Detection Of Pregnancy In Dogs
The veterinarian may be able to detect pregnancy in dogs by the palpation of the uterus during a physical examination when the dog is about 30 days pregnant. The blood test for pregnancy by measuring the relaxin hormone is also possible at 30-35 days of gestation. X-rays can detect fetuses that are 45 days old, and it helps determine their number accurately. Ultrasound scans can be used as early as 25-30 days not only to detect multiple fetuses, but also to check whether they are alive.
In dogs, the period of gestation is about 65 days, but it is not easy to predict the time of delivery. If the rectal temperature of the dog is measured regularly as it nears the probable date of delivery, a drop may be noticed 8-24 hours before labor sets in.
Labor And Delivery In Dogs
There are mainly three stages of labor in dogs. During the first stage, uterine contractions and the dilatation of cervix start, but the evidence of the contractions is not visible from the outside. This may last from 12 hours to 24 hours. The second stage is marked by abdominal contractions which are clearly visible. The puppies are delivered one by one during this stage. The intervals between the deliveries may vary, but usually they take place one to two hours apart. Depending on the size of the litter, the second stage may extend up to 24 hours. The third stage is the expulsion of the placentas, which may take place at irregular intervals along with the deliveries in the second stage.
If the contractions of the uterus are not regular or strong enough to deliver the puppies, it may lead to abnormal labor and delivery, referred to as dystocia. The first and the second stages of the labor may become prolonged beyond 24 hours, and there may be more than 4 hours’ intervals between deliveries. Extreme maternal distress indicates difficult labor. The puppies may be stillborn or delivered nearly dead.
Dystocia can be detected and monitored using uterine monitors and fetal monitors. If necessary, it can be medically treated under the supervision of the veterinarian. The strength of the uterine contractions, as well as their frequency, may be increased by calcium injections and the administration of oxytocin hormone. If the medical treatment is not effective, surgical intervention is the only option. Cesarean section can be conducted to deliver the puppies, and to remove the placentas.
After the delivery, the veterinarian may conduct a physical examination to make sure that the entire litter has been delivered. X-rays may be taken for this purpose too. If the dog has not been able to expel all the placentas, injections of oxytocin hormone may be given to induce strong contractions.
The newborn puppies are first dried and the tincture of iodine applied to their umbilical stumps to prevent infections, before they are weighed and the readings recorded. Puppies are routinely weighed two times a day for one week. If they are found to be losing weight from the second day onwards, it may be a sign of some disorder. They should be carefully monitored for symptoms of congenital abnormalities and feeding problems. The veterinarian may examine the puppies carefully to assess their health and growth. Supportive and supplemental feeding may be sufficient in many cases.
Problems Associated with Delivery
Pregnant females require a familiar, but quiet, area for delivering the puppies. Once a suitable location is identified, the dog should be left alone while it is undergoing labor, unless there’s some complication that requires immediate intervention. The presence of strangers or sudden disturbances may hinder not only the labor, but also milk letdown. It may interfere with the maternal instincts that should naturally kick in with the process of delivery, and may even cause the mother to neglect or completely reject the puppies.
A dog delivering for the first time is especially susceptible to problems related to delivery if it is nervous. It may either make her give excessive attention to the puppies or ignore them altogether, both of which are undesirable. Dogs showing excessive attention to the newborn puppies may actually hurt them by constantly biting and licking their umbilical stumps. On the other extreme, they may refuse to feed the puppies by taking an upright position while lying down, and take no interest in grooming them.
After the delivery of the litter, the production of milk increases according to the demand by the puppies. Since the body store of calcium gets used up in the generation of milk, the blood levels of this mineral may drop considerably. Since calcium is essential for various metabolic activities of the body, its sudden depletion may lead to a dangerous condition called puerperal hypocalcemia. This is more common in smaller breeds of dogs; particularly in those weighing 45 pounds or less. Puerperal hypocalcemia is a risk if the pregnant dogs’ diet is inadequate in replenishing the calcium store or when they have large litters.
Following delivery, the female dog is prone to developing certain inflammatory conditions such as metritis or mastitis.
Metritis is an inflammatory condition affecting the uterus.Retention of one or more placenta is the usual cause of metritis. If the dog continues to strain as if it is in labor, there’s a high possibility that placental sections are still retained. There may be a discharge from the vagina too. The dog may develop fever, and look depressed. Stimulating uterine contractions using either oxytocin injection or prostaglandin F2alpha may help the dog expel the remaining portions of the placenta.
Mastitis is the inflammation of the breasts. If a bacterial infection is causing this inflammation, the veterinarian may prescribe appropriate antibiotic therapy to treat this condition.
Agalactia, or lack of milk is not commonly encountered in dogs, except when the female has delivered prematurely. If the dog does not have enough milk for the litter, the veterinarian may examine the dog, and check whether it has any underlying illness. The dog may initially produce only a watery fluid which has no color, but this is the colostrum that contains several antibodies important for the puppies. The colostrum production in the first day should not be considered as agalactia. Injections of the hormone oxytoxin can trigger milk production, but if the puppies seem satisfied with their feeding, and if they are gaining weight normally, the milk production should be considered as sufficient. Feeding the puppies supplemental milk is an option if the mother’s milk production is found to be inadequate, or if the litter it too large.