What to Expect When Your Pet’s Expecting: Caring for the Pregnant Pet

pregnant petsIf you have made the decision to breed your pet, chances are a lot of time, planning, and a great deal of commitment have been a part of the process. After all that hard work comes the fun part…meeting your new fuzzy babies!

Before you can meet your sweet bundles of joy, you need to make sure that they arrive safely. Caring for your pregnant pet is a little bit of work, but in the end all the extra effort is worth it.

Your Pet in Heat

Most people are aware that conception takes place when an animal is in heat. There are a few things to know about this part of animal care, and it turns out dogs and cats are quite different.

Cats generally experience their first heat when they reach  80% of their adult weight, anywhere between four and eight months of age. Felines are also seasonal ovulators, and start cycling when the days are longer, usually spring through early fall. Unlike many other species, a cat will continue to cycle in and out of heat until she is bred. A cat in estrus is often a sight to see. The amount of purring, yowling, and affection seeking is absolutely unreal!

Dogs typically experience their first heat between six months and a year of age, with smaller breeds tending to start earlier. An unspayed female dog normally has a heat cycle about once every six months. Active heat lasts two to three weeks and there may be noticeable swelling of the vulva and mammary glands, as well as a bloody discharge and changes in behavior.

Caring for the Pregnant Pet

Your pet is going to need a little extra care while she is incubating those tiny babies. Time is short, though. Dogs are only pregnant, on average, for about 63 days, while cats gestate for around 65 days.

There are some important aspects of pregant pet care to consider. Be sure that you pay attention to the mama-to-be and consider:

Diet – Good quality nutrition is vital for growing babies! Feed a food that is AAFCO approved for growth (typically a puppy or kitten food) during pregnancy and nursing. Your pet may need to eat small amounts frequently, especially towards the end of the pregnancy. Avoid giving supplements unless they are prescribed.

Exercise – Gentle exercise, such as walking, throughout pregnancy is a good idea. Avoid strenuous activity and exposure to other animals to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Medical care – Your pet should come in for a visit mid-pregnancy exam, so that we can confirm that she is expecting and be sure no other precautions or treatments are necessary. We do not vaccinate pets in general during pregnancy. Updating vaccines just prior to conception is ideal in order to best protect mama and the babies. Continuous parasite control throughout pregnancy is typically recommended.

Preparing for Babies

Being prepared for puppies or kittens is important. Take the time to make yourself familiar with the signs of labor and what is considered normal for birthing puppies or kittens. Taking your pet’s temperature can help you know when to expect your bundles of joy to arrive.

Luckily, most animals are able to have puppies or kittens without too much intervention from you. You should always have an emergency plan in place, however, just in case things go awry.

You will want to have a few things available for the arrival of your puppies or kittens. You should have:

  • A clean, quiet, warm place for birthing (although pets sometimes choose their own place)
  • Some clean towels
  • A thermometer
  • Lubricant
  • Contact information for us in case of an emergency

We like to see mom and babies within 24 hours or so of birth to be sure that everyone is happy and healthy. We would also love to chat with you about how to recognize problems in birthing before the day comes.  Until your tiny additions find new homes around eight weeks of age, they are going to need some wellness care as well.

Your veterinary staff at  Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates  is here to help you take the best possible care of your pregnant pet. Please let us know if you need any advice or guidance as you begin the breeding journey. We are happy to help.