What To Expect When Your Dog Is Expecting!
Expecting a litter of adorable little puppies is indeed an exciting time for the entire family. However, every discerning pet parent with a pregnant dog must understand some basic facts about dog pregnancies. Dogs undergo different phases during pregnancy and experience a various physical, emotional and behavioral transitions across these phases. A dog’s pregnancy generally lasts for about approximately 63 days or around 9 weeks. This duration is divided into 4 distinct phases. Let’s understand each of these phases in detail so that we can take care of them in a better way.
Phases Of Dog Pregnancy
Phase 1: This phase generally lasts for 3 weeks. In the first phase, your dog won’t undergo a very drastic physical change. However, you can expect a little fatigue or a slight loss of appetite.
Phase 2: The second phase is from the 4th to the 6th week. At this time, she will begin to show slight body changes like weight gain or increased size nipples.
Phase 3: The third phase is when the growth of the dog’s womb becomes very apparent and the production of breast milk begins. This phase lasts till the 8th week of pregnancy.
Phase 4: Finally, the fourth phase is the final stage.The soon-to-be mother in this phase becomes restless and starts to seek a quiet place to give birth.
Understanding Her Changing Needs
The growth of the belly is not noticeable until about 4 weeks in, but those are just obvious outwardly changes. There are a gamut of other pregnancy-related changes that a pet parent and caregiver must be cognizant of, both physical and otherwise.
Some Physical Changes You Can Expect:
- Breast enlargement: It is natural for your dog’s breasts to swell during the early days of pregnancy. However, different dogs might undergo this change at different timings. In some dogs, this change may happen at a similar time to their enlarged bellies.
- Pink Nipples: If you notice your dog’s nipples are more pink than usual, you can suspect they are pregnant. This, along with swollen breasts is one of the early signs. Dog nipples tend to range from pink to black in colour, so simply look for an intensification of whatever color were.
- Vaginal Discharge: Your dog might also have vaginal discharge whether it is clear liquid or light pink. This fluid is designed in a way that it works like a plug and keeps the puppies safe from the outside world, particularly infections.
Some Behavioural Changes:
- Dietary Changes: At the beginning of pregnancy, your dog may eat less in comparison to their regular diet. However, this will eventually change as the time goes by. Your dog’s appetite will start getting back to normal two weeks after the conception. In fact, for the second month after conception, the hunger will increase, often drastically, as the dog has to meet the nutritional needs of the puppies inside them.
- Seek Security And Comfort: Another major change to be observed during this time is that female dogs during this time want more contact time with their pet parents.They might even look to feel more protected and comfortable. Although, in some cases your dog might not want to be touched and it may be more sensitive than usual.
- Apathy And Lethargy: Your dog might also become physically inactive during this time.This happens mainly for two reasons. Firstly, exercise can harm their babies and secondly, they also need to conserve energy.They may be apathetic or lethargic at this time, but you need to understand that they are just dealing with the changes in their body.
- They Shy Away From Other Pets: Pregnant dogs generally stay away from other dogs during this time. They exhibit such behaviour typically due to development of a strong maternal instinct. They become very aware conscious of their surroundings and want protect themselves from attack as well as to avoid getting any diseases passed on.
- They Look For Nesting Spots: Pregnant dogs will always need a secured place to give birth and therefore will seek out secure and comfortable places to take rest. They may either scratch at the ground or drag their bed into somewhere they want to rest.
Potential Pregnancy-Related Complications
Although dogs often enjoy a hassle-free pregnancy, there are a few signs that might suggest complications. You must contact your vet if:
- Your dog goes off her food during pregnancy or feels sick every now and then. It is, in fact, fairly common for their appetites to drop after 30 days of pregnancy or just prior to delivery, but if this behaviour continues for a prolonged time, it may be time to visit the vet.
- If there are any abnormal vaginal discharge including bleeding or a foul-smelling discharge at any given point during pregnancy.
- If she exhibits signs of depression, crying or behaving in a way that might suggest that she is in pain.
Complications During Pregnancy:
- Nutritional Imbalances: There is a change in the nutritional needs for pregnant dogs, which we will expand on soon. Often, there might be a mismatch in the diet needed and the diet provided and thus it is important to be very careful of a pregnant dog’s food. Another cause of imbalance could be well-meaning owners trying to enhance their dog’s health by giving vitamins, minerals and other supplements beyond those that are required for a good quality diet. Over-supplementation during pregnancy can create imbalance in her internal nutritional-regulating mechanisms and increase her risk of developing eclampsia and other health issues. In addition, obese pregnant dogs can also develop blood sugar irregularities like low blood sugar.
- Risk Of Infection: Pregnant dogs are more vulnerable to a risk of infection. It is important to be careful of her surroundings and exposure to such bacteria as infections can have serious consequences to her and her puppies, if not taken care of. A common infection is Brucella canis, the only bacterial organism known to cause infertility in female dogs. It can also cause resorption of embryos early in gestation and, most commonly, abortion of fetuses late in gestation.
Post Pregnancy Complications:
- Diarrhea: If your dog experiences diarrhea while nursing her puppies, it could mean that she has eaten a lot of food in order to get enough nutrients and to feed her puppies properly.
- Eclampsia : Eclampsia (hypocalcemia or puerperal tetany) is an emergency medical condition associated with a life-threatening drop in blood calcium levels that occurs in dogs post delivery. It occurs mainly when the puppies are one to five weeks of age and the mother is producing the most milk. Eclampsia is not due to an overall lack of calcium; it merely indicates that the nursing female cannot mobilize sufficient supplies of stored calcium quickly enough to meet her metabolic needs. It is infact a bit difficult to understand and seems to affect smaller dogs more frequently. The signs associated with this problem are usually muscle spasms, seizure-like activity, and stiffness of muscles. If your pregnant dog experiences any such symptoms, it is advisable to visit the vet and get blood tests. Blood tests on dogs with eclampsia are generally low in serum calcium, low in blood glucose, and sometimes low in blood magnesium concentration.
Some basic To-Dos during this time
- Take Them Out For Regular Walks: Spending quality time with your dog at this time is very important. If you walked your dog regularly before pregnancy, you should continue with this schedule. If not, start taking your dog on fifteen minute walks once or twice a day. It will keep their muscles toned. However, after the first month of pregnancy, you may need to shorten the length of these walks to prevent overexerting your dog.
- Catering To Their Emotional Needs: Due to hormonal changes, your dog may go through some emotional and behavioural changes. This is the time when they will need you the most to cater to their mood swings and be with them.
- Getting House Ready For Pup: Apart from drafting a shopping lists of foods, water bowls, bedding, collar, leash and other essentials you must also puppy-proof the area where the youngster will spend most of his/ her time. This also includes taping loose electrical cords to baseboards; storing household chemicals on high shelves; removing plants rugs and other breakables.
Dietary Needs Of Pregnant Dogs
During the first month of her pregnancy, your dog may not need more than her daily consumption of high quality food. But, make sure these are protein rich easily digestible food.
Around the second month, she will start to gain weight and have an increased appetite.You can start with adding about a quarter more than her normal amount to her total daily diet. An adequate diet plan should be sorted out by now.
According to research, pregnant dogs prefer eating food in intervals as the unborn pups press against the internal organs making it hard for the mother to ingest all her food in one sitting. Therefore, it will be a great idea for you to feed her small quantities at regular intervals.You must also ensure that her water is refreshed twice a day and supplements are avoided as much as possible. At this time, it’s very important to feed them with the best dog treats available. You should also check important facts before buying the best dog treats and other food. Also, post delivery, knowing what to feed your puppies is equally important. It would be better to read up on puppy diet as well, they deserve nothing but the best.
Having to take care of a dog requires attention and a lot of care, but taking care of a pregnant dog and her litter of puppies requires more than double the amount of care. It is indeed a new set of responsibilities as an entire dog family is dependent on you, but the end product of this whole process will be more than worth it. Enjoy being a grandparent to all the little ones and try to provide them with the best that you can.