Pregnancy (or the gestation period) in bitches normally ranges from 58 to 65 days with an average of 65 days. Individuals may vary but you should inform your veterinarian should your bitch exceed 65 days.
What should you feed her during pregnancy?
During pregnancy your bitch should be on a well balanced diet. We recommend a good quality, commercially prepared dry food. It is not necessary, and can be dangerous, to supplement her diet with extra calcium or vitamins, provided that the diet is complete.
As the pregnancy advances the growing pups will occupy more and more space in the abdomen. Her food consumption may double, however, she will not be able to eat as much in one meal. Therefore, it is best to offer her smaller, more frequent meals.
How will you know if she is pregnant?
Your veterinarian can often detect pregnancy by abdominal palpation between weeks 4 and 6, however, diagnosis may be difficult if your dog is nervous, tense or overweight. Pregnancy can also be detected by an ultrasound scan.
You may also notice increased body weight and abdominal enlargement, reddening and enlargement of the mammary glands and the production of milk.
What are the signs of labour?
About 24 hours prior to going into labour your bitch may become restless, uninterested in food and begin nesting. She may pant and her vulva may be swollen and have a clear mucous discharge.
Abdominal contractions will then commence, the bitch will strain and make heaving motions. The first pup should be born within 1 to 2 hours of contractions commencing. The placental membrane often ruptures (breaking of the watersac) prior to the pup being born but is not always the case and some pups are born completely covered in their membranes.
Will your bitch remove these membranes?
The bitch will usually remove these membranes and sever the umbilical cord. If she becomes tired, or is inexperienced and fails to do so, you can gently tear the membrane from the pup’s nose and mouth. Immediately following the removal of the membrane the pup should start breathing, move around and attempt to find a nipple and begin suckling.
How long will it be between pups?
The bitch usually rests between pups and the time can range from fifteen minutes to an hour. After whelping the bitch will settle down, her breathing will become calm and she should be kept quiet to feed and clean her pups.
Seeking veterinary advice
You should seek veterinary advice at any stage of your bitch’s pregnancy, labour or after whelping if you are at all concerned about her or her pup’s well-being.
Approximately 40% of pups are born tail first (breech birth). This is perfectly normal.
Contact your veterinarian for advice should any of the following occur:
- Your bitch’s gestation period lasts more than 64 days without the onset of labour.
- Half an hour has elapsed since the onset of abdominal contractions and a pup has not been born.
- Half an hour has elapsed after the birth of a pup, your bitch is still having strong contractions and there is no sign of another pup.
- A pup becomes stuck halfway and your bitch is unable to give birth to it. You can apply gentle pressure to the pup, but if it does not move easily immediately seek veterinary advice.
- A green or dark discharge is seen coming from the bitch’s vulva prior to whelping, or if a discharge is present 12 hours after giving birth.
Vaccination and worming during pregnancy
Your bitch should be dewormed with an all wormer, at 4 and 6 weeks of pregnancy. This is important to ensure she does not infect her newborn pups.
You should vaccinate your bitch prior to mating to ensure maximum immunity is passed on to her puppies.
We will be happy to assist you with any queries you have regarding your dog’s pregnancy and whelping.