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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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By the sixth week, the nipples of a pregnant bitch begin to enlarge and become darker. However, this should not be used as the sole means to confirm a pregnancy, as this is common with bitch after a normal heat cycle. Later in the pregnancy, the lower half of a bitch’s abdomen becomes larger and pendulous. The puppies can often be seen or felt “kicking” during the last two weeks of pregnancy. The expecting mother will typically lose her appetite in the last week to ten day before whelping occurs. Once again, it is a good idea to give her numerous small meals throughout the day rather than a few larger ones.

As the date approaches, begin taking your bitch’s rectal temperature. If her temperature drops below 99.5 F (a normal canines’ temperature is 101.3 F), labor may be expected within 24 hours. Other signs to look for include: shivering, pacing, panting or becoming withdrawn from normal family life. During this time, she may begin walking around nervously, hiding in various areas of the house, or start looking for a place to nest. If she does begin to nest in a place other than where you intend for her, gently introduce her to the whelping box. Lining the bottom of the whelping box with newspapers will encourage her to stay in the box and continue to nest and shred the newspaper. The expecting mother will likely want some privacy during the delivery process. It’s often a good idea to locate your whelping box in a semi-dark area, free of loud noises and/or interruptions that will make her nervous or concerned for the well being of her puppies.

It is also a good practice to continue monitoring your bitch’s temperature for the first week after delivery. If her temperature does not return to normal within 24-48 hours or becomes elevated, notify your vet immediately, as this may be a sign of a secondary infection or other problems.

In part two of this series, we will be discussing the steps you should take as a breeder to prepare for whelping; including whelping box design, what you should have on hand, and precautions to take in case of an emergency.

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