Seasons (Bitches), Breeding and whelping
Puppy’s usually have their first heat at about 6 months of age, however this can vary from breed to breed and can occur as early as 4 months of age or as late as 18 months. The first signs of heat are usually a swollen vulva and a blood-stained discharge. On average this will continue for about 9 days, this is the period of pro-oestrus.
This stage is followed by a period of oestrus when the vulva will be very enlarged and the discharge will appear straw-co loured rather than blood-stained. During oestrus male dogs will be attracted to the bitch. Ovulation occurs about 2 days after the start of oestrus. Most bitches if un-neutered and if not mated will come into season approximately every 6 months, although very large breeds of dogs may cycle anything up to once in 15 months. In most giant breeds a yearly season is normal. Oestrus lasts about 3 weeks.
Some vets will spey bitches before their first season, but not usually before 6 months of age. Other vets prefer to wait until after the first season, mid-way between seasons. There are advantages and drawbacks to each. For example, the incidence of mammary turn ours in later life is reduced most by speying before the first season, though it is still reduced even if you wait until between the first and second seasons. Some vets are of the opinion that speying before the first season increases the incidence of urinary incontinence in later life. You also need to consider that if you let her have her first season, you have to be extra vigilant to make sure that she does not get “caught” by a male dog at this time. The best person to advise you on when to spey your dog is your vet.
Breeding from your bitch and raising her puppies can be extremely rewarding experience or it may produce frustration and failure. Make sure that her pregnancy is confirmed by tests available from your vet. Pregnancy ranges from 60-67 days and most bitches deliver between 63 and 65 days
Feeding: her food intake should not be altered during first two thirds of her pregnancy, i.e.until approximately 6 weeks of pregnancy, and if a complete food is being fed there is no need to give additional vitamin or mineral supplements. After 6th week food intake should be gradually increased by 15% until she is receiving 50-60% more food when she gives birth (whelps). At the height of lactation, approximately 3 weeks after whelping, food intake should be 2.5 to 3 times her normal maintenance food, particularly if she is feeding a large litter. A high energy complete prepared food like “Pet food active” fed in a number of small meals is ideal during late pregnancy and lactation.
From the time of mating, many bitches show behavioural changes. most develop sweet and loving disposition and demand more affection and attention. During last week of pregnancy the bitch often starts look for a secure place for delivery. Pet bitches become confused, wanting to be with their owners and at the same time wanting to prepare for the forthcoming event. It is therefore helpful to get bitch familiar with place you want her to have the puppies well in advance of the whelping. Prior to the time of delivery, a whelping box (or a quite place at home) should be selected and placed in a secluded place such as a closet or a dark corner. The box or the selected place should be long enough for dog to move around freely and floor or bottom of box should be lined with several layers of newspaper or any disposable, absorbent safe bedding material. Most dogs experience no complications; however first time mothers should be attended by their owners until at least one or two puppies are born. I also suggest regular visit to your vet for monitoring her pregnancy and health.She would also require deworming around 45 days of pregnancy. It is difficult to predict colour of puppies and it is good to have some surprises. Please consult your vet to get more info on signs of whelping and puppy care.
The diagnosis of pregnancy (Gestation period 57–69, with average of 63 days)may begin with abdominal palpation and then be more accurately diagnosed via ultrasonography or canine pregnancy kits. Late in gestation the bitch requires increased amounts of a well-balanced, high-energy diet to meet the needs of the developing offspring as well as to enable the bitch to produce enough milk for the offspring. Lactation may begin as early as 7 days prepartum in the pregnant bitch, but most females produce milk hours before they whelp. The bitch’s appetite may decrease and nest building behavior begins 24 to 36 hours before parturition. A reduction in the bitch’s body temperature of about 1.1°F signifies that whelping is 12 to 24 hours away. A whelping box should be provided in a quiet, dimly lit area that is free of drafts. The bitch should be left alone in the whelping box with free access to food and clean water and should be monitored as unobtrusively as possible. If a puppy is not born within 2 hours of the start of abdominal contractions (true labor), the bitch may need medical attention. Consult your vet for further information.