Caring for Pregnant Dogs and Preparing for Birth

What You Need to Do While You're Waiting For the Puppies

pregnant dog in whelping box
Dog in whelping box. Tracy Morgan/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Is your dog pregnant? It's important that you give her the special care she needs during her pregnancy. There are several ways you can prepare for her labor and delivery, also called whelping. As the time draws near for her to deliver those puppies, take some time to learn now so you'll be ready for the big day.

How Should I Care For My Dog While She is Pregnant?

If you think or know your dog is pregnant, visit your veterinarian to discuss her needs. A dog's pregnancy in dogs is about 63 days long (approximately nine weeks). While you are waiting for the big day to come, it's important that you take good care of your pregnant dog. Here are some things to remember:

Nutrition: Pregnant dogs need more calories and nutrients while they are pregnant. It is best to feed your pregnant dog food that has been formulated for growth according to AAFCO requirements. Usually, this means feeding puppy food. By the time she is halfway through her pregnancy, your dog will require roughly twice the calorie intake that she needed before pregnancy. She should continue to eat this diet while she is nursing her puppies.

In general, your dog will not need any special vitamins or supplements while she is pregnant as long as she is getting the proper diet. However, your veterinarian will make recommendations based on your dog's individual needs.

Veterinary Care: Your dog will likely need to see the vet a couple of times during her pregnancy. An ultrasound and or blood test can be done as early as 21 days into pregnancy to confirm it. Around 45 days into the pregnancy, your vet can take x-rays to determine the number and size of the pups. Note: your dog should not be vaccinated during her pregnancy.

If your dog experiences vaginal bleeding or discharge during her pregnancy, you should contact your vet for advice. If you notice any signs of illness while your dog is pregnant, do not wait to bring her to the vet. Things that can normally wait a few days might be more serious in a pregnant dog. Complications can cause harm to the puppies and the mother dog.

Exercise: Your dog can still exercise during most of her pregnancy, but should not do any strenuous or stressful activities after 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy. It is best to limit exercise to gentle walks towards the last half of term.

Always contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your dog's health.

How Should I Prepare For My Dog To Give Birth?

Once you know your dog is pregnant, you should talk to your veterinarian to learn what to expect and what supplies are needed. It is also a good idea to talk to an experienced dog breeder about what to expect. Breeders often have great advice about the tools of the trade and how to deal with common issues.

Helpful whelping supplies to have:

OR, you can make your own whelping kit with the following:

Digital thermometer
Absorbent disposable pads
Disposable exam gloves
Aspiration bulb
Locking hemostats
Surgical scissors with blunt tips (stainless steel)
Hand towels and washcloths
Antiseptic (iodine/betadine)
Rubbing alcohol

Consider having a dog first aid kit handy in case you need it. Keep your veterinarian's contact information close by in case you need to call. You may also want the local emergency vet's number in case this all happens in the middle of the night.

Helping Your Dog Have Puppies

Fortunately, most dogs don't need too much help with whelping as long as there are no complications. Her instincts will guide her, but your assistance can help keep her and the puppies safe and comfortable. The best thing you can do is to have your supplies ready before the big day. When she goes into labor, your main job is to watch and wait. Learn what to expect during whelping so you will know when to step in and help your dog and her puppies.