Heats and Pregnancy in Dogs

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Puppies are so cute and full of energy when they are little. Often the question is asked about whether a male or female dog makes a better pet? Ultimately that question is answered by personal preference. Regardless it is recommended that pets be spayed or neutered at 5-6 months of age to help reduce their risk of developing cancerous conditions, reproductive infections or diseases, and unplanned litters of puppies.

Breeding the female dog

Most dogs come into heat for the first time between 6 and 12 months of age. It is recommended to not breed a dog until around 2 years of age so she can finish growing and be evaluated for developmental problems. It is especially important in dog breeds known to be predisposed to hip dysplasia that the hips be x-rayed and evaluated prior to breeding the dog.  The hips can be certified and graded using two different methods to assess for hip dysplasia.

The first thing you will recognize when your dog goes into heat is a swollen vulva and bloody discharge. Somewhere between days 6-11 of the heat cycle the female will become more interested in the male and actually become fertile. While in heat a dog can be breed by more than the one male. She will be in heat for ~3 weeks and her cycle will arrive every 6-9 months.

Gestation (pregnancy) a brief overview

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Gestation is the period when the young are developing in the mother’s uterus. Gestation is normally 63 days, but puppies may be delivered between 58 and 68 days. There are no practical blood or urine tests available to confirm pregnancy in the dog. Pregnancy diagnosis is typically confirmed using ultrasound or x-rays. There are few noticable changes until after the 5th week of pregnancy. Some mammary development may begin as early as day 35 of gestation, but typically is seen within the last week before delivery. Some behaviour changes can be normal, especially in the last few weeks of gestation. A whelping box that is big enough for the mother to sleep in comfortably and leave room for puppies should be provided for the mother to nest in prior to delivery. Blankets and papers should be provided for her to shred and make a nest out of.

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Good nutrition is essential for healthy puppies and mothers. During the first 4 weeks of pregnancy nutritional needs change little for your dog. However during the last 5 weeks it is recommended to feed several small meals each day and an increased amount of food may be necessary to meet the energy demands for the mother. Fresh water should always be available. Dietary supplements should be used only as recommended by the patients veterinarian.

Moderate exercise is best for the pregnant dog. Neither forced rest or strenuous exercise is a good idea. Short periods of gentle play and short walks are good.