Whether you are taking care of a pregnant dog or considering breeding your canine, it is important to have a sound understanding of what is involved in dog pregnancy. Below are some tips on how to care for a pregnant dog and the preparation for newborn puppies.
A Dog “In Heat”
A dog is considered to be “in heat” if she is in her reproductive cycle, where she becomes receptive to mating with males. Such sexual receptivity is also called estrus. During this period, the dog’s estrogen level is high at first and then will sharply decrease. Mature eggs will be released from her ovaries. Dogs often go into heat twice yearly or about every six months.
During estrus, the female dog appears more alert but easily distracted than usual. She may also look nervous and urinate more often than normal. Because of the change in her hormone balance, she may initiate the sexual interactions with other male dogs or elevate her hindquarters and deflect her tail on the other side when a male dog approaches. Pet owners can prevent their dog from going into heat by having it spayed. This does not just prevent accidental pregnancy but also protects her against reproductive system diseases and breast cancer. If spaying (surgical removal of the reproductive organs) is not an option, there are medications that a veterinarian can prescribe to stop the heat cycle.
Weeks One to Three of Canine Pregnancy
If the dog mates during her heat cycle, fertilization happens within the next few days and it will usually be confirmed by the veterinarian at around day 25. The dog may also show signs of morning sickness. During this period, you don’t have to change her exercise regimen or diet. In the second week, the fertilized egg will already descend into her uterus and will start to develop into puppies. No nutrients are still required because the embryos have not grown significantly.
According to pet insurance provider Trupanion, week three is when the fetuses will already be attached to the uterus’ wall. As they need nutrients to grow and develop in the uterus, your canine’s appetite may slightly increase. Don’t make drastic changes in her diet though.
Weeks Four to Six
In the fourth week of your dog’s pregnancy, you should limit her everyday activity. Gentle exercise is advised and you may ask your veterinarian if she needs dietary supplements. For week five, your dog’s weight will be increasing so you can feed her in little sizes but often. Gradually transition the food changes in a way that will not upset her digestive system. It is during this period when vets can tell the sex of the puppies if an ultrasound is conducted. Week six is a period when she wants to eat more. Your role as the pet owner is to keep the food sizes in small proportions. You may notice a discharge from her vulva during this time but it is absolutely normal.
Week Seven to Nine
By the seventh week, your dog may shed some hair on her abdomen. She will also start producing milk (colostrum). As the puppies will almost be fully-formed in her uterus, she may be too tired to move around. It is during this time that you have to prepare the area for whelping. Choose a quiet and warm place and a box or bed that is padded with linen. Encourage her to sleep in that area from then on.
By week eight, it is important to limit her activity to avoid premature labor. The dog may also feel restless and may begin digging in the whelping area. This maternal activity is called nesting. Most dogs engage in nest-making behavior when they are uncomfortable. With only a few days before she gives birth to new puppies, the canine will become more restless at week nine. She will spend most of her time nesting and may also lose her appetite.
When a dog gives birth, it usually lasts from a few minutes to a couple of hours. Keep in mind that although you don’t want to see her in pain, dog birth is often a simple affair and does not require intervention. Avoid pulling the pup from her birth canal. If she is agitated during the birth process, talk to her in comforting and gentle tones. You may choose to monitor her every 15 minutes just to be sure. If she experiences labored breathing and becomes feverish, you can contact your vet for advice.
Mother dogs usually clean by licking their newborn puppies but if your mother dog ignores them, you can use a clean towel to dry them, especially if they are still surrounded in an amniotic sac. If she doesn’t break the umbilical cord of the pup, you can assist by tying a thread around the cord and then cutting it using clean scissors. Within the first 24 hours, the newborn puppies should stay in a dry and warm place.
Global Dog Population
According to World Atlas, there are an estimated 900 million dogs in the world today, which is an increase in number from 525 million in 2012. The number includes about 200 million free-range or stray dogs. In South Korea, 147,000 dogs were registered in the entire country in 2018. Around 89.5% of them were registered via microchip. Pet owners have other options for registration, including a regular ID tag and an external ID chip. The number of registrations also shows the number of births, though not in general, as it serves as dogs’ birth certificate that lists their date of birth and the owner of the puppy.
The dog with the largest litter of puppies published by the Guinness World Records was Tia from Manea, United Kingdom. Tia gave birth to 24 puppies on November 29, 2004, and she was owned by Damian Ward and Anne Kellegher. The puppies were born via C-section but three died in the first week and one was stillborn. There were 15 males and nine female puppies in total.
Meanwhile, the purchasing rate for puppy or dog food among new pet owners in the US in 2019, by type, were as follows: any dry dog food formula (96.1%), any wet/moist dog food formula (35.6%), dry dog food: puppy formula (12%), and wet/moist dog food: puppy formula (3.6%). This is according to database company Statista.
It may seem a lot of work when your female dog is expecting but with a handy guide for you to follow and with help from vets, canine pregnancy and puppy care will be easier than you imagine.