To understand dog pregnancy, you should first get a general comprehension of how her body works. Your dog will experience a heat cycle before she is able to get pregnant. Veterinarians suggest that you do not breed her during her first heat period unless it happens after she is 1 year old. Any earlier would stunt the growth of your young female.
Most dogs go into heat 2 times a year, but it is common to skip one on occasion. While in heat she will be able to breed with more than the one male. She will be in heat for 3 weeks and her cycle will arrive every 6-9 months.
The first thing you will recognize when your dog goes into heat is a swollen vulva and bloody discharge. Eggs are not released yet in this phase of her heat cycle. Male dogs will be chemically drawn to her more than ever before. She still will not show a major interest in them, until this 6-11 day stage comes to an end.
In the second stage of heat she is actually fertile. Her posture will transform to a stance that invites procreation. Her bleeding will change from light pink to a golden sand color. Her vulva will remain swollen but is softer than before. The most common duration for this stage is 5-9 days but has been known to go on for nearly 20 days for different dogs. Once this stage is finished she will no longer be inviting male attention.
After the first few weeks her appetite will reappear and she will rapidly start gaining weight. Her abdomen will thicken and be firm to the touch. Smaller breeds look larger when pregnant than bigger breeds because they have less room to carry all of their puppies. You will be able to feel the puppy movement during the last week of her pregnancy because that is when the babies are getting into position for birth. Don't be surprised to see several drops of milk leaking from her nipples prior to the labor.
You should have prepared her with a whelping box by now. Any location comfortably designated for her nesting needs is good enough to be her whelping area. You can use old blankets or towels to make a soft environment for the babies to be born into. With no whelping box, your female may shred your couch, or invade your closet, to make her own nest.
Her labor will go through 3 clear stages. The third stage is repeated with the birth of each puppy:
Stage One: She will appear restless and have anxiety. She will often separate herself from any attention. No food will interest her, not even her favorite treats. Take her out to go to the bathroom because it may be her last chance before delivery.
Stage Two: Her contractions will have begun. A green sac of fluid will protrude from her vulva. The puppies will start to appear either headfirst or rear first. Both are normal positions for dogs to be born in. Do not be alarmed to see them quiet and listless directly after birth. Leave her alone to stand or pace, as she needs to. The mother's instincts will cause her to open the sac, and lick the pups to clean them. She will sever the umbilical cord herself, but sometime you may interject if the natural process takes too long. The sac should always be removed immediately if it remained unbroken during the delivery. You may clean the puppies by rubbing them gently with a fresh cloth. Keep rubbing to stimulate their circulation. The mother's tongue or your rubs are what gets them to start squirming and crying.
If the mother struggles with a puppy that becomes lodged then you can try to assist the birth by grasping the puppy with a clean clothe. Firmly exert steady traction but do not jerk or pull suddenly. If you have any questions then call your vet right away.
Stage Three: Her resting period will last a few hours as her mild contractions fade away. If she delivered two pups closer together than her comfort level allowed, then her contractions will take longer to end.
She will pass soft stool for a few days due to the natural change in her new eating habit and from the residue she consumed while cleaning her pups.
Do not be alarmed if she eats her pup's feces in the beginning. That is a common thing for new mothers to do and will generally not hurt her. She will still have some remaining vaginal discharge with passing blood clots for a week. Any longer is not normal and should be addressed.
The new mother will take care of the puppies after birth so there is very little you need to do to assist them. She may even act territorial or aggressive initially. This behavior will slow down over time. They will start nursing 2-4 hours after birth. Never place a heating pad down for the puppies, but do realize that the low floor can be 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the room. The puppies need a comfortable room temperature. Their eyes open at 10-14 days old. Their first visit to the vet is at 3 weeks for routine de-worming and a health exam. They need to be weaned at 3-4 weeks of age.
During the weaning process, cut their milk intake down gradually by substituting the remainder of their diet with watered down puppy food and milk replacer. It is good if they start taking solid food, but if you are still having difficulty then never deprive the puppy of the mother's milk until he is able to eat solids for however long it takes.
Make sure to keep the puppies' bed area clean daily. Watch their feeding habits and weight gain to know which puppies need extra nutrients. Never feed human milk. Milk replacer is the only nutritional boost you should feed a small puppy. One or two runts in a litter are common. You may give them a separate feeding time to have an equal chance of achieving a full diet. Always rid their area of fleas because a flea infestation could drain the little pups of blood at a dangerous rate.
Once they reach 6-8 weeks old then they are at the age to be adopted out.
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Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.