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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

No matter if planned or unexpected, when your female dog (for the first time) expects puppies, it is an exciting time for her and of course for you, which can also bring certain challenges for humans and animals. Therefore, you should inform yourself well in advance about pregnancy in order to be well prepared for all possible eventualities. How do you recognize whether your female dog is pregnant or perhaps “only” pseudo pregnant?  

At what age can a bitch be mated?

With the beginning of sexual maturity, the so-called heat begins for the first time, which is divided into different cycle phases. From the first heat on, your sweety can theoretically become pregnant, whereby it is not advisable for physical as well as mental reasons (breeding organisations write female dogs suitable for breeding at the earliest from the 2nd heat). You should wait with the first pregnancy in any case as long as your darling is physically and psychologically completely matured (race dependent), because otherwise she could not be up to the responsibility of taking care of her babies.

How long does pregnancy last in a dog?

The duration of pregnancy is usually 63 (+/- 4) days, with the date of birth being calculated based on the time of ovulation.

How many puppies does a dog have the first time?

This is quite different. Smaller breeds usually give birth to two to four puppies, large breeds even up to nine or more.

Hobby breedingDoes a bitch need to have puppies?

Does a female dog have to give birth to puppies once in her life?

No! There is no scientific evidence that female dogs that used to be mothers are healthier. On the contrary, not every female dog is suitable for being a mummy and you do nobody a favor by having your dog mated “by the next best male”.

The following must be considered, if you should consider to go among the hobby breeders: Yes, puppies are a blessing and there is hardly anything sweeter than watching the cute little dogs play and thrive. BUT be aware that if your dog is pregnant it is insanely stressful and emotional for humans and animals. You need a lot of time, space, medical know-how and knowledge about genetics and cynology. In addition, breeding guidelines must be observed. In addition, a litter is not exactly inexpensive, because the puppies must be looked after. It’s a full-time job that doesn’t just have a sunny side.

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How do I recognize pregnancy in a dog?

Pregnancy and birth are probably the most natural things in the world. Not only women are allowed to have this wonderful experience and are subject to certain physical and mental changes during pregnancy, also our dogs  are subject to certain changes. If you notice one or more signs in your darling, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian. This can determine a given pregnancy or diagnose and treat or exclude diseases, which would also come into question for those symptoms, if necessary.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased need for rest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased appetite from the second half of pregnancy onwards
  • After about a month, the teats may become darker and swell. A transparent to whitish slimy vaginal secretion can escape from the vulva.
  • Mammary glands enlarge, teats straighten up and take on a pink colour due to the increased blood circulation.
  • Loss of coat in the teat area
  • Weight gain, in the last third one also sees an increase of the abdominal girth.
  • Changes in character (listlessness up to depression, nest building, extreme attachment, protective up to irritable behaviour etc.)

How to determine the pregnancy ?

  • At the earliest on 21 days, better 28 days after conception, pregnancy can be determined by blood test (Relaxin level increased).
  • Scanning (from the 21-30th day)
  • By ultrasound (21-25th day, from the 28th can be detected heart sounds and so the vitality can be checked)
  • X-ray (from approx. 43 days the skeletons of the puppies can be recognized)

Stages of development- How do puppies develop in the womb?

Now it still takes a while until the birth of the puppies. However, until the puppies are completely developed, different development phases have to be passed through. It takes about 20 days from the migration of the fertilised egg to the implantation in the uterine wall and on to the connection of the embryos with the blood circulation of the mother dog. From the 25th day onwards, the nerves, sensory organs and muscles of the young are formed.

Around the 5th week the teats become bigger and from the 8th week you can feel the puppies laying on your hands.

By the 40th day the puppies already have a coat. Depending on size and race, the carrying time amounts to approximately 58 to 67 days altogether.

If there are no contractions until the 70th day of pregnancy, you should consult your vet.

How long can a pregnant bitch be on a walk?

You should avoid athletic feats. But walks should not be missed, of course. Depending on how the bitch is doing, it is advisable, especially towards the end of pregnancy, to take shorter walks more often during the day.

What food when the bitch is pregnant?

The body of a female dog changes massively during the carrying time and needs a lot of energy. Therefore it is recommended to feed the pregnant dog about 50 percent more calories daily. You should pay special attention to the quality of the food to provide your treasure with all important minerals and vitamins.

Preparation for birth

  • Prepare whelping box
  • She has special and increased feeding needs
  • Measure temperature 10-6 days before birth, this drops to 37-28°, shortly before birth to 37°.
  • If labour starts, the veterinarian number should be ready in case of emergency.

How to recognize a false pregnancy?

If the diagnosis is a false pregnancy, there is no need to worry, as this is not a disease, but a completely normal condition. Uncastrated female dogs may enter this state a few weeks (3 – 12 weeks) after heat and show behaviours or physical changes that would be typical for a pregnant dog (see above). Wolves would be able to help raising the puppies of the pack mummy. The reasons for this is the hormone changeover when the progesterone level drops about too quickly after the heat. The drop of this hormone simulates a predicted birth to the dog’s body and increases the prolactin level (prolactin is a hormone that stimulates the mammary glands to produce breast milk). Every female dog reacts differently to the changed prolactin levels.

Usually the udder swells and may even produce milk (pseudo reaction). The behavior of the bitch can range from depressed, tired or even aggressive. They often start carrying objects to their bed and mothering them.

How long does a false pregnancy last?

As a rule, the state of dummy pregnancy lasts 2 to 3 weeks. In most cases a visit to the veterinarian is not absolutely necessary, only when more serious problems (aggressive behaviour, severe swelling of the lactation, suffering of the dog, …) arise should you plan a visit. There are medications that inhibit the production of prolactin.

Otherwise, make sure that your bitch does not lick her teats, as this will only boost milk production even more. Do not stroke her belly or squeeze her teats. If your dog tries to mother her toy, take it away from her so she doesn’t get further into it. Walk her a lot and distract her.

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The miracle of nature, a life grows up. As for all mothers, being in other circumstances is one of the most exciting, but also sometimes exhausting experiences for pregnant female dogs. However, it is sometimes not so easy for you to determine if your dog is pregnant or has a false pregnancy. If your female should expect her puppies soon, TOBALIE wishes you all the best for your family growth and in any case strong nerves.