Feeding for Gestation & Weaning
Filed in Dogs, Health
Gestation for dogs is usually anywhere between 57 to 65 days. If you know exactly when the dog was bred count 63 days from the first breeding and that is the due date.
There are signs to watch for that will also alert you to when the dog is going to deliver. Usually the week before the dog whelps you will see some behavioral change. Typically, the dog will try to nest. She may take materials from other areas of the home to where she feels comfortable, she my try to burrow under a deck outside, or stick really close to her owner. Set up her whelping box well ahead of time and have her sleep in it. Make it really comfortable, by putting her special toys or bed in it, or sitting in it with her, so it is a place she wants to be during this last week she is usually pretty uncomfortable.
You will need to feed her small meals frequently. In the 24 hours before she whelps her temperature will drop by 1 degree C. Start taking her temperature twice a day as her due date gets close so you know when this happens. Someone should be with her constantly these last days.
Watch closely for any discharge. A greenish colored discharge is a sign that she is septic--a puppy may have died in her uterus--this demands immediate medical attention. When she begins to whelp she may panic and accidently hurt a puppy. When she has to go out keep her on a leash so she doesn't whelp a puppy outside or burrow under something.
You may also need to help clear the puppies lungs or cut an umbilical cord. You may want to find a vet or breeder to be available by phone during this time in case you have questions. You may also want to get a good book.
After she has delivered the puppies its a good idea to have a vet do an x-ray to make sure that all puppies and afterbirths have been expelled.
For the first couple of days after whelping the new mom will be producing colostrum. It is really important for all the puppies to nurse at this time. The colostrum provides all of the mother's immunities to the puppies. It has a different texture and look than her normal milk.
Feed the mom high quality puppy food at this time, do not feed a large breed puppy formula to her. She should be allowed to eat as much as she wants as many times a day as she wants. She will need alot of calories to produce milk for the puppies. Watch for discomfort, redness or hardness around the mom's nipples, these may be signs of mastitis--an infection of the breast milk.
If this develops puppies must immediately be taken from the mom and bottled fed, the mom will need to see the vet immediately. In cases of large litters, or when the mom isn't producing enough milk you may need to supplement with canned puppy milk as well, so its a good idea to have some on hand.
Puppies are usually ready to be weaned around 4 to 5 weeks. Soak a good quality puppy kibble in a small amount of canned puppy milk and hot water. Mash it until it is the texture of cream of wheat--make sure there aren't any hard pieces the puppy can choke on. Feed each puppy alone until you know that they are eating. If mom is willing to nurse they can nurse a bit after their meal. Gradually, during this phase, they will nurse less and their mom will start producing less milk.
Puppies should stay with their littermates and have interaction with their mom until they are at least 8 weeks.
They are learning the rules of dog communication at this time and if they are to grow up to be well adjusted youngsters this period is crucial.
Puppies are a lot of fun but as you can tell a lot of work! Find a good mentor who can be there to answer questions. Most breed clubs have chat rooms on the internet or email lists where there is valuable information and quick answers to questions that arise. If you haven't already bred your dog make these connections ahead of time to get the answers to all of your questions.