Last week, emphasis was placed on the nutritional regimes of bitches during pregnancy. We had mentioned, and it is worth repeating, that neither too fat nor too skinny is an acceptable condition for the pregnant bitch. It was pointed out that commercial rations (specialized for pregnant bitches) are so formulated that if the pregnant animal eats the desired amount of food, it would be getting all it needs. Further, I mentioned that many dog owners still feel compelled to add meat or some other protein supplement to the diet of specialized food for pregnant bitches. Let me advise you not to do this, because there is a limit to which your dog can take in and absorb food, and if you make additions to the already optimal diet, the bitch may be then getting, proportion wise, less of the other things she needs, including fats and carbohydrates. If you have any doubts, consult with your veterinarian, and follow his/her advice. If you are not understanding the logic or feel you need a second opinion, then do not be inhibited to pick up the phone and listen to advice from other professionals.
Let’s now continue with some other thoughts relating to the care of the pregnant bitch.
One of the frequently asked questions is whether the pregnant bitch should be exercised. Well, yes, but don’t overdo it. Routine daily exercise of a moderate nature – running around the yard, going for short walks and such like – is quite OK. However, taking pregnant hunting dogs on long expeditions, or subjecting pregnant bitches to lengthy walks, especially if she has to run on a leash while you cycle, would not be advisable.
Also, if she is a very socially active dog and loves to play energetically, you may wish to separate her from the other dogs in your compound. Roughhousing is not good. Of course, if she is more agitated because of the separation, that too is not good. You will have to make a judgment call or ask your vet to visit and weigh the situation.
What we are really saying is that pregnant bitches should not be allowed to engage in highly energetic, even violent, activities. These may include jumping fences or running up and down stairs, or getting into fights. Actually, the bitch usually, on her own, takes on a quieter disposition during pregnancy.
In all likelihood, this will be the final article on this theme. We need to therefore document some other important considerations, which have to be built into the advice given about pregnant bitches.
Firstly, please do not panic if the heavily pregnant dog goes off food a week or two before parturition (ie before she delivers). Please understand that ‘goes off food’ does not mean total inappetence (not ingesting any food at all). You may find the animal picking at the food and eating small quantities every few hours. This is not abnormal. In fact, it is nature in action. The more the puppies grow in her uterus (especially if there are many in there), the more that mass of puppies, the placenta, and the fluids surrounding each pup, and the uterus itself become larger. This huge total reproductive mass pushes forward in the abdomen and against the stomach. In other words, the distention of the packed womb of pups compromises the ability of the stomach to enlarge itself with food. She will want to ingest less food, therefore you must support her by offering smaller amounts of the pregnant bitch ration more often during the course of the day, instead of one large meal.
Secondly, and very importantly, there is the other frequently asked question as to what type of medication can be given to the pregnant bitch and what medication should not be given. For starters, let me emphasise that the currently used polyvalent vaccine (the six-in-one shot) cannot be administered, if your dog is pregnant – at any stage of the pregnancy!
This means that, if you have taken your bitch to the vet for her annual booster vaccine (as is demanded by her vaccination certificate), you must make the vet aware that the bitch had been mated or might have been mated, and that she might be in her early stage of pregnancy. You will recall that I had mentioned two weeks ago that the vet should be able to ascertain pregnancy at 3-4 weeks via palpation. It is however not possible to determine, by palpation, one week of pregnancy. So, please inform your vet about the date you saw her ‘stick’ (the tie) with the stud dog. If the pregnant bitch is vaccinated, she will in all likelihood abort her puppies!
Finally, one might be confronted with problems of de-ticking, deworming and de-fleaing the pregnant bitch. On the one hand, you don’t want the fleas and ticks on the mother to infest the pups when they do emerge. And worms in the mother can actually infect the puppies while they are still in the womb. Because of this latter condition, we should be routinely deworming the mother dog long before the pregnancy and even during the pregnancy.
On the other hand, you don’t want to use strong and potentially dangerous chemicals on your pregnant bitch. Let’s face it: if the chemical is strong enough to kill a hardy, resilient and obstinate tick, it can also be hazardous to the dog under treatment.
Relative to the usage of chemicals on the pregnant dog, I would advise that you discuss the matter with your vet.
Enough for today.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.