Care During Pregnancy
Now that your bitch is pregnant, it is important that you give her the best possible prenatal care. This is very important both for the health of your bitch and her future puppies. Routine care such as grooming and exercise must be continued, and special attention should be paid to nutrition and preventive health care.
The unborn puppy develops in the mother's uterus.
Prenatal Health Care
You certainly want your bitch free of any parasites. If you live in an area known for fleas and ticks, you need to continue preventives for these pests. The same is true for heartworm preventives. These are all important medications for the health of your bitch, and if she isn't healthy, her pups won't be. Check with your veterinarian for products that are safe to use.
Your veterinarian may also recommend a preventive deworming, even if your bitch has a negative fecal check. Parasites such as roundworms can encyst in your bitch's tissues, becoming active during her pregnancy and infecting the puppies in utero.
What should you feed a pregnant dog? For the first six weeks of pregnancy, most bitches do just fine on their regular high-quality food. A bitch should have a hearty appetite, but don't let her get too heavy. Pregnancy is not a time to try new or exotic diets or additional supplements. Always check with your veterinarian before adding anything extra. Your veterinarian may approve some extra calories, but the diet must be carefully balanced.
Some bitches will experience morning sickness around two to three weeks into their pregnancy. They may act nauseous and refuse a few meals or only eat a small amount of their normal ration. For most bitches, this stage lasts only a couple of days.
For the last three weeks or so of pregnancy, you will need to gradually increase food. If your bitch has a large litter, she may need multiple small meals instead of two larger meals. Again, this should be a top-quality balanced diet. Talk to your veterinarian about any supplements you want to add.
Do not go overboard supplementing calcium! This can cause the bitch to develop eclampsia and other problems after whelping. Ideally a bitch should mobilize some of her internal calcium to meet the needs of the growing pups in utero.
Exercise is important for a pregnant bitch. She should be in good shape, fit, and able to handle the stress of whelping. Long walks are excellent exercise. Once the pregnancy is more than a couple of weeks along it would be best to avoid stressful running, jumping, and twisting. Agility and lure-coursing plans should be put on hold!
Preparing for Whelping
Preparations for the big day include getting the bitch used to her whelping box or area. This box should be easy to clean and should have side rails to protect pups from a rolling mother. The side rails come out from the whelping box about four inches up so that if the mother rolls over, the pup will be pushed under the rail to safety. The box should also have an area for early housetraining of the pups. Its sides should keep the pups in, out of drafts, and safe, but the dam should be able to step over them. The bitch should start sleeping or resting in this box ahead of time so she is comfortable there. It is worth taking the time to do this so to avoid her whelping on the new living room sofa!
You need to watch your bitch closely for any unusual vulvar discharge that could indicate infection (greenish) or premature labor (reddish). Another important step is knowing how many pups to expect. Ultrasound examinations are routinely done at around twenty-eight days. This is an excellent way to confirm pregnancy, but the actual puppy count isn't always accurate this early on. Most breeders will have an X ray (radiograph) done about a week before the due date to count skeletons and get an accurate count of how many pups to expect. Knowing the exact number of pups can give you some relief, since you'll know when the last pup is out safely!
In some breeds, you will need to arrange for a C-section as the pups may not be able to be delivered naturally. This includes breeds such as bulldogs, where the puppies' heads are so large that many bulldog bitches can't whelp them on their own.