Pregnancy in the Bitch

Pregnancy is obviously a worrying time for owners. Individual breeds may have their own special problems and different veterinary surgeons may have slightly different protocols. It is therefore wise to discuss things fully with your own veterinary surgeon early in pregnancy or preferably prior to mating. If you do not have a regular veterinary surgeon it is advisable to register your bitch with a practice before the actual mating or as soon as possible thereafter. The usual length of pregnancy in the bitch is 63 days, although this may vary by 5 days either way. A veterinary surgeon may be able to detect pregnancy by palpating the bitch’s abdomen at 26-30 days, and this is the best time for the first examination. In some cases, however it may be 6 or 7 weeks into the pregnancy before a definite diagnosis can be made by physical exam alone. If you really want to confirm the pregnancy an ultrasound examination can be performed, or a blood test can be taken. The abdomen will become visibly enlarged from about the 6th week of pregnancy and so will the mammary glands (mammary development also occurs in cases of false pregnancy). In the last third of pregnancy there may also be a change in the bitch’s behaviour she may become quieter and less inclined for exercise.

FEEDING: During the last third of pregnancy the bitch requires approximately one and a half times her normal food intake. Also as the size of the womb increases the bulk of food she can eat decreases and so the food should be given as 2 or 3 smaller meals during the day. The diet should be a good quality balanced diet. We recommend feeding Hill’s Canine Puppy food which has extra calcium and protein suitable for a pregnant bitch. A vitamin/mineral supplement is usually not required providing the dog is on a complete premium dog food diet.

EXERCISE: Moderate exercise throughout pregnancy is important to prevent the bitch becoming fat and unfit. Strenuous exercise such as jumping or rough playing should be avoided but regular lead walking can be encouraged right up to whelping.

MEDICATION: It is a good idea to worm the bitch during late pregnancy with a safe and effective product such as Drontal Plus, although this may not completely prevent the pups being born with worms. In certain cases it is also wise to treat the bitch for ectoparasites (fleas, lice, etc.). Booster vaccinations can also be administered during pregnancy if necessary, but it is best to check the bitch’s boosters are up to date before she goes to be mated. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you if her vaccination status is sufficient to protect her puppies in the early days of life.

PREPARATION FOR WHELPING: A whelping box should be provided from about the 6th week of pregnancy, so that the bitch has time to get used to it. It should be large enough for her to lie in it comfortably outstretched and with plenty of room for her puppies. The front should be low enough for her to move in and out with ease and yet high enough to keep the puppies inside and protected from draughts. The bedding should be replaced as frequently as it is soiled. If the room is cold an infrared lamp may be used, but usually the three sides of the box and possibly a removable roof is sufficient to retain the warmth generated by the bitch’s own activity.