If you have a female dog who hasn't been fixed, there's a chance that at some point she will come home pregnant. What would normally be a fairly straightforward experience can be far more complicated if a dog is older. When she is past her prime, pregnancy in a dog requires some extra care and caution.
When a dog gets pregnant she shows some very standard symptoms, regardless of her age. During the first phase, she may get sick, lose her appetite and become lethargic. In older dogs it's important that a vet check them at this stage to decide whether they're healthy enough to continue with the pregnancy. Further into the pregnancy, a dog will start to develop more breast tissue and larger nipples, an enlarged abdomen and a bigger appetite.
The risks of pregnancy, always present, increase when a dog is older. Once she passes her "prime," which differs with breed, her body becomes less capable of supporting a pregnancy. This means she is more likely to lose the pups.
All female dogs should receive certain considerations when they're pregnant, but this is especially true of an older dog. You should put her on high-quality, high-protein and high-fat food immediately to support her body through the pregnancy. It's also important that she exercise regularly and be monitored by a vet.
Every dog has a specific gestation period, or length of pregnancy. It's important to know your dog's gestation period so you know when to expect labor to start. When a dog goes into labor, she will become anxious and start nesting in her box. At this point you should separate the dog to keep her quiet and safe. This will make the labor as stress-free as possible. Signs that labor is actually starting are the dog's water breaking, obvious contractions in the abdomen and the appearance of the first amniotic sac under her tail.
Labor is always a messy, complicated business but there is a better chance of complications with an older dog. If she is too weak to push during labor one of the babies may get stuck in the birthing canal, which is dangerous for everyone. You should always keep the number of a 24-hour vet on hand in case of emergencies during labor.
- mother dog with puppy image by Phaedra Wilkinson from Fotolia.com