The Big Event: Prenatal and Postpartum Care for Your Dog
It’s so exciting! Your dog is pregnant and puppies are on the way! There’s a lot to prepare for to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth and that the mother and puppies have great post-natal care. Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital wants to share the basics so you can begin preparing for this exciting event.
Prenatal Care for Dogs
Dogs are pregnant for about 63 days, or two months, and a lot happens during this time. Just as in humans, there are a few things that are fundamental to your pregnant dog’s good health.
Proper nutrition — One of the most important things you can do for good prenatal care is to feed the mother a high quality diet. Ask us about a nutritionally balanced diet; if she’s already eating one, you don’t need to make any changes for the first part of the pregnancy. As she enters the last five weeks, it’s recommended you begin increasing her food intake gradually by 35-50% to support her body’s growing nutritional needs. Always make changes slowly, and provide meals that are smaller but more frequent to avoid discomfort.
Visits to the vet — Regular prenatal care at our office can help ensure a healthy pregnancy and give you a chance to ask any questions about whelping and newborn puppy care. While you’re here, we’ll examine your pet for any signs of illness or discomfort and will discuss your role during your dog’s labor and what to expect. Remember, emergencies do happen during labor and birth, so we’ll also help you develop a plan should your dog need anything.
Prepare for puppies — Who doesn’t get excited about the prospect of a house full of puppies? The best way to make sure your dog is comfortable is to set up a whelping box. This is a safe, warm, comfortable place where your dog can give birth. It should be in a quiet, private spot away from other dogs and activity. Make sure your pet is familiar with it before labor so she knows it as a safe, warm place to go when the time comes to give birth (rather than your closet!)
Postpartum Care for Mother and Puppies
Postpartum care is extremely important to make sure the mother and puppies stay well. Here are a few guidelines for the mother:
- As soon as the mother has finished whelping, all soiled material should be removed and replaced with soft, clean bedding.
- If it doesn’t disturb her too much, try cleaning the mother a little bit using a soft, warm, wet washcloth.
- The mother should sleep for a few hours after whelping while the puppies nurse or sleep.
- When she wakes, your pet should be bright, alert, and attentive to her puppies.
- Feed her and provide fresh water; continue feeding small, frequent meals. Talk to us about increasing quantity of food after whelping.
- Monitor the mother around the clock for the first week.
- Check her teats regularly for heat, swelling, pain, or redness. Should any of these occur, call us right away.
For the puppies:
- Make sure all puppies are breathing normally and check for congenital defects.
- Record the birth weight for each puppy.
- Keep their nursery box clean and dry at 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Normal newborns are plump, warm, and suckle vigorously for the first 24 hours. They sleep when they aren’t nursing and should be able to find a nipple without assistance.
- Puppies should gain weight consistently after birth.
- Remember that newborn puppies cannot see or hear for 2 weeks after birth.
- Watch for discharge from the nose or eyes, wheezing, difficulty nursing or breathing, pale gums, and the inability to pass stool. If you’re worried for any reason, give us a call or bring the puppy to an emergency clinic right away.
As always, please contact us if any questions come up.
The First Visit to the Vet
A new mother generally takes wonderful care of her puppies and provides them with all they need, including warmth, food, assistance with defecation, and social skills. Still, it’s important to bring mother and puppies in to see us within 48 hours of whelping. At this visit, we will:
- Make sure the mother is healthy and fully delivered and that she’s producing enough milk
- Check the puppies for abnormalities, birth defects, and that they’re gaining weight properly and are in good health generally
- Answer any of your questions about next steps, first vaccinations, and puppy and mother care
- Congratulate you on this exciting event!
We’re happy to be on this journey with you and look forward to helping you prepare for a wonderful experience. If you have any questions about any part of prenatal and postpartum care, please don’t hesitate to contact us.