Taking Care Of A Female Dog
Common Terms Associated With Female Dogs’ Reproduction
|Estrus / Heat||Dam||Spaying||Litter||Gestation||Whelping|
|Estrus is the technical term for a female’s heat cycle. This is a period in a dog’s menstrual cycle when her body is ready to mate and produce puppies. This involves bloody discharge, the release of eggs for fertilization and a period of active willingness to breed. This occurs once in 6-12 months for domestic dogs.||Estrus is the technical term for a female’s heat cycle. This is a period in a dog’s menstrual cycle when her body is ready to mate and produce puppies. This involves bloody discharge, the release of eggs for fertilization and a period of active willingness to breed. This occurs once in 6-12 months for domestic dogs. An unspayed female dog that can give birth to puppies. Unneutered male dogs that can mate with them are called ‘studs’. A ‘sire’ is the particular stud with whom a dam has been mated to produce puppies. Surgically removing organs from a female dog's reproductive system to ensure dog pregnancy can’t occur. A group of puppies that are born from the same pregnancy. The entire length of time of a dog’s pregnancy. This ranges from 58-68 days, with most dams giving birth on the 63rd day. The act of giving birth to puppies, ie, labour.||Surgically removing organs from a female dog's reproductive system to ensure dog pregnancy can’t occur.||A group of puppies that are born from the same pregnancy.||The entire length of time of a dog’s pregnancy. This ranges from 58-68 days, with most dams giving birth on the 63rd day.||The act of giving birth to puppies, ie, labour.|
Female Dog Reproductive System
This is an overarching term that encompasses all of a female dog’s organs which are involved in conception, gestation, birth and nursing. This includes ovaries and oviducts, uterus, cervix, vagina and her mammary glands.
Spaying - The Pros and Cons
Spaying is more formally known as the ovariohysterectomy, and involves removing the reproductive organs of a female dog’s reproductive system. This is a major decision for which you should have an in-depth discussion with your vet and you should think it through thoroughly.
Most owners choose to get their female dogs spayed, especially if they don’t intend to mate her, to control the population growth of dogs and to eliminate or decrease the chance of certain diseases.
The Pros of Spaying
If you’re sure you don’t want her to have puppies, you ought to spay your female dog since it will prevent periods of her being in heat. Heat is uncomfortable for the dog as well as humans, because it involves bloody discharge, a scent that attracts males from a large radius, and she might escape the house looking for a mate and get lost or get in an accident. Further, she might also try to escape when you’re taking her for a walk or the neighbourhood dogs might try to mate with her during that time, so you’ll have to keep her indoors to avoid accidental pregnancy.
Since her ovaries, reproductive tract and uterus are removed, you’ll eliminate the chance of your dog developing cancer in these organs. Additionally, reducing the number of heat cycles she undergoes dramatically drops her chances of developing breast cancer.
Phantom or False Pregnancy
Even if your dog hasn’t mated, she may display maternal behavior combined with the physical signs of pregnancy. It causes mammary gland enlargement with or without the production of milk, lethargy, restlessness, periodic vomiting, fluid retention, a decreased appetite, Building nest box or nesting behaviour and occasionally even aggression. This condition isn’t life threatening but it is uncomfortable. It’s treated symptomatically and may include tranquilization, diuretics, and in extreme cases, hormonal treatment.
The Cons of Spaying
Spayed dogs have a higher chance of gaining weight. If you notice that your spayed dog is gaining weight, speak to your vet. Adequate exercise and an appropriate diet will help her immensely in this case.
Other adverse effects also include urinary incontinence.
According to vets, spaying your pet dog makes her cleaner, calmer, and more affectionate. However, you need to consider her risk factors. Have a detailed risk/benefit analysis discussion with your vet which takes various factors into consideration. Your vet is also the best person to advise you about the age at which she is spayed to ensure optimal development and minimal discomfort.
If you’ve chosen not to spay your dog, or have opted to neuter your dog later, she will experience a female dog period cycle. Most female dogs attain puberty at around 6 to 14 months of age, but smaller breeds could get there earlier, while large breeds typically take longer than that. After that, they go into heat every 6-12 months, although the interval can vary; small breed dogs may cycle 1-2 times per year, while giant breed dogs may only cycle once a year.
Swelling or engorgement of the vulva is the first sign that a dog is in heat, but it may not always be obvious. A bloody vaginal discharge follows, but this is often after the dog has been in estrus for a few days. Your dog might also need to pee more frequently or may start marking her territory by urinating small amounts on various objects or areas at home or when out on a walk. This is because the urine contains pheromones and hormones which signal to other dogs, particularly males, that she is in heat.
Heat lasts for an average of 10-14 days but this can be shorter or longer. At any time during this phase, it is possible for her to get pregnant.
If your dog has mated and conceived puppies, her pregnancy will last 58-68 days, with most litters of puppies arriving on the 63rd day. This is only a rough guideline, since it’s difficult to predict when conception occurred; the date of breeding does not always match the date of conception.
Your vet is your best way of finding out if your little lady is pregnant. Around a month after your dog was mated, your veterinarian can palpate her to confirm pregnancy. Don’t do this yourself, because you could hurt the pups! Apart from this, an ultrasound can be done at approximately the same stage which can detect fetal heartbeats, to give you an estimate of how many puppies there will be. Your vet might also prescribe a blood test to measure the dog’s level of the hormone, relaxin, which is only produced during a dog’s pregnancy. At around the 55-day mark, your vet may suggest an X-ray to check how many puppies she is carrying. It wouldn’t be possible to do it before this since puppies’ skeletal systems don’t show up on an x-ray until then. This x-ray gives you an accurate count of the number of puppies, which will prepare you to know when your dog is finished delivering.
Note: She may need deworming tabs to prevent the transfer of internal parasites to growing puppies in her womb or later, through milk. All vaccinations are avoided during pregnancy except for killed rabies vaccines.
Apart from these definitive tests, her appetite will increase. At this stage it is important to take care of her nutritional needs by switching to food that is rich in fibre, is energy dense and contains all the essential nutrients she will need, like Pedigree Mother & Babydog Starter.
You might also notice that she has gained weight, has larger nipples and a swollen belly, is more tired, affectionate or irritable. She may also display nesting behavior, including ripping newspaper and blankets in a particular safe spot, and gathering toys there to create a nest.
How to take care of a pregnant dog?
As her parent, you’ll need to make sure your dog is eating the right quantity of dog food, since dogs’ fetal growth is rapid. Your vet will give you the best guidance on this. Try to give her small, frequent meals to make it easier. Give her gentle, calm exercise for the first and last few weeks of her pregnancy, and try to take her on shorter walks multiple times a day instead of a long one.
Your vet will also guide you on how often you should visit their clinic, what tests should be performed and how your dog’s pregnancy is progressing. Towards the end, you might even be able to see or feel the puppies moving around inside their mother when you’re petting her.
You can also help her by preparing a whelping box to give birth in and acclimatising her to it. It should feel safe, warm, draft-free, easily cleaned and it should be easy for the mother to enter and exit, but not the puppies. Ideally, you should place it in a quiet area of the house but in an area that you can easily access.
You should talk to your veterinarian about labor, learn how you can help if your dog needs it, and what warning signs you need to look out for which you need to call your vet. It’s also a good idea to have another trustworthy and calm person there with you to help keep the puppies warm, and to assist if you need help.
The new mommy dog’s energy requirements increase drastically after delivery and while she's feeding her pups, maxing at 3-5 weeks after birth, when she may require 2-4 times the calories of a normal healthy adult dog. This should decrease after that and return to normal by about eight weeks, which is around the time the puppies are completely weaned.
During lactation, she needs to be provided high-quality, calorie-dense food with high-digestibility so you could continue feeding her Pedigree Mother & Babydog Starter. Doing so ensures that she can easily consume enough to sustain milk production, and remain at a good weight, and have a healthy body condition.
The puppies will exclusively feed on mother’s milk for the first month, and gradually start consuming food by themselves after that. If she can't produce enough milk, some puppies may not get enough which might cause their growth and development to be stunted. In that case, talk to your veterinarian about supplementing her milk by bottle-feeding the kids an especially-formulated puppy milk replacer.
From week 4 onwards, your dog will naturally produce less milk which encourages the pups to eat on their own. By the eighth week, they will be eating on their own and your dog’s motherhood duties are complete.
As you can see, this is a magical journey, but it can also be an overwhelming one. If your vet suggests that she shouldn’t undertake this, or if you can’t look after a pregnant dog well enough, please weigh your options and consider spaying her at the right time. By making an informed choice, you and your dog can enjoy a more peaceful and fulfilling life together.