puppy care

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puppy care

Flops and Zooey

‘Canine Gestation Care’ is quite a tricky area and many pet parents are not aware of the dos and don’ts pertaining to the same. A lot of myths and lack of proper knowledge can make a pet parent go completely wrong. Here’s how to make this time easier for your expecting dog.

It’s an amazing experience to see your dog deliver a litter of cute tailwaggers…but a pregnant dog requires a lot of care and attention and there is just no scope for negligence. To make things easier for all you pet parents wanting to see a healthy litter springing into action, here’s how to take care of the expecting mother.

Identification markers of pregnancy…

Just because mating has taken place does not mean that your pet dog is pregnant. Mating may or may not be successful so it’s always wise to confirm with the help of an ultrasound around the 30th day post mating. The female dog till then may act completely normal but with the onset of the second month, she starts demanding more food and increase in appetite is a good sign of knowing that she has conceived successfully. Also as the gestation proceeds, you will see abdominal enlargement along with the mammary glands becoming fuller and slightly bigger.

Gestation period…

Considering the extreme variation from case to case, the Canine Gestation Period may last for anything between 57 to 69 days post mating, the average being 61 to 63 days. The last 20 days can be very demanding as pet parent needs to take special care of the diet and overall well being of the pregnant dog.

Nutritional needs…

You may continue with regular food for the first 30 days but special nutritional requirements have to be met in the following 30 days. A diet high in protein and calcium is ideal for foetal growth. It’s a better option to get packaged kibble meant for gestation rather than experimenting with homemade food formulation as you may not get the proportions right. If gestational diets are not available, you may pick up kibble meant for puppies as puppy food is high in protein and calcium too. The last 20 days are the most important as foetal growth is very fast during this stage and any nutritional deficiency can interfere with the normal growth and development of the pups. At any point of time, do not force feed as the dog may have reduced capacity towards the end due to intestinal compression. Feeding smaller and frequent meals is ideal for the latter part of the pregnancy period.

Curbing physical activity…

The pet must carry on with her regular walks, however, during the last 15 to 20 days of gestation, you must make sure that she doesn’t overexert herself. Playing with Frisbees or jumping on couches can lead to complications.

Knowing when it’s due…

Around the 45th day you need to get another ultrasound done to check the progress of the pups. The

puppy care

Dr Sarita Gulavane

ultrasound helps in making sure that the bone formation of the pups is complete and there are no skeletal abnormalities. However, the ultrasound done on the 30th day gives a better idea of the litter size as the accuracy of gauging the number of pups is higher during early-to-mid gestation and lower towards the latter end of the pregnancy period. Checking the heart beats is another way of ensuring that the pups are in good health. Post 57th day, you must check her temperature regularly as the rectal temperature falls below 99oF when she is ready to deliver. The milk glands get filled about a week prior to whelping and the female dog usually starts digging into the floor or bed to seek a safe environment for the pups to arrive. A yellow vaginal discharge is often seen around this period which is absolutely normal. Any discharge that is green, red or brown in colour should be reported to your vet. You can also ask your vet to teach you to monitor the movements of the puppies so if you suspect anything abnormal you can immediately seek medical help.

Watching your pet whelp…

Whelping is different in each case. Some female dogs do it all by themselves in the middle of the night for the pet parents to see a clean and calm litter when they wake up the next morning while a few female dogs go into labour pains and often seek attention and help from their pet parents. A few of them use their natural instincts and manage it all very smoothly while a few may just look too baffled and in such cases the pet parents must know what needs to be done.

Keep your vet posted and carefully make your list of questions understanding what needs to be done when. You can watch out shivering or even vomiting due to anxiety. The uterus starts to contract and the cervix begins to dilate. As the pups begin to come out, pet parents should ideally just watch from a distance as the mother dog may get more anxious seeing too many people around. The mother herself manages to break open the amniotic membrane which is a thin sac enveloping each pup. If she snips the umbilical cord herself, let her do so. If she can’t manage to do it, you may help her by snipping the cord with a sterilised blade. Do not forget to tie a knot before cutting it off.

Clean the pups thoroughly with a towel and massage their backs to allow blood circulation. Clean the nasal discharge which may obstruct their breathing and then allow the pups to suckle on the mother for their first feeding. The mother will instinctively consume all the amniotic membranes and placentas herself but if she is not doing so, do not force her to have them as too much of placenta consumption can cause diarrhoea.

Whelping is a very tiring process and the mother dog may take brief breaks to rest. If the gap between whelping two pups is more than two hours, you need to call your vet.

Watching out for complications…

Just like human pregnancy, canine gestation too can pose complications which is why you must know exactly when to call the vet for medical help. A very common syndrome is ‘uterine inertia’ wherein the cervix doesn’t dilate sufficiently making it difficult to expel the pups out. This is more common in small breeds with a small litter size of one or two pups. In such cases, it is advisable to have your vet around at the time of whelping. ‘Foetal Resorption’ is another complication that could arise wherein the foetus technically gets reabsorbed into the body almost making it look like the pups vanished overnight. This syndrome is linked to infertility in some dogs.


Once the pups are out, the mother may act quite unpredictable in some cases. At times they become too possessive of their pups and in such cases, pet parents must let the mother handle her puppies. A few mother dogs refuse to feed their pups so you as a responsible pet parent must make sure that the pups are fed in time. This can be done by holding each pup manually close to the mammary glands of the mother and help them suckle. Puppies can’t regulate their temperature so it’s important to keep them in a warm environment to avoid hypothermia which could be fatal. Also watch out for ‘Fading Puppy Syndrome’ which is rare but quite disastrous, wherein the milk of the lactating mother gets infected and ends up poisoning the pups.

A word of caution…

Most importantly, do not administer any drugs to pregnant or lactating dogs without consulting your vet. Deworming tablets, vaccinations and all other drugs could be injurious to their health and could also lead to abortion or birth defects. It’s indeed an amazing experience to watch your pet become a mother, but you as a responsible pet parent must provide her with a conducive environment and emotional support to help her take care of the little ones. You may start weaning the pups slowly by the 4th week. You must remember that mother’s milk is extremely rich in antibodies, hence a good duration of natural feeding would equate to life-long immunity for the pups who are all set to live a happy and healthy life ahead.

(With inputs from Dr Sarita Gulavane, Assistant Professor, Department of Gynecology, Bombay Veterinary College, Mumbai. She has been practicing specialisation in small animal reproduction and ultrasonography over the last 20 years).

breed profile

Belgian Shepherds: huge bundles of energy

Strong, powerful, intelligent and hyperactive – a Belgian Shepherd is an awesome combination of good looks and intelligence. They will follow you like a shadow but yet have a mind of their own. Loving and lovable, this breed will literally keep you on your toes – you can never put on fat if you have a Belgian at home!

The strong persona…

As the name suggests, Belgian Shepherd originated from Belgium and is a member of the Herding Group (FCIbreed profile 1 Group). Belgian Shepherd is a medium sized dog with harmonious proportions, fitting into a square – rustic, dry strong muscle, combines elegance and power. Their height from the ground to top of the withers is equal to its length. They carry their head high and have a rectilinear, dry and well chiseled. Their eyes are medium sized, dark and slightly almond-shaped. They give a direct, intelligent, lively and inquirer looks. While, their ears are triangular, rather small, highly set and carried upright when the dog is attentive.

The height of the male Belgian Shepherd is 62 – 66 cm while that of female is 58 – 62 cm and they weigh around 25-30 kg and 20-25 kg respectively.

There are four varieties of Belgian Shepherd – black, long haired Groenendael (tolerance little white mark at front), long haired fawn or grey with a black mask Tervueren, rough wire fawn coat with black mask Lakenois and short fawn coat with black mask Malinois.

Active and intelligent…

Belgian Shepherds are highly intelligent, sensitive and alert dogs. They have a lively temper and high energy level and so they hate inactivity. They have strong territorial and protective instincts. They have a big, loving heart and need a family to love. Although they can live at home with other dogs and animals, adult males could have a problem with accepting each other.

A lot of Belgians live with children, but children have to be considerate towards them! Any dog, particularly large, active breed shouldn’t be left alone without supervision of adults with small children.

Tips for pet parents

  • Pet parent for Belgian Shepherd is not a master-he is a partner.
  • If you are nervous or impatient, do not bring home a Belgian.
  • If you have to go out and leave your dog alone for few hours, remember to walk your dog before leaving. Give toys and snacks to make it interesting in your absence.
  • Always buy a puppy from reliable breeder. Tell the breeder about your lifestyle and plans connected with dog – he will help you to choose a puppy with right character suitable for your experience and expectations. Keep a contact with your breeder when your puppy is home.
  • Before you’ll decide for Belgian Shepherd, find out as much as you can about the breed, talk with breeders. Think over whether you will be ready to meet the needs of your Belgian every day by next 14-16 years.

Training & socialisation… a must

Quick in reactions and excitable are not easy for inexperienced owners. Since they are distrustful in contact with strangers, they need socialisation from an early age. Belgians need early socialisation to grow up for well-balanced and self-confident dog.

Besides, they need training otherwise they can be nervous or dominant. They do not tolerate violence and pressure in training. Belgians are very smart; you have to be smarter and more resourceful than them. They learn quickly both good and bad things and changing bad habits is not easy! Well trained, they create very strong relationship with their pet parents.

They love to learn and are masters in most of dog sports. Though originally they worked as pastoral dogs guarded sheep, but they now work as police dogs, rescue dogs and even guide-dogs.

Life with Belgians…

Life with Belgians is never boring. Every day, they can surprise you with their crazy antics, so it is important to have a good sense of humour when living with them. They need to live with their human family and like a shadow, follow them everywhere. Isolation makes them unhappy. They are excellent family dogs, but are not suitable for all people. Their temper and energy makes them very demanding, and they need a lot of occupation – not just physical exercises but also mental training. Else Belgians will be frustrated and bored and will find entertainment on his own, usually destroying everything around. Hence, this is a breed for active people, who like to spend time with dogs and train them with positive methods.

Exercise… any time is good time

This is very active breed so every kind of dog activities like flyball, obedience, tracking, defence (especially malinois); trekking will be suitable for them. In fact, it is difficult to define how much time they need for their exercise and emotional needs. After intensive walk, they will take a rest and sleep, but once you give a small signal, they will be ready again to accompany you for more exercises.

Grooming is easy

Despite long hair, grooming is not very time consuming. Brushing regularly and bathing when required – is all it takes to maintain his coat. Frequency of molting depends on sex of the breed. Males lose only undercoat once per year, while females change their coat twice in a year. In this period, dog should be brushed every day to remove dead hair.

Healthy and long lived

Belgians are very healthy and long lived breed; they usually live for 13-16 years. Most common ailments include cut paws and abrasion while the most serious disease is idiopatic epilepsy.

(Iwona Hernas is a fancier, breeder and handler of Belgian Shepherds. She breeds Groenendaels or Belgian Shepherd Dogs under her kennel named Di Trevi in Poland –