to hear a few days later. Never try to force the eyelids open. If the eyes look sticky you can gently bathe them with cotton wool soaked in warm water.
As the puppies grow and the demand for milk increases so will the need for mom to eat more food. Once the puppies are around three weeks old the mom will be needing three times her normal intake of good quality food.
Once the puppies get to four weeks old, they need to start being weaned. This is a messy job as they will walk through the dish and generally get covered in the food. Try them with a dish of Weetabix or baby rusk made with puppy milk formula and mixed to a milky porridge type consistency. Once they get used to this, they should be given 4 small meals a day but also be allowed to continue feeding from mom. After a few days slowly start substituting soaked puppy biscuits such as Purina for the Weetabix or baby rusk. Soon your puppies should be eating well and not pestering the bitch too much as there will be a decline in the milk production. When the puppies get to six weeks of age, they will get a liking for the taste of fresh water so you can substitute the puppy formula slowly by making it more dilute daily until they are on clear water. By this stage the puppies should be eating their kibble dry. Again puppies don’t read the rule book and some may take longer than others to eat their biscuits dry. The next 12 to 18 months are the most important in their lives for developing good strong bones and brain development which is why they need good quality food.
Puppies should stay with their mother until they are 8 weeks of age. Please do be fussy about the new homes they go to as hopefully they will be there for their whole lives. Puppies should be microchipped before they leave home.
Puppies will need a course of vaccines before they are allowed out into the big wide world where other dogs have been or they are likely to come into contact with other dogs.
Nobivac DHP + L4
Protects against - Distemper, hepatitis (canine adenovirus), parvovirus and Leptosprirosis (4 strains)
The first vaccination can be administered from 6 to 9 weeks of age and the second vaccination 4 – 6 weeks after the puppy is 10 to 13 weeks of age.