Jessie, our two-year-old registered Golden Retriever, is expecting pups in three weeks. This will be a new experience for her -- and for us. What can we expect?
Gestation for a dog is 59-63 days. With 21 days to go, Jessie probably has started to get a big belly. At this point, I would suggest short walks to keep her in good condition. Don't overdo it, but muscle tone is important for a successful delivery. During her last two weeks of pregnancy, Jessie will really get big and her nutritional requirements will increase. After the birth, her caloric needs may even double to keep up with milk production for the puppies. Your veterinarian can recommend special foods. Within a week or so, you should decide where you want Jessie to whelp. Choose a quiet place that is free of drafts and prepare a box or area with a nest of towels. Make sure Jessie is comfortable with the room choice. She may want to pick the exact spot in the room herself. Confine her to the room the week before whelping so she gets used to the idea that this is her "delivery room". About the 59th day, begin taking her temperature rectally every morning and night. Within 2-24 hours of delivery, it will drop to 98 degrees. This will alert you to pay close attention to her to ensure that any problems do not go unnoticed. Large-breed dogs like Jessie rarely have problems, but it's wise to be prepared. In the early stage of labor, Jessie will be restless, pant frequently, refuse food and even vomit. She may lie down and push, then get up and walk around. When true labor begins, she will lie on her side and begin pushing. She won't get up and roam. There are usually 30-60 minutes between pups. If the interval extends to two hours or if labor goes five hours without a pup, call your veterinarian immediately. Also suspect trouble if there is a dark green discharge without the start of labor or if delivery has not taken place by the 64th day. Instinct may prompt Jessie to perform like an old pro. Just be sure she cleans the membrane from each pup's nose and mouth and licks it to stimulate breathing. Don't be in a hurry to intervene, but be prepared to step in and clear away the membrane by gently rubbing the pup's side with a cloth. You may also need to help if she has trouble getting a pup out. Make sure a placenta is expelled after each pup. Jessie may want to eat the placentas, but do not let her have more than one or two. Jessie may not pay much attention to her pups until all are delivered. You can help her by starting the pups nursing. You may put the mouth on the nipple. Finally, have your veterinarian check mother and babies.