Dogs are pregnant for roughly 63 days, or nine weeks. Occasionally a dog will deliver as early as 57 days or as late as 69 days. The average litter is three to six puppies, although they can have as few as one, or as many as a ten, with larger dogs having more pups in a litter. The act of giving birth is called whelping, and if a dog has been well cared for through her pregnancy this will usually go well, although there are always risks of problems (more problems occur in dogs than in cats, and more problems occur in smaller dogs than in larger ones).
Feeding a Pregnant Dog
A pregnant dog should be in excellent condition, and should be fed good quality puppy food after she is five weeks along, increasing her meal size over the next weeks. Many dog owners do not know the difference between a low quality dog food and a good quality one, after all every pet food markets itself as “the best”. A good quality puppy, or dog, food has a proper meat source as a top ingredient, not corn gluten meal, not brewers rice, not a “by-product”.
A pregnant dog should be given fed puppy food three times a day, and may have a small amount of canned food once or twice a day, especially in her final weeks, or if she is very young, or very old. She should have access to water at all times.
General Care for a Pregnant Dog
Pregnant dogs should not be allowed to roam loose. She could go missing or could eat something she should not.
If she is vaccinated, a pregnant dog should be given regular walks to help her muscle tone, but walking can be reduced in the final weeks, as you notice her slowing down. Do not walk an unvaccinated dog off your property – talk to the veterinarian about vaccinations needed in your area and find it out if it is possible to vaccinate your dog. The risk of cardiac parvo (parvovirus which attacks the unborn pup and kills them after birth) is high in dogs who are not vaccinated.
A pregnant dog should be seen by a veterinarian around 30 days of pregnancy, at this time the vet can check her condition and can “feel” for the puppies, and give you an idea how many pups she is carrying.
Do not treat the dog with any medication or chemicals without checking with your veterinarian first. If your dog wears a flea collar, remove it, and use a flea comb instead. Do not even give the dog additional vitamins as you risk giving her too many, check with your vet first.
A special whelping room should be prepared for the dog. No other dog should enter that room (it could bring disease). No other person who has been in contact with dogs should enter the room without washing and changing shoes.
If the dog is a long haired breed you may want to trim her hair to keep her tidy, be aware that dogs who have had pups will often shed their coats, so removing hair before hand will make things neater.
Be sure to have the veterinarian’s phone number handy at all times. As well make sure you have at least $1500 available in case a caesarian section, or other emergency care, is needed.
Abortion and Spay
Although this is something few owners want to consider, it is worth noting that at any time during a dog’s pregnancy the veterinarian can spay her and abort the litter. If this is to be done it is best if done before the expecting dog is more than 40 days along. The reasons for doing a spay to a pregnant dog can be many, including reducing the risk of pregnancy and complications to a dog, as well as controlling an unwanted dog population.