LABOUR IN BITCHES
Pregnancy lasts on average 63 days (58-68 days). Pregnancy can be diagnosed by a blood test or an ultrasonic scan at 4 weeks after mating.
We recommend feeding a good quality puppy food during the last 2 weeks of pregnancy and during lactation. It is important to avoid giving a calcium supplement since excessive amounts of calcium during pregnancy may lead to the bitch developing milk fever or hypocalcaemia after the pups are born. Deworm the bitch several times during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
During the last 2-3 days before birth, bitches seek darkened places and solitude, show nesting behaviour and are restless. Bitches frequently refuse food for a day or two prior to giving birth. The presence or absence of milk is too variable to be a reliable sign that labour will be soon.
Labour is divided into 3 stages:
First stage labour lasts on average 4 hours but can last up to 36 hours. During this stage the bitch becomes restless and nervous. She shivers, pants and may vomit. Weak contractions may be seen.
Second stage labour is characterised by strong contractions and by visible straining. At this time please contact the practice to let us know so that we can be prepared if there are any complications. The duration of stage two is very variable. A large litter may take up to 24 hours to be produced. The interval between puppies is also very variable. If the bitch strains for 30 minutes to 1 hour without producing a pup, please contact the practice for advice. A rest period of more than 3-4 hours between pups is abnormal. Bitches which are good mothers will clean and possibly suckle the pups between successive births.
During Third stage labour the placentae are expelled. Pups may be born with the membranes intact or they may be born simply attached by the umbilical cord to the placenta which is expelled before, with or after subsequent births.
End of labour is signalled by the bitch relaxing and nursing the puppies contentedly.
We recommend bringing the bitch to the practice the following day for a check up and an injection to ensure contraction of the uterus and expulsion of any remaining placentae.
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