Pregnancy in the bitch lasts for 57 days, from conception to birth. However, conception may take place up to a week after mating. Most bitches will give birth +-63 days after mating, although birth may take place from 53-73 days after mating.
Pregnancy can be confirmed from as early as 18 days by ultrasound. We will normally advise ultrasound from 3 weeks after mating. If the scan is negative for pregnancy, we can repeat the scan at no charge a week later to confirm this (the first scan may have been too early). Ultrasound is ideal to confirm early pregnancy, and can confirm that the foetuses are alive and viable. However, ultrasound is unreliable in counting the number of foetuses, especially in large litters. Radiographs (“X-rays”) taken in the last 7-10 days of pregnancy are the best method to count the number of foetuses.
Please make an appointment with our receptionists if you wish to have an ultrasound scan or radiographs performed.
It is important to make sure that the bitch is healthy, free of parasites and in good condition before birth. We recommend feeding high quality puppy food from the last 3 weeks of pregnancy until weaning of the puppies. You can feed 2-3 times the normal recommendation. This will counteract weight loss during the time that the puppies are suckling. Do not feed large breed puppy food, even if your dog is a large breed. It is important not to supplement calcium before birth as this may inhibit calcium uptake after birth and lead to milk fever (a deficiency of calcium). It should not be necessary to supplement calcium after birth if your dog is on a high quality food. If you do wish to supplement calcium, please discuss this with your vet.
Most dewormers and tick and flea products are safe for use during pregnancy, but please discuss this with our reception staff or vets first.
During the last weeks of pregnancy is important to ensure that the bitch has a quiet area in which to give birth (or she may give birth in your bed!). During the birth process we recommend that you observe quietly and from a distance, as interference with the birth process may stress the bitch and prevent normal birth.
If you have not seen a dog giving birth before, it may be wise to view a few videos on You-Tube. Most dogs will become restless or start nesting during the last day of pregnancy. There is normally an interval of 15-60 minutes between puppies. The bitch will usually show abdominal (tummy) contractions between puppies. The puppies normally appear in a placenta (a bag of jelly) that the bitch will then lick off and normally eat. The bitch will normally also bite off the umbilical cords.
- The following may indicate a problem, and your vet should be contacted:
A green discharge from the vulva before the birth of the first puppy. This indicates a definite problem. However, if the green discharge is seen after the birth of the first puppy, this is probably normal.
Strong contractions for more than 20-30 minutes
Weak (i.e. intermittent) contractions for more than 3 hours
A puppy that can be seen protruding from the vulva, but which the bitch cannot seem to deliver
Certain breed (e.g. Bulldogs) almost never have a normal birth and your vet should be contacted long before the due date to plan for a caesarean section. Contact us at any of our TAH Animal Hospitals to make a booking.