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There is perhaps nothing cuter than a brand new puppy; the closed eyes, the wee little paws and noses, everything about them screams cuteness and is enough to bring a grown man to tears. We’re all well aware of how this happens, “the birds and the bees” also applies to dogs, but for how long is your dog pregnant? How should you deal with all that a pregnancy will bring to your animal? When should you contact the vet? How do you proceed once you’ve established a pregnancy?
All of these are understandable questions from owners that might be frantic and uncertain about how to prepare themselves for the arrival of puppies. This handy guide will hopefully help you through this process.
Establishing the presence of puppies
If you’re breeding your dog, then it’s important to take the dog to vets at around 30 days after gestation for testing. According to The Vets, thirty days is a good benchmark for gestation as it takes roughly 15-18 days for the fertilised eggs to travel into the uterine horn. After this two-week period, fetal growth will be rapid, the eggs will swell and double in diameter every week thereafter.
After your arrival at the vets, the vet will examine your dog and perform one, or all four diagnostic tests to confirm pregnancy and test fetal health.
Just like in humans, dogs can have ultrasounds too. This test is usually performed between 25 and 35 days following gestation. Just like in humans, the ultrasound is a test for a heartbeat and puppy size. The heartbeat detection will tell you how many puppies your dog is having.
This test is time-sensitive and should be performed between 28 and 30 days following gestation. The vet will test for heartbeats by listening to the abdomen and looking for the presence of “golf balls”. These are fluid sacs that form around the growing fetus.
Another way to detect pregnancy at around 25-30 days is to conduct a blood test. This blood test will reveal an increase in hormone levels and in particular, the production of the hormone called “relaxin”. Relaxin is only produced during pregnancy, making a blood test one of the most accurate ways to tell if your dog is pregnant.
One final method of pregnancy determination could be an x-ray. But this is done much later than the others – at 55 days of pregnancy – because any puppies’ skeletal structures would not show up before this time. The presence of the skeletal structures is key to knowing how many pups you’re dealing with. Though because the test is conducted late in the pregnancy cycle, it should be done in addition to other testing conducted earlier.
What if I haven’t bred my dog?
If you’re not a dog breeder, then your dog may become pregnant by accident – an encounter with an unspayed male, particularly if your dog is an outdoor dog. This is not uncommon and the unexpected pregnancy of a dog is not a cause for concern. If you suspect your dog is pregnant, though you did not breed it, you should take it to the vets immediately for testing. The vet may also perform other tests for the presence of other diseases that may affect the litter.
How do I prepare my dog and my space?
Several days before your dog goes into labour – say around the 55-58 day mark, you’ll want to make sure that your dog is carefully groomed, you can either do this yourself or (preferably) hire a professional dog groomer with experience working with pregnant dogs, as delicacy is of paramount importance.
There are many things you’ll need to do to prepare your space for the arrival of the pups, or “whelping” as it is known. You’ll need to buy or create a “whelping box” for your dog and place it in a warm, dry place and make sure your dog knows where it is. Line the box with clean blankets, towels and puppy pads.
When it is time for your dog to go into labour, they will likely become restless and pant a lot. Ensure that they are in the box and allow nature to take its course. Sit with your dog and make sure that they’re comfortable. You should have an idea of how many pups to expect, so be prepared for that. It is perfectly normal for 30-60 minute gaps between each birth of each pup.
Birthing for your dog should be a joyous experience, if a bit messy. Make sure that you’re there with your dog and also ensure that a vet is present in the event of something going wrong.
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