The normal length of pregnancy in dogs is 63-65 days from the last mating date.
Most bitches will have begun mammary enlargement at about 35 days, however this and tummy swelling is most rapid in the last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy.
False pregnancies are very common in bitches, with some dogs putting on weight, having mammary enlargement and even producing milk, even though she is not pregnant. If you are unsure whether she is pregnant, you can bring her to a veterinarian who can do an ultrasound or gently palpate the tummy to check for the presence of pups. If it is a false pregnancy it will usually resolve itself naturally between 60-70 days or you can give her hormone tablets to stop the behaviour.
Following these few tips below will help to increase the health and survival of the pups and the bitch.
1) VACCINATION: If possible, before you breed your dog, make sure her vaccinations for distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis are up to date, as this will ensure she passes on some immunity to the pups. This will give them some resistance to these diseases until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.
2) FEEDING: Her appetite will increase dramatically, especially in the last three weeks of pregnancy. You may need to feed her 2-3 times a day because late in pregnancy there isn’t enough room in her stomach for one large meal a day. Ensure the diet is high in protein, vitamins and energy. Puppy dry or tinned food is good for pregnant bitches. Taper off exercise as whelping (labour in dogs) approaches. Calcium supplement in the last week of pregnancy and the first couple of weeks after giving birth is also very important particularly in small breeds of dogs such as Chihuahuas or Bichon Frise.
3) WORMING: Bitches can pass intestinal worms to their pups through the placenta and milk, therefore it is important to deworm regularly against roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. As a guide, worm your dog two weeks before whelping and again two weeks after. Continue to give heartworm prevention as normal. The pups can be wormed at 2 weeks of age as well.
4) WHELPING AREA: A clean, dry, warm and quiet area is required. Bedding should be changed daily although the bitch will clean up most of the puppies mess herself in the first two weeks. Be aware that by about 3 weeks the pups are very mobile and the area will need to be cleaned twice a day. Old newspaper is a good bedding type as it is easily removed and changed.
5) BATHING: Treat your bitch for fleas and ticks before whelping to stop the pups from getting them. This can be done either with tablets, shampoos or Topspots. Beware of some of the older chemical dips and shampoos containing organophosphates as these can be toxic to young pups. The new products in tablet form such as Nexgard or Bravecto are the best as they are very effective and very safe for pups.
6) CLIPPING: Longhaired dogs such as Bichons should also be clipped around the backend and tummy just before whelping to remove excess hair.
With Dr. Karin O’Connor from Port Vila Vet Clinic in conjunction with Sam’s Animal Welfare. For further information about veterinary related issues please call the Vet Clinic on 25702 during opening hours. Monday to Friday from 7:30am to 5pm. Saturday Morning from 8:00am to 11:30am.