Care and Exercise of the Pregnant Bitch
More advice from the Keeper's Cottage

Until you know for certain that your bitch is in pup, you should assume that she is – after all, there’s nothing like being optimistic?   By this stage she should be up to date with her vaccinations, have been wormed and treated for any parasites.   

For the first few weeks she should be on her usual rations of good quality feed and kept exercised.   

Fitness is very important.  Labour is just that – hard work for the bitch!  The fitter she is, the easier she’ll find it to deliver her pups. She’ll also have better energy levels, so if the labour is prolonged, the proper care and exercise she has had during the pregnancy may save you from having to have a caesarean through fatigue.   Obviously she shouldn’t be jumping over obstacles, or be encouraged to go tearing around but a good walk at her own pace, twice a day, will do her the world of good, as will swimming – if she enjoys the water.    

Her feeding shouldn’t need to be increased until around 4 ˝ - 5 weeks into the pregnancy, by this point her pregnancy should be becoming obvious – although you can have your dog scanned at around 4 weeks, if you wish.  At this stage your vet should be able to detect heartbeats using ultrasound, although I’ve personally not found it to be reliable numbers wise – last time I was told there were ‘about’ 3 puppies & she delivered 8!    

A fat dog that is out of condition, will find it far more difficult to give birth than a fit dog, as will a bitch that has been kept short of good feed during her pregnancy – she will tire more quickly and won’t produce as much milk for the pups, she will also drop her own body weight and draw from her own reserves.  It’s difficult to judge – but as a rough guide your dog should be energetic and alert, her coat should be in good condition and she should be well covered over her ribs and rump, without feeling fat.  She may look huge – but it may well be due to the number of pups inside her!  If her coat is becoming dull and staring, or you can see her ribs clearly – she’s not getting enough good food and you should remedy this immediately.   Remember everything you put into the bitch now – will benefit both her when she’s nursing pups and also the pups growing inside her.   

As the pups develop & grow, they will draw nourishment away from the bitch and also obviously take up more room in her abdomen.  So a bitch, that isn’t taking all of her food – can still be hungry but may just not have room for it all in one go!    From around 6 weeks I’ll gradually change the bitch over to a good quality puppy food – the extra calcium and protein will be beneficial to the dam. I like to feed twice a day from this point on, I also like to give a cod liver oil supplement & also milk, as a late night feed, during the last week or so.  It’s a good opportunity for me to check all is well with the bitch and it is also very important that the bitches calcium levels are kept high, some bitches can suffer from eclampsia if the levels aren’t high enough.  This can occur during pregnancy but is more common during the early days after whelping and will require immediate veterinary attention.  

Towards the latter stages of pregnancy you may find that she copes better with shorter walks and she will sleep a lot more, this is normal but she still needs to be exercised – probably 3 shorter walks, instead of 2 good walks, would be better. 

Two to three weeks before the pups are due, the bitch should be getting used to where she will whelp down and rear her pups.  This will give her plenty of time to settle – away from her kennel mates, so she can concentrate on giving birth and nursing her pups

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