Your bitch has been mated, what next? Firstly, keep her under close control until you are certain that her season is over. For most bitches this will be about a week after the time of mating.
For the next month she should exercise normally and be fed her normal ration. Some bitches, at the 3-4 week stage, may vomit occasionally and become a bit picky over their food. At this time also her nipples may enlarge and become pinker in colour. By 5 weeks her flanks will be out and she will probably be obviously pregnant.
6 weeks into the pregnancy she will be getting bigger and slowing down a little.I stop off-leash exercise at this stage and don’t let the bitch charge around with the other dogs. She may well be a bit “precious” and protective of herself by this stage. It is a good idea to walk the bitch as far into the pregnancy as possible as she will cope better with labour if she has good muscle tone. In the last 10days she may not want to do much but even a 100 yard stroll helps.
Most of the pup’s growth occurs during the last 3 weeks and this is the time to change her feeding. Obviously, the uterus is taking up more and more of the abdomen and making it uncomfortable for the bitch to eat large meals which distend the stomach. Split her ration into several smaller portions.At this time her need for protein and minerals such as calcium also increases. Probably the easiest way to meet this is to feed her on a puppy food, mixing this gradually with her normal food during week 7 and feeding it as her main diet during the last 2 weeks. Quantities can gradually be increased during this time and by the time she whelps she may be eating up to 1 1/2 times her normal intake. Note that any weight gain during pregnancy should be the whelps---the bitch should be in fit, not fat, condition when she goes into labour.Calcium supplements are best avoided until after the pups are born, unless she has a previous history of eclampsia.
Try to avoid vaccinating pregnant bitches or the use of any drugs, especially during the first half. It is a good idea to worm her about week 7 as this will reduce the transmission of worms to the pups.
Get her used to her whelping quarters at least 10 days before the pups are due.Ideally, this should be somewhere warm and quiet. Make sure that you have everything you may need for a whelping by this time as she may go into labour as much as a full week before her due date, although this would be unusual. Many bitches do go a couple of days early. My own bitches help in my bedroom and sleep there at night during the last week, that way I am on hand should they whelp early.
During the last week she will be heavy and uncomfortable and there may be a couple of “false alarms”—usually at bed-time! The pups may be seen kicking during these episodes. A clear, mucoid discharge is common in the last week but a coloured one could indicate problems.
During the last week her abdomen drops and the mammary glands engorge. In a maiden bitch, milk is usually only released a day or two before whelping but in those who have whelped previously it may be seen a week or more before giving birth.
In the last 48 hours the bitches body temperature drops and the pups produce hormones which will initiate labour.