This article is based upon the assumption your dog’s pregnancy was planned. If so, you know the actual dates of breeding and calculate the due date accordingly. The normal gestation period for a dog is 63 days. This time period can be from the first or last breeding so remember to take in the latter dates when starting to worry.
Within three weeks, many veterinarians can palpate the mother to see if she is pregnant. This is done, by placing the dog on the floor, standing up and the doctor cupping the abdomen near the rib cage in his hand. He then squeezes gently, sliding his hand back toward the pelvis of the dog. If pregnant, he will feel a thickening of the uterus and “bumps” within. These bumps are your future litter. This is not a fool- proof method. Its reliability depends on the practice, sense of touch and expertise of the doctor.
If you are told the dog is not pregnant, don’t give up all hope. It is still a good possibility she is and the doctor just didn’t do the palpation at the correct time.
At a later date, the doctor can do an x-ray to look for skeletons. This is an excellent method for it gives you a definite answer as to pregnancy and it also can tell you how many puppies there are. This is useful information when the mother decides to give birth in the middle of the night.
Plan on feeding a good quality puppy food from the time of breeding. This will insure the proper nutrients and minerals are available for the healthy development o the puppies. It also gives an added boost to the mother’s milk production, health and well-being.
Build her a nest to deliver in. Although this can be something as simple as a cardboard box, children’s wading pools seem to work the best. They are easy to keep clean and disinfected, lightweight and inexpensive. Put blankets, sheets or old towels in to make the mother feel more comfortable. Word of warning: make sure anything you put in can be thrown away later. The stains of birth will not come out of all material.
During the pregnancy, encourage the mother to be as active as normal. She isn’t really in a “delicate condition.” By running and keeping fit, she will be much more capable to handle a long, drawn out labor. Remember, some of the larger breeds can have up to twelve or fourteen puppies in one litter. A litter this size will be a several hour ordeal for mother and owner.
The actual delivery can be anticipated by several means. The first way is to look up the actual due date based upon the breeding dates. Another method is checking the mother’s temperature. The normal temperature of a dog is 101F. Many times, a female will drop to below 100F within twelve to twenty-four hours of delivery. This method will work on the majority of pregnant dogs.
There are other ways to tell if your dog is about to deliver. She will often become restless with a greater need to go out and urinate. Pacing, panting, and digging at the nest are also clues the time is near. One other sign is a discharge from the vagina. This will often start out clear, change to a pale green and then to a dark green. This dark green means there has been placental detachment and puppies are immanent. If your dog has not had any puppies within a couple hours of this discharge’s appearance, contact you veterinarian for assistance.
In most cases, help from the owner is not required. Occasionally, you will have a female that doesn’t seem to know what to do, is too tired to take care of the newborn puppy or is in the middle of the delivery of another one. If this occurs, remove the membrane the puppy is in, take a piece of heavy thread and tie a knot approximately one inch from where the cord attaches to the body. Then tie another know a little further from the first and use clean scissors to cut the cord between the knots.
After this is done, dry the puppy using a clean cloth. Wash cloths work well because they are big enough to cover the puppy but won’t get in your way. Using the cloth, dry the puppy against the grain of the hair. Also, lightly pinch the scruff of the puppy’s neck to get it to cry. Crying clears all the amniotic fluid from the puppy’s airway. If you have a suction bulb, you can gently use it in each nostril.
After the entire labor is over, offer the mother something to eat and drink. Also try to get her to go outside. Remove and replace the soiled nest covers then give the mother time alone with her new family.
Author's name omitted by request