How to Properly Care for a Pregnant Dog

Pregnancy is a highly sensitive and delicate part of every animal’s life, regardless of its domestication or size.

For dog breeders and pet owners, a pregnancy entails a long list of responsibilities and steps to make sure that the mother and the coming litter are going to be healthy and strong up until labor and even after birth.

If you’re a pet owner and your pet has recently been found to be pregnant, chances are you’ve started your research to find important information on how to properly care for your dog throughout her pregnancy.

To help you, we’ve compiled the most important facets of dog care and nutrition, as well as an in-depth timeline of your pet’s needs so that you can offer the best quality support for your pregnant dog.




What Happens During a Dog Pregnancy?

Before we delve into the different preparations you need to do for your pregnancy dog, let’s first go into a brief background on what happens during canine pregnancy. A dog’s reproductive cycle can be divided into four parts: proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus.

Proestrus and estrus refer to the phase wherein female dogs start to go in heat. Female dogs start to attract male dogs during their proestrus phase, but will only be susceptible to mating during the estrus stage. The estrus stage – typically between the 10th to 14th day from the proestrus phase – is typically considered the best time for mating and will give you a higher guarantee that your female dog will become pregnant. The diestrus and the anestrus stages, on the one hand, refer to the tapering off of the female dog’s heat cycle. This is when the reproductive system comes back to normal, and female dogs will stop attracting male dogs.

If you’re a breeder, knowing how your female dog’s reproductive cycle is the first step to knowing how to care for them. Keep track of your pet’s reproductive cycle to calculate and estimate your pet’s conception date and pregnancy duration. This typically falls on the 20th day after the supposed conception, which is also the time that you should bring your dog to the veterinarian for confirmation. Your veterinary specialist may diagnose a pregnancy in three ways: an ultrasound, a canine pregnancy test, or palpation.

Normal gestation periods in dogs typically last between 57 to 65 days. However, if your pet does not go into labor after 63 days, it’s best to contact your veterinarian just to make sure that your pet and her puppies are safe. If your vet finds anything abnormal or observes complications, they might stimulate contractions through medication or even opt for Cesarean delivery to ensure the safety of your dog and her litter.

Preparations and Proper Care During a Dog Pregnancy

Now that you have a background on how pet pregnancies progress, it’s now time to discuss how to prepare and properly care for your pregnant dog. We’ll talk about the food and nutrition, exercise needs, treatments that need to be continued even during pregnancy, and specialized veterinary care to ensure that every stage of puppy breeding is successful.

  • Specialized Diet and Nutrition for Pregnant Dogs

Since your pregnant dog has to provide nutrition to her growing litter of puppies, she will need an increased amount of calories and nutrients throughout the duration of her pregnancy. This is also one of the reasons why veterinarians and animal nutritionists recommend giving pregnant pets specialized diets – some even advocate using puppy food to better support the growth and development of her unborn puppies.

Gradually increase your pet’s food intake to at most 25% until she gives birth. Not only will this help her body keep her puppies healthy, but it will also help her support her own health through nutrition reserves. You may also ask your veterinarian for supplements and other nutritional support if ever your pregnant dog needs it.

If you’re worried about your dog gaining weight during pregnancy, however, know that this is a normal occurrence for many pregnant pets. They may gain about 15% to 20% of their normal weight during pregnancy, and there’s typically nothing to be worried about. Never try to withhold calories from a pregnant dog as this may cause negative effects on her pregnancy and may affect both her health and her puppies’.

  • Regular Exercise Needs

Even pregnant dogs need exercise, but not too much strenuous activity. It is recommended that pregnant dogs still be given the chance to walk, albeit at a much slower pace. This will help them expend their energy in a slower and safer way. Go for short 15-minute walks once or twice a day just to keep your pet’s muscle tone healthy and strong.

Avoid playing with your dog and having her take part in stressful activities, such as rough-housing with your other pets, or going on hikes in high altitudes. This is also one of the reasons why separating your pregnant dog from your other pets is a good move – just to make sure that your pet doesn’t get too excited or stimulated.

After each walk, also check for possible parasites, such as ticks and fleas, that she may have gotten. This is an important step since parasites may cause multiple repercussions for your dog’s health and her pregnancy.

  • Treatments and Medications

If you self-administer certain parasite preventives and medications at home, it’s best that you consult a veterinarian before using them on your pregnant dog. While some flea and tick formulations and heartworm treatments are generally safe, some treatments have not been tested to be safe for pregnant dogs.

The same goes for certain medications that your pet may be taking for an underlying condition or for maintenance. Always ask for professional advice since some medicines contain ingredients that may cause adverse effects on the unborn puppies.

  • Veterinary Support and Care

Healthy pregnancies in dogs require regular veterinary visits, not only to properly gauge the progression of the pregnancy, but to also optimize the nutritional needs of your pet. Aside from the confirmation vet visit wherein a veterinarian can check whether a pet is pregnant, pregnant dogs will also need to visit the vet clinic around the 45th day of the pregnancy, wherein your veterinarian can confirm how many puppies you should be expecting. This can be done through an x-ray.

You should also be on the lookout for possible complications and unusual bleeding or discharge from your pregnant dog. If you observe anything out of the ordinary – whether in your pet’s behavior or her health – be sure to contact your veterinarian, or better yet, bring her in just to be sure.

Pregnant Dog Care Is a Crucial Part of Every Breeder’s Practice

As most certified breeders already know, dog breeding is a sensitive and oftentimes challenging time for every dog owner. Not only does your pregnant dog require additional care, they also require added attention to make sure that they’re healthy and thriving through their pregnancy and even after they give birth.

If you’re new to pet breeding, heed these pieces of advice and never leave anything up for guessing. We hope your pet’s pregnancy goes on without a hitch, and here’s to wishing you get to take care of a healthy litter of puppies in more or less two months’ time.

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