Maternity Care

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When you discover your bitch is pregnant, there is a lot of excitement tinged with concerns about how she should be cared for during and after the whelping (giving birth).

A bitch is normally pregnant (gestation period) for about 63 days from the day of mating, however it may vary from 56 days or as long as 70days. Quite often breed variations will have an influence on the length of gestation (Speak to our Veterinary Surgeon, who will advise you)

Pregnancy can be detected by expect and careful palpation of the abdomen from about four to five weeks after mating. We offer ultrasonic examination from four weeks on wards for £. (Ask the Veterinary Surgeon for advice)

Your bitch may not show any signs of pregnancy in the first month after mating; although she may appear less energetic. In lean breeds, it may be noticeable to see abdominal enlargement from about five weeks onwards, especially those who are pregnant for the first time and those with large litters.

Care of the bitch

Exercise

Tender loving care is required as normal, it is important to maintain her normal daily exercise regime throughout the pregnancy, although do not allow strenuous exercise such as jumping in the last two to three weeks.

Worming

It is advisable to worm your bitch a month before her due date; this will help to reduce the risk of passing on worms to her puppies. - (Speak to our Veterinary Surgeon who will advise you on the most appropriate treatment for your bitch)

Diet

A change of diet during pregnancy and lactation (Producing milk for her puppies) should need to be observed, to support the bitches increased requirements for energy, protein, calcium and phosphorus to support the growing puppies inside her and replace the nourishment she requires to feed her puppies. A bitch's energy requirement goes up from two to four times as much during pregnancy and lactation. The bitch is unable to consume two to four times as much food, so a very energy dense food is requires, There are premium brands available, which provide more energy in a smaller amount of food, do that the bitch does not need to eat huge quantities. (Our Veterinary Surgeon will advise you)

Preparation for labour/ whelping. (Giving birth)

About two weeks before your bitch is due to whelp, it may be advisable to separate her from the other animals in the household (unless this will be too distressing for her) and provide her with an area, which she will have peace quite and warm, she may even choose the area herself! A whelping box should be provided where it can be screened off if necessary and the ideal temperature in the room should be about 80° F (27°C) The sides of the box should be high enough to cut out draughts (10-15cm) with one side cut down to about 7.5cm to enable the bitch and yourself to get in and out easily. Sometimes a rail or shelf is provided on the inside of the whelping box around one or more of the sides, usually protruding about 7cm away from the side, to prevent the bitch from lying up against her puppies on the first two or three days. Provide the bitch with plenty of bedding, newspaper is ideal, so that the bitch can tear it up and it can be easily replaced when soiled.

At least ten days before the bitch is due, it may be a good idea to visit our Vet for a health check and who will advise you on the impending birth.

Labour (normal)

For normal whelping care, we recommend the following guides:

The book of the bitch, J.M Evans and Kay White
Publisher: Howell book house, USA, Ringpress books UK.
Available from the vet2pet shop and all good book stores.

The technique of breeding better dogs, Dr. Dieter Flieg
Publisher: Howell book house, USA, Ringpress books UK.
Available from all good book stores

Labour - difficulty

The actual birth usually takes place without any major problems but sometimes bitches can have difficulty giving birth. There are several possible reasons for this.

The first possibility is that of size. The pup or pups can be simply too large to pass through the birth canal of the bitch. The limiting factor on the bitch's part is the bony pelvis. The chance of large pups is bigger if it involves a small litter. Bitches of the larger breeds have larger litters as a rule. Younger bitches have smaller litters than older ones.

The second possibility is that the bitch is not strong enough to expel the puppies. This is possible as a consequence of a condition called eclampsia. This is when the bitch has a low level of calcium in the blood, giving rise to weakness of the muscles. This can be caused by incorrect feeding or supplementation during pregnancy. See eclampsia below.

The third possibility is that of pups being in the wrong position to be expelled normally by the bitch. Sometimes a pup can be blocking the birth canal if it is not positioned normally. Also, it is possible for 2 pups, from the two separate uterine horns, being expelled at the same time. This will again lead to a blockage.

The different reasons for difficulty during labour require very different approaches by the vet and therefore it is important to seek veterinary advice when this happens. It has to be said that bitches can sometimes have pauses between pups of as much as 45 minutes, and even go to sleep during these breaks. If a bitch is obviously trying to pass a pup for more than 15 minutes and nothing is happening, ring the vet!

Veterinary care should also be sought if at any stage a foul smelling discharge is produced before, during and after the birth.

Postnatal care

The bitch can be offered a drink and food before she rests. Most newborn puppies will suck straight away, or within half an hour. It is important for the puppies to suck the colostrums during the first one or two days of life to provide the maternal antibodies from the mother. As with human babies, during the fist week the puppies will suck around every two hours gradually increasing to every four hours. The bitch will normally lick and care for her puppies and it is important to keep the temperature of the surroundings at least 70°F. (21°C)

Normal exercise can be resumed as and when your bitch shows a desire and feeding of an appropriate energy dense diet is advisable until the puppies are fully weaned.

Again, it is advisable to obtain a health check from our Veterinary Surgeon following the birth and or the following problems are observed.

Signs to watch for:

Mastitis - this is where there is inflammation and infection of the mammary glands, the mammary glands usually feel hot, hard and are painful for the bitch on touching or when the pups suckle, sometimes they can form an abscess. Consult the Vet immediately, if you notice any changes in the mammary glands.

Eclampsia - Also known as milk fever, puerperal tetany is where the bitches calcium level in her blood drops to a dangerously low level, she may show signs of restlessness/whining, loss of appetite, she may then begin to walk stiffly and stagger, eventually she may develop a high temperature, muscle spasms and convulsions. Prompt veterinary treatment is required to reverse these signs.

The appropriate diet such as the one described above, can play an important part in preventing the onset of this disease.

  • If a foul smelling discharge or bleeding is noticed before, during and after the birth.
  • There was any kind of problem during the delivery.
  • The puppies appear cold, listless, cries continuously or will not suckle from their mother.
  • The bitch will not eat or drink within 24 hours of giving birth.

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