Caring for Your Pregnant Dog

The sooner you confirm your dog is pregnant, the sooner you can provide the best in pregnant dog care. Most dogs are pregnant for approximately 63 days. How long the pregnancy lasts depends on litter size. Large litters may whelp at 57 days, small litters at as many as 67 to 72 days. Become familiar with changes in your pregnant dog's body after she mates.

Signs of Pregnancy

Pregnant dog signs may include nesting, increased appetite, weight gain and milk production. However, dogs are unique in that the body's hormonal system prepares for pregnancy whether it occurs or not. Have your dog checked by a veterinarian when you suspect pregnancy so that medically-supervised prenatal care can begin. A vet can detect pregnancy by palpating your dog's abdomen, or taking X-ray or ultrasound images.

The check-up can also identify health issues early. Blood tests for intestinal and blood parasites, like hookworms and heart worms, should be done. A blood test will also tell if your pregnant dog is a carrier of bacteria causing a serious disease, brucellosis, which may result in liver damage and arthritis in humans. Also discuss what to do if your pregnant dog is not current on her vaccinations; some veterinarians believe administering vaccines during pregnancy is risky, while others believe it is a way to insure a mother dog passes on adequate antibodies to her puppies.

Feed the Mother Puppy Food

Expect a weight gain of about 15 to 25 percent in your pregnant dog; do not underfeed or overfeed her. Initially, feed her a normal diet-making sure it is high quality food-for about 30 to 35 days of her pregnancy. After that, gradually switch her to puppy food, starting by mixing in small amounts with her adult dog food, then increasing the amount of puppy food until that is the only kind she is eating. At delivery, your pregnant dog will need 1.5 times the normal amount of food (three times the normal amount while nursing, to sustain lactation). Do not take a mother dog off puppy food until puppies are weaned.

Keep Her Fit

Daily walks prevent obesity and get the mother dog into shape for delivery. Such exercise is also an enjoyable way for both pregnant dog and owner to bond during this special time. Just turning your dog loose in the yard does not provide the mental or physical workout that enhances chances for a successful pregnancy. However, keep her indoors during the three weeks prior to expected delivery in order to protect her from diseases carried by dogs she could encounter.

Nurturing Your Pregnant Dog

Your pregnant dog's emotional state is important, too, so she'll need a lot of care and affection. Statistically, mother dogs who are emotionally secure are more likely to deliver puppies that are smart, agile, strong, healthy and happy. Shower your pregnant dog with ample affection and attention to enhance her physical and psychological well-being.

Special Cautions During Gestation

Each stage of gestation presents special concerns. At just two weeks, for example, all cells needed by a dog have developed. Fetuses have a head, spine, limb buds and tail. Do not give the mother drugs and do not expose her to environmental hazards during this time, for the developing fetuses are especially vulnerable in early pregnancy. At any point during your dog's pregnancy, only give her nutritional supplements under the supervision of a vet. Never give your pregnant dog calcium supplements, for extra calcium may predispose your dog to uterine inertia, a condition that impairs contractions during delivery.