Breeding for Pet Owners: The Bitch's Pregnancy

a pregnant basset houndHow long does the pregnancy last?

Pregnancy, also known as the gestation period, normally ranges from 57-65 days with an average of 63 days.

The date of mating should be carefully recorded. If there are two matings, make a note of the exact dates and expect whelping to occur between 63 and 65 days from those dates. It should be noted however, that as the date of actual conception can be several days after the date of mating, the expected whelping date can also be out by several days.


Immediately after my bitch has been mated, is there anything that I should do?

Make sure that she does not have the opportunity to mate with any other dogs! Oestrus will continue for another few days during which she will be receptive to further mating. After mating allow her to rest quietly for a few hours.

Should I alter her food?

It is important the bitch is in good condition before she is mated, neither too fat nor too thin. Prior to mating it is often worth having a veterinary check and discuss with us any concerns at that time.

After mating food intake should not normally be increased during the first two thirds of pregnancy, i.e. until approximately six weeks after mating. If a complete diet is being fed there is no need to use additional vitamin or mineral supplements. There is evidence that over use of these particularly, in the large and giant breeds, can have adverse effects.

"If a complete diet is being fed there is no need to use additional vitamin or mineral supplements."

What do I do after the sixth week?

After the 6th week food intake should be gradually increased and high energy, low bulk foods eg puppy food, are useful in order that the bitch is adequately nourished without too much bulk. As the foetuses increase in size, abdominal pressure increases and therefore smaller meals, fed more often, are helpful.

During the last three weeks food intake can be increased by up to one and a half times the normal level giving small meals more frequently.

If in doubt regarding any supplements or medication please do not hesitate to contact us. Some quite commonly used drugs should be avoided if the bitch is pregnant.

How can I be certain if my bitch is pregnant?

Positive pregnancy diagnosis in the bitch can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, as yet, we have no reliable laboratory test. Traditionally abdominal palpation (feeling the abdomen) about three weeks after mating was the usual method. This does depend on the bitch being relaxed. Today ultrasound scans from 28 days onwards are reliable.  

However any estimate of the number of puppies has to be treated with caution since errors can occur.

Radiography is reasonably accurate during the last two weeks of pregnancy.

Should I change her routine as pregnancy advances?

As pregnancy progresses intra abdominal pressure increases together with food requirements. Therefore the number of meals rather than the quantity per meal has to be increased. Most bitches determine their own exercise. It depends on the number of puppies and the amount of intra abdominal pressure. Do not over exercise. Check for any discharges etc. and if at all concerned, contact us without delay.

Medication whilst pregnant:

Please discuss with your vet before giving your bitch any medications (including routine worming and flea control).

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