My dog is pregnant now what?

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So you have found yourself with a pregnant dog. Maybe your intact female gets out and an unintentional mating occurs. Maybe you have a female dog you intended to breed. Now you notice your dog’s abdomen getting bigger and it becomes evident that she is pregnant. So one question you may have is what’s  next? Well here is information you need to know about what to expect during and after your dog’s pregnancy. Whatever the reason your dog is pregnant, it is important to understand the stages of pregnancy, and what complications can occur. Also if you are thinking about breeding your female dog, this will make you fully aware of what you are getting yourself into.

You need to confirm pregnancy.

Since some dogs can exhibit pregnancy that is false due to hormonal surges, it is important pregnancy is confirmed. Pregnancy can be confirmed several ways:

  • Palpation: Depending on the size of your dog and how far along she is, a veterinarian may be able to palpate the puppies in the uterus.
  • Abdominal x-rays: X-rays are a great way to confirm pregnancy and can tell you how many puppies your dog may have. The only limitation with this procedure is fetuses can’t be seen on x-rays until 35-45 days into the pregnancy.
  • Ultrasound: A veterinarian experienced with an ultrasound can detect pregnancy in your dog as early as 20 days. This diagnostic tool is also great for detecting heart beats of the unborn puppies.
  • Hormone tests: Just like in a human, the hormone progesterone is elevated in dogs during pregnancy. Measurement of this hormone in the blood of the dog can help confirm pregnancy.

It is helpful to know approximate breeding time.

Knowing the approximate time when mating occurred is important for several reasons. It will allow you to determine what diagnostic tests are best to confirm pregnancy and it helps figure out if there any difficulties with the birthing process.

Know the 3 stages of labor.

Being aware of these stages allow you establish a timeline of pregnancy. Any delays in the timeline may require intervention by a veterinarian.

  • Stage 1: Behavioral changes are seen as your dog prepares for delivery of her puppies. Your dog may exhibit restlessness, panting, and nesting behavior. You don’t want this stage to last longer than 24 hours without progression to the next stage.
  • Stage 2: This is when your dog’s water will break. What  follows are strong abdominal contractions as your dog attempts to deliver her first puppy. You will want to see the first puppy within 2 hours of the contractions
  • Stage 3: The actual delivery of the puppies occur during this stage along with the fetal membranes and placenta. Ideally puppies should be delivered between 1-2 hours of each other.

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Know what complications are possible with pregnancy

Now that you know the stages of the pregnancy, you may recognize potential complications quicker. The first concern is the ability of your dog to deliver all the puppies. Any difficulty with birthing needs to be addressed quickly. Here are several reasons why your dog may have difficulty giving birth:

  • The puppies may be too large to birth. You especially need to worry about this if you don’t know what breed your dog mated with. The most effective treatment for this is a C-section.
  • Breached birth: If the puppies are not in the right position in the birth canal, your dog will have more difficulty passing them. Many times these puppies have to be manually removed to help with the birthing process.
  • Dead puppies: Unfortunately, some puppies could die during the birthing process. If a puppy dies before leaving the birth canal, it fails to stimulate a reflex required to initiate the birthing process. These dead puppies will also serve as an obstruction for further delivery of the live puppies. Medical intervention will be required in order to remove the dead puppies.

My dog delivered all her puppies nothing to worry about right?

Not so fast! Hopefully you will not have to deal with these issues during your dog’s delivery of her puppies. Even if your dog can give birth to her puppies without incident, there are still complications to be concerned about. Many of these occur a few weeks after giving birth.

  • Retained placentas: The placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy providing nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. This is normally expelled with the puppy during birth. In some instances, this structure fails to be expelled or is retained inside. This leads to persistent vulva discharge and potential for a serious infection in the uterus. If detected early enough, a drug called oxytocin can be given to help the uterus contract in an attempt to expel the placenta. Otherwise the best treatment is surgical removal of the uterus.
  • Subinvolution of Placental Sites (SIPS): This was discussed in a previous article about unspayed females. This is a condition where the sites of where the placenta attaches inside the uterus fails to shed when it returns to normal size. This normally occurs within 2 weeks after the puppies are born. In SIPS they still remain after 4-6 weeks resulting in discharge and sometimes bleeding.
  • Eclampsia: If you have a small breed dog like a Chihuahua, min pin, or shih tzu, they have a great risk for this. In about 1-4 weeks after the puppies are born, you may notice muscle tremors, convulsions, general weakness, and other neurological signs. This is due to low calcium in the blood stream and this condition often requires emergency treatment. Calcium has an important role in many functions of the body including neurological functions. If this occurs, puppies have to be removed from mom to prevent feeding until the blood calcium returns to normal. Calcium supplementation is usually needed for several weeks. Most dogs have to be hospitalized for initial treatment until the symptoms are under control.
  • Mastitis: It is important that if your female is in milk, that she is in a clean environment. Monitor the mammary glands closely to make sure the puppies have not caused open wounds with bites. A dirty environment and trauma to the glands can introduce bacteria leading to an infection. Infected glands are red, swollen, and often hard. Treatment often requires antibiotics, but more serious cases may involve surgery.

Knowledge for care of newborns.

If you have a healthy female , the mom generally takes care of most of the needs of the puppies. If the mom is unable or unwilling to take of the puppies, then you will need to take on that role. This may involve feeding them every 2-4 hours, keeping them clean, and stimulating them to defecate or urinate. You also need to monitor them closely for any illnesses or refusal to feed and bring anything unusual to a veterinarian’s attention.

As you can see, taking care of a pregnant dog can be a challenging experience. Being prepared with information can be your best defense. Overall, the best way to avoid a pregnancy is to have your pet spayed. Read “Should I breed my dog?” if you are thinking about breeding. It is definitely not for everyone.

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