Pregnancy and Whelping

Once a bitch has been bred at the proper time and pregnancy has been determined and appears to be progressing normally, there are several methods to monitor the fetuses.  Pregnancy can be detected through a variety of methods, including palpation of the ~1cm uterine swellings at about 3 weeks, ultrasound detection of the amniotic cavities also at about 3 weeks, relaxin hormone detection at about 4-5 weeks (in dogs), and lastly x-ray of skeletal components at about 7 weeks or later.

Ultrasound for pregnancy detection and estimated puppy count is recommended between 21-28 days post breeding.  Dr. Chris is extremely accurate and versed in pregnancy ultrasounds and can perform one for your bitch at our facility.  She can determine whether or not your bitch is pregnant, evaluate fetal heart rates, and assess the developmental stage of the puppies in utero.  Dr. Chris will also give you a general estimate of the number of puppies present, whether or not any resorption is occuring, and detect early abnormalities.

Serial ultrasounds may be recommended if your bitch has a history of infertility.  Dr. Chris can determine if resorption of fetuses is occurring, and make recommendations to try and prevent further loss.  The "whelp wise" system may be recommended for complete fetal monitoring for a high risk pregnancy.  It may also be necessary to monitor progesterone levels and provide progesterone supplementation in some cases.  Premature birth can also be prevented in high risk pregnancies through medical intervention when necessary.

It is highly recommended to have a pregnancy radiograph, or x-ray, taken during the last week of pregnancy.  This will help determine a final count for the expected puppies, and Dr. Chris can evaluate the size of the puppies by measurement of the puppies' skulls and skeletons on the x-ray.  This evaluation will also aid in determining if there will be any problems with dystocia (abnormal labor), particularly in bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds, and with toy breeds.

Pregnancy lasts about 64 to 66 days post-LH surge, approximately 63 days from appropriate breeding.  Pregnancy can be a dangerous, even life-threatening condition for some bitches, and for others is a relatively easy and happy experience.  Proper breeding management and health care of both mom and pups is a priority here at Deep River Animal Hospital.  Dr. Chris is an experienced breeder herself, and has specialized in reproduction for over 10 years.

Whelping occurs 63 days post-ovulation, +/- 2 days.  Whelping occurs in 3 stages: Stage 1 during which the bitch is often restless, displays "nesting" behavior, panting, loss of appetite, and may have a drop in temperature, this stage can last up to 24 hours or more; Stage 2, which is active labor, with visible abdominal contractions, the passing of birth fluids, and eventual birth of each puppy, active contractions should not last more than 45 minutes without the birth of a puppy - call Dr. Chris immediately with any concerns; and Stage 3, the passing of the placentas and contraction of the uterus back to normal size.  It is extremely important for breeders to be educated about the whelping process, and to be prepared with appropriate materials to provide the bitch and puppies a healthy and safe environment.  Please refer to the following link for an extremely detailed discourse on pregnancy and whelping.

Dr. Chris at Deep River Animal Hospital is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for reproductive emergencies.  She is happy to provide advice and health care throughout pregnancy and whelping and for the newborn puppies.  Please call us to make an appointment for a reproductive consultation at any time. 

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