While your dog is pregnant for just two months before delivery, it might seem a lot longer. That's because you're concerned about her well-being and that of the puppies she's carrying. Relax -- most canine pregnancies and deliveries are uneventful. Your momma-to-be does require some extra care and attention during her pregnancy, and you need to know how to help when the pups arrive.
The First Month
During her first month of pregnancy, your dog can stick to her normal routine, as long as that doesn't include extensive exercise. Some dogs experience the equivalent of morning sickness, or mild nausea, around the third week of pregnancy. If she doesn't improve within a week, or if she becomes very lethargic, contact your vet. While most heartworm medications are safe for use in pregnancy, that's not true of all flea and tick control products. Ask your vet to recommend a safe method of controlling these pests while your dog is expecting. Don't give your dog any supplements or medications without your vet's approval.
The Second Month
As she heads into her second month, start transitioning your dog away from her regular food and toward a high-calorie diet. Puppy food can fill the bill, and she can eat this until the puppies are weaned. As her body enlarges, feed her several small meals daily rather than one or two larger feedings. While your dog will gain weight because of the developing puppies, she shouldn't become obese. Overweight dogs have a higher incidence of delivery difficulties. Three weeks before her due date, separate her from any other pets you have in the house. Provide her with a whelping box to deliver her pups in a quiet, draft-free area. You can line the box with clean blankets and rugs.
As her due date draws near, start taking her temperature twice daily. Normally, the canine temperature ranges between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When it falls below 100, she should go into labor within 24 hours. As her early contractions start, she will become restless, stop eating and might exhibit "nesting" behavior in her whelping box or elsewhere. This stage of labor can last up to 12 hours. You'll notice a discharge from her vulva, which is her water breaking. The first pup is on the way.
Keep all of your vet's contact information readily available, just in case. Keep an eye on your dog but don't interfere with the birthing process unless necessary. Your dog's contractions will become stronger until she expels the first puppy. She should lick off the amniotic sac on the puppy's face, but if she doesn't you must gently clean it off to allow the puppy to breathe. Puppies should arrive every half-hour to an hour, either head or tail first -- either is normal. Your dog might give birth to several puppies and then take a rest. If she rests for more than four hours before resuming delivery, or if she strains hard for more than two hours, contact your vet. As the delivery progresses, count the number of placentas, even if your dog eats them. Make sure the number of placentas equal the number of puppies. Retained placentas cause serious infections, so call your vet if there's one or more missing.
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