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Pregnancy

So, you’ve mated your bitch to an appropriate dog through careful planning and consideration, what comes next?

Pregnancy (also known as gestation) in dogs lasts for around 9 weeks, varying from 63-65 days. It is the period in which embryos develop using nutrients supplied via the placenta from the mum.

Dogs have what is known as a bicornuate uterus located within the abdominal cavity, meaning the womb consists of a small body with 2 long horns extending from the uterine body to the ovaries and the puppies will develop within those 2 horns, held in place by placental attachments to the horn walls.

The embryos are kept alive by something called a corpus luteum which is formed after ovulation (expulsion of the egg for fertilization with sperm) helping to produce a hormone called progesterone. This continues to be produced right up until whelping is initiated and parturition (expulsion of foetuses) occurs when progesterone is no longer being produced.

It is important to make sure that the bitch you’re breeding from: is in good condition (healthy and not overweight for example), up to date with vaccinations as she will pass on natural antibodies to the pups when they’re in the womb to allow maximum immunity during the pups first few weeks of life, and that she is wormed before being mated and then during pregnancy and lactation. Different wormers will have different dosage regimes but it is important to make sure that you are using a wormer that is effective against roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm.

It is usually advised that you should worm your bitch from the 40th day of pregnancy and everyday up until a few days following parturition. The amount will depend on her weight and the specific product being used. Consult your vet if you are in any doubt about the dosage quantity and frequency for your chosen product.

Mammary glands, also known as the teats or breasts from which the puppies will suck once born to obtain milk, are modified sweat glands. Generally, bitches have 8 teats however there is no need to be concerned if your bitch has a different number whether that be more or less, every bitch is different. 

Mammary tissue will have extensive growth during pregnancy & lactation and will be even larger in a bitch’s 2nd or 3rd pregnancy. Closer to whelping, the breasts will have swollen and become a dark pink colour. You may also find hair loss on the chest which is a sign of imminent parturition.

 

The diet of pregnant bitches is essential and should be considered in-depth when looking at caring for your dachshund.

It is very important when taking care of pregnant bitches not to allow them to become overweight as this could cause problems (dystocia) when it comes to whelping the pups.

Energy requirements of the bitch only begin to increase in the third trimester (5-9 weeks into pregnancy) as this is when there is most foetal development so only then should there be an increase in how much she needs to be fed. You may find that this is when her appetite decreases due to the demands being placed on her body by the pups so it may be more beneficial to feed smaller, more frequent meals.

It is important to understand that, in dogs, the bodyweight of the pregnant bitch should not increase above 30% of that from pre-pregnancy and once the puppies are whelped all this extra weight should come off immediately provided the bitch has not been overfed.

It may be a good idea to move the bitch onto a ‘mother and puppy’ food during the second trimester (3-5 weeks into pregnancy) as then it is easier to make sure the bitch is gaining enough of the essential nutrients she needs. It is then a case of following the guidelines on the back of the pack for how much to feed according to the weight of the bitch and what stage of gestation she’s at - there should be a gradual increase every week from 5-9 weeks.  

It is also worth noting that there is some research evidence to suggest that low levels of omega 3 is linked to aggression in dogs and that DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) an important type of omega 3 fat should be provided during gestation - this can be found in fish and fish oils.

 

It is also advised that mated bitches are taken to be scanned at the Vets from around 4 weeks into pregnancy to confirm the bitch is pregnant and that there are no problems. It may be useful to have a second scan if your bitch has had issues with resorbed/mummified pups in the past just to try to monitor and prevent that from happening again.

Generally, resorbed puppies occur when progesterone levels are not high enough to accommodate the number of puppies in the womb and so if the bitch appears to have resorbed puppies, quite often your vets will carry out a progesterone test to identify whether that is the problem or not.

Written by Bryony Fossett