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Dog Pregnancy - The Best Ways to Help Your Dog Through Pregnancy

What is the most important thing to know if my dog is pregnant?

It's really good to know when the breeding happened because then we know when to expect puppies. Dogs' gestation period is, on average, around 63 days. We can see it as early as 57 or as late as 65, but knowing the breeding time is probably the most important. The second most important thing is that once they're four to six weeks into pregnancy, I always recommend pregnancy x-rays to get a count or headcount so that when they do go into labor, we know how many to expect. If they have four puppies and only three are on the ground, we know there might be a problem.

Dr. Meghan Denney
Four Paws at Fulshear Animal Clinic

What are some things I can do at home to prepare for my dog's labor?

It's a really great question. There's a lot that you can do. When dogs are getting ready to give birth, they nest just like humans nest. We like to do our nurseries and have baby showers. Dogs don't necessarily want to have baby showers or make their nursery, but they like to nest. They're going to want a quiet, dark place. Some dogs will even give birth in a dark room in a closet. Providing them with that space where they're comfortable and they feel safe will be really important. The other thing you should do a couple of weeks before they're due to give birth is to get mama on some puppy food because it's higher in caloric content. It's got more calcium, so it'll help support that breast milk, and it'll help give mom the nutrients she needs.

Making a tiny human or a tiny puppy takes a lot of work and takes a lot out of the body. So upping their nutritional intake is going to be really important. The third thing that's going to be most important is to do your research. Get on Look up "new puppy" or "pregnant dog." Learn the stages of labor, so you know what to look for. For instance, 24 hours before a dog gives birth, it's not uncommon to see their body temperature drop below 99 degrees, so they'll be like 98, and that can give you a good heads up if puppies are on the way. Things like that will help prepare you and your dog for puppies.

What are some signs of pregnancy in a dog?

Just like in humans, nesting behavior. Some dogs will start to carry around their toys more. You may notice more of a swollen belly, engorged nipples, and mammary glands can swell. You might see that they're looking at their stomach, and sometimes, farther along in pregnancy, you can actually see the puppies moving, just like how people can feel the baby kicking. Sometimes you can see a little foot or little hand shove out on the skin. You can see puppies do that as well.

What are some possible complications of dog pregnancy that you need to be aware of?

It's going to be very similar to human pregnancy. We can have a breech birth. The puppies could be turned and not dropped down and could get distressed, and they might need to have a c-section. So I do always recommend, if you have a pregnant animal, to touch base with a veterinarian and make sure you're established. Make sure the mother dog is established at that veterinarian's office so that if there is an issue, you have someone you can call. We can see infection, just like humans get infections. We can see stillbirths that happen as well. We can also see that it takes too long for the mother if she has uterine fatigue. This happens when she's been in labor for so long that she doesn't have anything left to give, and the uterus muscles just stop. In that case, an injection of medication can stimulate contractions, giving her some yogurt to give her some calcium. Even some vanilla ice cream for the calcium can help stimulate those muscle contractions. Those are probably the big ones that we need to be aware of.

How can I help my dog recover after giving birth?

There are many different ways that we can help our pets recover after giving birth. Make sure that they have free access to water, there's no vomiting, no diarrhea, and they're not lethargic. Take their temperature and make sure it's normal. Normal dog temperature is 99.5 to 102.5. Make sure that the mammary glands, while they may be a little red while the puppies are nursing, shouldn't be painful to the touch. If you notice that they're painful or if they're dark purple or not a normal color, it's out of the ordinary. Dogs can get mastitis just like humans can, and they can get blocked milk glands just like humans. In fact, a really great tip for painful mammary glands, if we are dealing with something like that, is raw cabbage leaves, cold raw cabbage leaves. It helps with humans, and it helps with dogs. I know it's an old wive's tale, but I actually feel like it works really well.

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