Dog Births on the Way – A Care Guide

You have likely cared for your dog for awhile before she became a pregnant dog, but have you given some thought about the special care she’ll need during her pregnancy? This article is the second in a series about dog pregnancy symptoms and care. The first article focused on figuring out whether or not your dog is pregnant. This one will tell you how to care for your pregnant dog.

Read Dog Pregnancy Symptoms Part 1 here

A dog pregnancy lasts anywhere from 54 – 72 days, but “normal” is 62 days. During this time, your main responsibility is to keep your pregnant dog comfortable and make sure she is eating enough to provide adequate nutrition to her growing puppies.

One of the most important differences between dog pregnancy and human pregnancy is in the need for vitamin supplements. A dog should never be given vitamin supplements during the first month of her pregnancy. A dog who receives supplements will not be able to extract calcium properly from her bones after birth. As the calcium level in the blood drops, the dog may develop muscle weakness or even seizures. In addition, too much vitamins A and D can cause birth defects in the newborn puppies.

Feeding a Pregnant Dog

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Nutrition is important for a pregnant dog.

When your dog starts exhibiting pregnant dog symptoms, you will continue feeding her regular food for the first month after breeding. However, when she gets into the last half of her pregnancy, you will begin feeding puppy food to provide more calories in her diet. You will want to find a high quality food that provides adequate nutrition to both the pregnant dog and her puppies. If any nutrient is in short supply, the small amount available will go to the puppies, not to the mama dog. This is Mother Nature’s way of providing for survival of the species.

During week five of your dog’s pregnancy, you will increase her feeding by about 25%, and your veterinarian may prescribe a vitamin supplement to make sure all necessary nutrients are being provided. At week six, add another 25%. Your dog may begin to lose interest in food as she becomes more uncomfortable, so you may have to divide her food into smaller feedings, several times a day. At week seven, add another 25%, and at week eight, add another 25%. A sample feeding schedule is shown below, assuming your dog was eating 1 cup of food twice per day before the pregnancy.

Week(s) Type of Food Breakfast AM Snack Lunch PM Snack Dinner
1 – 4 Dog 1 cup X X X 1 cup
5 Puppy 1-1/4 cup X X X 1-1/4 cup
6 Puppy 1 cup X 1 cup X 1 cup
7 Puppy ¾ cup ¾ cup 1/2 cup ¾ cup ¾ cup
8 Puppy 1 cup ½ cup 1 cup ½ cup 1 cup

Exercise During Your Dog’s Pregnancy

pregnant dog
Exercise your pregnant dog regularly.

Throughout the dog pregnancy, it is important that you provide plenty of exercise for your dog. During the first month, take your dog for daily walks, and if you have a place for her to run, that is even better. Exercise will put your dog into top condition for delivering her newborn puppies. By week seven, you will notice that your pregnant dog is beginning to sleep more and may not be as interested in exercise. Try to take her for several short walks each day so all of those muscles you worked so hard to get into shape will stay that way.

Dog Whelping Box

The last thing you will need to do during your dog’s pregnancy is to find a whelping box. Playpens are often used for this purpose, but you can use just about anything that meets the following requirements. It must have sides high enough that a 4 – 6 week old puppy cannot climb out, but low enough that mama can have a break from her pups when she needs one. With a playpen, you would accomplish this by collapsing one side. There should also be a ledge running around the inside of the box, which allows the newborn puppies a place to hide when the mother rolls over in her sleep.

Whelping box picture
Whelping box with ledge.
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The box or playpen should be set up in a quiet, private place that the dog is familiar with. Set it up about a week before you expect the puppies to be born, so the mama has time to get used to it. The box should be lined with towels, and you will need to have plenty of extra towels on hand. Dog births are no less messy than human births!

You can line the box with newspapers, which the dog may shred as she prepares for giving birth. Alternatively, you might want to line the box with old towels. However, you will have to remove and wash the towels quite often as the puppies will not have the muscles to control their bowels and bladders for the first few weeks.

Be sure to stop back and look for our article on dog birth and our newborn puppy care guide.

Read Part 3 Dog Birth here

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