From gestation to delivery

In the following, we will address the different facets of gestation and delivery in our family pets.

We will go over what to do before breeding your pet. You will be able to follow the pregnancy and be able to anticipate the delivery date. And we will treat the different aspects of pediatrics following the delivery.

Determining the best time for mating

The best time to breed your dog is the 9th day of her heat (estrus). You should have her mate 3 times every 2 days. So, days 9, 11 and 13 after the heat begins are recommended. If the dog accepts, then it’s a good sign that she’s ready. Ovulation lasts between 12 and 72 hours. The signs in recognizing when a dog is in heat are as follows a swollen vulva with a possibility of bloody discharge the males are attracted to the female. The heat itself lasts about 20 days. Before breeding your dog, you should have the dogs examined by a veterinarian to insure that both dogs are in good health, and exempt of any sexually transmitted diseases. He will also administer a vermifuge.


During the pregnancy, the mother should be fed an adult diet up until the time she starts nursing her babies. Then she should be switched to a pediatric diet. If we deem it necessary, we may also supplement the diet with vitamins. The vulva needs to be checked regularly for discharge. If observed, it is necessary to make an appointment with your veterinarian. A quiet and comfortable corner should be prepared for your pet, for when she will be ready to deliver.
The gestation period for a dog is between 56 to 69 days from the date of breeding. Enlarged mammary glands may be observed at six weeks of gestation.

During gestation, the veterinarian may suggest doing x-rays. At 42 days of pregnancy the x-rays will determine the number of babies expected. We may also do an ultrasound at 21 days of pregnancy to see how it is developing.



The dog’s temperature should be taken every day. When the body temperature is below 37.3 ‘C, it’s an indication that the animal will deliver within 24 hours.

We know the female is ready to deliver when;
-she becomes nervous
-she seems to be preparing a nest
-she begins contractions
-her body temperature is below 37.3’C

The first baby will appear 1 to 3 hours after beginning contractions, the second one 10 to 20 minutes later. There after, 1-2 hour resting period will follow, then the delivery will continue with 2 babies delivered 20 minutes apart and so on... The whole delivery may take 24 to 30 hours. The mother will care for her babies, cut the umbilical cord, clean them, and nurse them. She will eat the placentas following the delivery of each baby.


If the gestation is abnormal, a veterinarian should be consulted when;

-the gestation lasts more than 65 days
-there are contractions, but no baby has been delivered after 3 hours of labor
-If 4 hours have passed since delivering the first baby, and contractions have stopped
-there are few contractions, they are weak and more than three hours have passed
-the mother’s body temperature is below 37.3’C, and there are still no signs of delivering
-there is abnormal vaginal discharge
-the mother is despondent, refuses to eat, vomits, has diarrhea or an elevated body temperature.

In the clinic, we would proceed with a general examination consisting of taking her temperature, checking her abdomen, and monitoring her breathing and heart rate.

An x-ray and/or ultrasound will help inform us of the size, number of babies and their position in the uterus. The x-ray will tell us if the babies are living and if the pelvis will permit the passage of the babies. The ultrasound will permit us to see the fetus’ hearts are beating and observe any abnormalities in the fetus so far.

If the mother needs help with her contractions, then the veterinarian will administer oxytocine injections, every 20 minutes over a 60 minute period. If oxytocine has no effect, or if the mother is in bad condition, we will proceed with a cesarean.In the case of a cesarean, the hospital staff will reanimate, feed and care for the babies until the mother is completely awake after surgery.


New-born care

The babies’ eyes will open between 10 and 14 days after being born. Until the 18th day of life, they will depend upon their mother to make them do their stool and urine. Their first teeth will appear near the 3rd week and the babies will double in weight within 10 days.

If the mother doesn’t seem to care for her babies, then you must help her. You may need to help clean the babies, help them breathe, and disinfect their belly buttons. You must keep them warm, by preparing a comfortable nest with blankets; a warm bottles wrapped in a blanket, and place a ticking clock in their nest to simulate the mother’s heartbeat. The babies body temperature will rise from 34.5’C the first week, to 36.5’C the second week and 38.4’C by the 4th week. If the mother refuses to nurse, than they need to be bottle fed a replacement formula that you may purchase from a veterinarian hospital or using a homemade recipe (you can find the recipe at the milk replacement section). The formula must be fed to the babies every 2 hours during their first week, than every 4 hours the second week and so on. After every feeding, you must rub the perineal region of the babies with a soft, humid cloth in order to have them defecate. They cannot do so on their own before the age of 18 days.

We can start weaning the babies from their mother starting at six weeks of age, by removing one baby at a time at two day intervals.

In summary, before thinking of breeding your animals, you should visit your veterinarian for a check-up. To insure a healthy, normal pregnancy, it’s important to observe your pet regularly and feed her the appropriate diets. X-rays and/or ultrasound should be done to determine the number, and condition of the babies. If there should be any sign of an abnormality, you should have your pet examined immediately, since, in certain cases, the health of the mother and babies can quickly deteriorate. Lastly, if the mother does not care for her young, then it’s important that you do so in her place.