How to Care for Your Pregnant Dog

By Jane Meggitt

Expectant mothers need special care, and your pregnant pooch is no exception. During her approximately two-month gestation, she'll require more food, especially in the last few weeks as the fetuses develop more rapidly. While she should gain weight during pregnancy, she shouldn't become obese. Regular -- but not strenuous -- exercise is important in early and mid-pregnancy. The better the care your pregnant dog receives, the better the outcome for the puppies.

Veterinary Prenatal Care

If you plan to breed your dog, take her to the vet for a checkup prior to mating to ensure she's in good health. Your vet also can vaccinate her if necessary -- pregnant dogs shouldn't receive vaccines. The vet can confirm pregnancy about three to four weeks after the last breeding. Take your dog for regular checkups until delivery. If your dog's pregnancy wasn't planned, take her to the vet as soon as you suspect she's pregnant.

Feeding the Pregnant Dog

For the initial six weeks of her pregnancy, your dog can consume her normal diet. That's assuming she's already eating a high-quality commercial dog food. After the six-week mark, start switching her to a high-calorie food for the rest of her pregnancy. Food designed for puppies usually fills the bill. Avoid supplements unless your vet recommends them. By the time she's ready to give birth, her food intake should increase between 15 to 25 percent over her normal ration. Because a pregnant dog might not feel like eating, feed her several times a day or allow her to eat free-choice. She should always have fresh water available.

Flea Control and Deworming

You want your pregnant dog to remain flea-free, but you can't necessarily use the same flea control product on her that you used before she was bred. Ask your veterinarian about a safe flea preventive. While fleas are a nuisance for a pregnant dog, they can cause anemia and even death in puppies. Heartworm preventives are safe for use during pregnancy, so your dog should remain on this medication while expecting. These drugs not only prevent heartworm infestation, but most other common canine worms, with the exception of tapeworms. Pregnant dogs with worms can pass these parasites on to their puppies while in utero or through their milk after delivery. If your dog is not on a heartworm preventive, ask your vet about appropriate dewormers to ensure hookworms and roundworms won't be passed on to her offspring.

The Final Three Weeks

Three weeks before her puppies are due, remove your dog from canine circulation. In other words, keep her away from all other dogs, including those sharing your household. It's possible that she could pick up the canine herpes virus from another dog, which might give her a slight cold. She'll be fine, but that same virus can be fatal to the fetuses. Approximately a week prior to her due date, provide her with a whelping box so she can get accustomed to it. Place it in a warm area away from major household traffic. You can line the box with newspaper and cover them with old blankets or towels. This is where she'll deliver her puppies.