Pregnancy is probably the most important period in a dog’s life.
Unfortunately, it is often underestimated and taken for granted in the mistaken belief that nature knows what to do in every situation. Mistakes, however, are very frequent and dangerous for the mother and her future puppies.
One false idea to dispel immediately is that any time is a good time for a dog to become pregnant.
While it is true that a dog is a very prolific mammal in terms of mating and pregnancies, this does not mean that everything can be simply left to nature.
The age at which a dog mates, for example, is very important.
Generally speaking, it is better to wait for a dog’s second heat, or even to wait patiently for the third heat if we are talking about giant breed dogs. It is also advisable to avoid an older dog (>7 years) mating. In such cases, a thorough preliminary veterinary examination is strongly recommended. About two years ago the ENCI (Italian Kennel Club) issued regulations requiring a veterinary ‘fit-to-breed’ breeding clearance certificate for a dog over 7 years old.
Whatever the case, however, a vet’s care and supervision will help manage the last stages of pregnancy and the delicate moment of delivery safely and correctly . The vet can check the timing, how many puppies, and what risks, are involved in the birth. In general, the dog is able to carry out the task completely independently, but surgical or induced delivery may be necessary for some breeds such as brachycephalic dogs, or when there are likely to be a large numbers of puppies.
Pregnant dog nutrition
The nutritional requirements of a pregnant dog is another important aspect to take into consideration. The most common mistake is to overfeed the dog at the beginning of the pregnancy. However, there should be no significant weight gain in the dog in the first 40 days: the embryos are very small, and consequently any energy requirements are very similar to those pre-pregnancy.
After the initial 40 days, the dog may need additional energy support, with much smaller, and much more frequent, meals – in some cases, up to 7 to 8 meals per day.
The diet must be of the highest quality and balanced. It is important at this stage to avoid any unnecessary supplements (vitamin B and calcium) in order to avoid poor, or lack of, calcium assimilation by the parathyroid glands.