Miracle of birth: Journey from healthy pregnancy to healthy pups

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Dr Aeknath Virendra
Birth is a wonderful experience. Unless every newborn puppy is guaranteed a loving home, dogs should be spayed or neutered. There are various factors that should be considered before breeding like availability of proper space, nutrition, overall health, absence of hereditary disorder and registration with the kennel club of India.–by Dr Aeknath Virendra, Dr Charu Sharma and Dr Apoorva Mishra
Understanding their reproductive system
The reproductive tract of female dogs is comprised of ovary, oviducts, uterus, cervix, vagina and vulva. The ovaries produce ova (eggs) and certain reproductive hormone which helps in the reproduction, the oviduct and uterus allow the fertilisation of the spermatozoa and the ova and also provides a favourable environment for the implantation and maturation of the fetus. The cervix is a constricted orifice that serves as a channel from the uterus to the vagina. During pregnancy the cervix closes the birth canal and serves as a barrier against the entry of microorganisms into the uterus.
Start of the pregnancy journey
A pre-breeding examination should be performed to ensure optimal health status intended for breeding purposes. The nutritional status should be reviewed and maximised to ensure optimal balance for breeding activity and/or pregnancy. Diseases such as hypothyroidism, liver disease, renal disease, or neoplasia have been shown to reduce conception rates in many species. The reproductive history of the female dog should include the onset of puberty, number and interval between previous heat cycles, and observed breeding behaviour.
The female dog reaches puberty between 6 to 24 months of age, with average onset of the first estrus occurring at 10 to 12 months of age. It has been seen that small breeds experience pubertal estrus earlier than large breeds.
The stages of the estrous cycle of the female dog are –
• Proestrus
• Estrus
• Diestrus
• Anestrus
Proestrus is the bleeding phase in the female dogs which occurs for the duration of 10 – 15 days after which estrus phase comes and the female can be introduced to the male dog for the conception. The best rule to follow when breeding dogs is to be certain that they are physically mature. This means that both the female dog and the male dog should be 18 to 24 months of age, by the time female dog should be in her second or third heat period.
Healthy pregnancy is the key to healthy puppies
The gestation period in case of canines is almost 63 days. Pregnancy diagnosis can be done by palpation of the female dog’s abdomen for the presence of evenly spaced swellings can be conducted between 20 and 30 days after the last mating. However, improper procedure or excessive prodding can cause a miscarriage. After 28 days of pregnancy you can also opt for the ultra-sonographic and radiologic examination for the confirmation of the pregnancy. After confirming that the female dog is pregnant, make sure you become familiar with the basics of prenatal care, parturition and emergency procedures. The act of parturition in case of canines is termed as whelping.
Extra love and nutrition for the mom-to-be
A pregnant female dog requires additional food to support the growth of pups inside her and to produce the milk that pups will need after birth. Gradual increase in the amount of food should be done so that by the whelping time, she is eating about 1.5 times her maintenance diet, you can also switch to the commercial dog food which are available in the market specifically for the pregnancy and lactation.
Prep to whelp

  • About a week before the estimated date of whelping, the female dog should be introduced to the whelping area and the whelping box. The whelping area should be a place that is dry, warm, draft-free, secluded, and quiet.
  •  The whelping or nesting box can be constructed of a variety of materials but should be designed to accommodate the female dog to fully stretch out on her side and have room to spare for the pups.
  •  The bedding of the box should include fresh, flat newspaper laid at the bottom for fluid absorption, and heavy towels, mattress pads, or pieces of carpeting laid on top of the newspaper for good traction.
  •  If necessary, a source of supplemental heat should be placed in the whelping box for the puppies, especially after the first few weeks of birth. Supplemental heat can be furnished by using heat bulbs either suspended or mounted above the floor of the whelping box.
  •  Since the female dog’s appetite returns within 24 hours after whelping, she should be fed highly palatable food, moistened with water.
  •  At about 20 to 30 days after whelping, the female dog needs 3 to 4 times more food than she normally does. Although the eyelids of the puppies are closed at birth, they can still locate the mother dog in order to feed. This is of extreme importance since the puppies must consume colostrum (mother’s first milk) within the first 12 to 24 hours after birth. Colostrum contains high levels of antibodies that are absorbed intact into the bloodstream and provide protection against infectious diseases.

Little bundles of joy need big care
At about three weeks of age, puppies should be given access to dry dog food mixed with warm water (gruel) in a large bowl several times a day. Gradually, the water content should be reduced so that by 4 to 6 weeks of age the puppies are meeting most of their requirements with the dry food. After about 6 or 7 weeks of age, puppies are ready to be weaned and placed into new homes.The responsibility of bringing a new life is a big one. Be sure you’re prepared for it when you think about breeding your pet. And take care, pamper her, and let her enjoy this phase.
(Dr Aeknath Virendra, Dr Charu Sharma and Dr Apoorva Mishra are from the Department of Veterinary Gynecology and Obstetrics, College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Jabalpur, MP).

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