What to Expect When Your Dog’s Expecting

Let’s face it – we know a lot more about pregnancy than we did 100 years ago. Thanks to technology advancements and knowledge surrounding pregnancy as a whole, if or when the time comes to have a baby, expecting moms have access to a plethora of books, classes, and resources to learn exactly what to expect when they’re expecting. However, all of that information is only pertinent to human parents – what about paw parents?

If your fur baby is expecting puppies of her own, she requires special care and attention to ensure a healthy pregnancy and litter. To help you navigate the world of pup-pregnancy, the Happy Puppy Tips team spoke directly with vets and experts and compiled a short list of how to best care for your pup if she’s expecting. Keep reading!

How to Tell if Your Dog is Pregnant 

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of caring for an expectant pup, it helps to understand the signs to watch for to determine if your dog truly is pregnant.

If you’re intentionally trying to breed your dog, obvious signs like weight gain and a swollen stomach are a good sign of a litter on the way. However, if you’re not actively trying to breed your dog, and she is in contact with other dogs a lot (especially unneutered male dogs), she is at risk of becoming pregnant – and a combination of a few telltale signs can be a good indicator of a pregnant pup. 

Because pregnant dogs’ bodies begin working overtime to foster new babies, expectant mothers experience a significant increase in appetite, can get tired more quickly, and can either become irritable or more affectionate. If you notice your dog has been steadily gaining weight, is tiring out faster than usual during their regular walks, and has a shift in their behavior, it may be a good idea to call your vet, who can help either rule out pregnancy, or set you up with a proper care regimen if your dog is pregnant. 

Tips for Taking Care of a Pregnant Pup

Don’t Increase Her Food

If your dog is pregnant, you should be increasing her food intake, right? Technically, yes, but not right away. In fact, increasing the amount of food your dog eats too early in her pregnancy can actually be harmful, and put her at risk of illnesses like gestational diabetes.  

Instead, focus on feeding your soon-to-be mama a food rich in nutrients (you can keep her same food so long as it’s okayed by your vet) and, as her weight increases in the last few weeks of pregnancy, you can gradually increase her food intake by 35-to-50 percent. During these last few weeks, vets also recommend splitting mealtime up into three-to-five smaller meals throughout the day, versus two larger meals, to ease any pregnancy-related discomfort after eating. 

Re-Adjust Exercise Routines

As with all pregnant mothers, calm, low-intensity exercises – such as regular short walks and light play time – are a great, healthy addition to any daily routine. However, over-stimulation, stress, and high-intensity exercises that lead a dog to become lethargic can be detrimental to a pregnancy. 

Additionally, during the final weeks of a dog’s pregnancy, she becomes at higher risk of contracting parasites and illnesses, such as canine herpes, which can cause stillborn puppies. To keep your dog’s health, and the health of her puppies, out of harm’s way, keep her indoors, separated from other dogs and animals. While she may seem bored with all of the indoor activities, her and her puppy’s future health will thank you!

Watch and Wait

When it comes to whelping – the term used for labor and delivery for dogs – the best thing you can do is watch and wait as your dog’s natural instincts guide her.  Provide her and her puppies with a warm, comfortable, safe space to let nature take its course, and stand back with a watchful eye in case any problems occur. 

Which brings us to our final tip…

Involve Your Vet

When your dog is expecting, keeping an open line of communication with your vet is more critical than ever, as they are the experts when it comes to healthy, safe pregnancies and deliveries. 

Along with putting your dog on regular checkups and a good pregnancy health-plan, they can help you gather the right supplies and arm you within the know-how needed to keep your dog comfortable throughout pregnancy and whelping, along with a direct line to dial in case of an emergency. 

Once the little ones have arrived safe and sound, you get the pleasure of congratulating mom and giving her a well-deserved rest as you reap the rewards of many tiny paws, and soft bellies, to snuggle with.  And, ohhhhh… that puppy breath!

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