Mama Dionne cannot hold a candle
to the most ordinary dog. The ability
of this animal to produce copious "bundles from heaven" surely is one
of the many wonders of the world. Dogs have been known to give birth to
as many as twenty-six puppies in a single litter. Be that as it may,
most dog owners sooner or later will be faced with the problem of
pregnancy in their pet. This problem should be met with pleasant
anticipation, for there is no reason why, on this account, the
operation of an efficient household should be even temporarily
The average duration of pregnancy in the dog is from fifty-eight to
sixty-five days, with most dogs giving birth on about the sixty-second
day. During this period the vigorous animal usually thrives without any
special change in its normal routine and gives birth without any
assistance. However, there are some principles and suggestions of which
every conscientious dog owner should be aware.
The animal should not be bred before it has reached full maturity, that
is, not before it is about two years old. The narrowest margin of
highest safety in breeding is between the ages of about two and seven
years. Animals bred beyond these specified limits are much more prone
to the various disease conditions associated with pregnancy. Habitual
breeders often may be bred safely after the age of seven because their
constitutions have long become accustomed to the rigors of pregnancy.
But with the ordinary house pet it is best to re-main within the above
mentioned range. This does not imply that animals cannot be bred
without danger before the age of two or
over the age of seven. Breeding is often accomplished beyond this
range with perfectly good results. But the range mentioned is still
about the safest for the ordinary house dog.
Female dogs come into heat twice a year, for periods of approximately
three weeks. The heat period is easily recognized by the obvious
enlargement of the external female organs and the persistent discharge
of a variable amount of blood. Meticulous animals constantly clean
themselves during this period, so that often no blood is apparent. But
the owner will rarely overlook the enlargement of the female organs.
During this period dogs also show a certain amount of restlessness
and increase in appetite.
The female in heat will most likely accept the male dog during the
second week of the heat period. Matings toward the latter part of this
week are most likely to result in pregnancy. This means that the best
mating time is from about the tenth to the fifteenth day of the heat
The male dog has certain peculiar structural characteristics that are
related to copulation. There is a bone in the penis of male dogs that
assists the animal in achieving and maintaining an erection. There is
a so-called "bulb" in the male penis, which after entrance into the
female swells enormously and causes these animals to be "locked"
together after emission occurs. There is no pain or danger associated
with this "locking." Usually it lasts from a few minutes to a few
hours, with the average time being about twenty minutes. The owner
should not interfere at this point, but allow nature to take its
course. Veterinary intervention is rarely necessary.
During the pregnancy period the animal should be given moderate
exercise, and in the first month there should be no drastic change in
the normal routine. However, as the abdomen starts to become
uncomfortably large, it is advisable to increase the number of feedings
while cutting down the quantity of food at each meal. The result will
be that the animal will eat more in total quantity, but never too much
at any one time. The purpose of this kind of feeding is not to overload
animal at meal time so that it is not made too uncomfortable in
carrying its extra burden. The animal should also be given plenty of
milk so that it will have sufficient calcium for milk production. It
might even be advisable to give the animal a calcium supplement in the
form of calcium glu-conate or dicalcium phosphate. The dose will depend
on the size of the animal and should be determined by the veterinarian.
Toward the end of the pregnancy the animal will be noted to show a
preference for some particular corner of the household. This probably
is the spot that the animal has selected as its "lying-in" bed. As a
hygienic precaution, and to encourage the animal, the owner may cover
this area with newspapers and then shred some more newspapers on it.
This should be changed daily.
The labor period of dogs usually lasts only a few hours, and usually
the owner will become conscious of its existence only after some of the
puppies have been born. The puppies are born with their eyes closed,
which is normal. The eyes open when the pup is ten to twelve days old.
The average healthy animal not only will give birth without any
difficulty, but will maintain its offspring for the five-to six-week
nursing period with very creditable neatness and assurance. The owner
should assist in making the weaning period gradual. Toward the end of
the third or at the beginning of the fourth week, the owner should
start to teach the puppies to take milk from a dish. This will lighten
the load on the mother dog and will assist in helping the puppy to make
its adaptation to artificial feeding when it is finally separated from
its mother after five or six weeks.
Though the dog usually endures its pregnancy with no difficulty and
maintains its puppies with almost a professional competence, it is
almost unnecessary to mention that if any untoward symptoms arise
during pregnancy or the nursing period, immediate veterinary
consultation is imperative.
The most obvious mishap that can occur is that the dog may not be able
to eliminate the pups naturally. This is most commonly due to an
improper position of the pups in the womb, or to the fact that the pups
may have large heads and the hips of the mother dog may be too narrow
to accommodate them. The large head most commonly occurs in the
Boston Terrier. If the animal shows signs of straining with no
results, a veterinarian should be called upon immediately because, if
it is mechanically impossible for the mother dog to give birth
naturally, the veterinarian may have to resort to a Caesarean section,
which means that the puppies are delivered through an abdominal
incision. With most breeds this alternative is rarely necessary. In
fact, perhaps ninety-five per cent of all Caesarean operations
performed on dogs are done on Boston Terriers.
In addition to difficult birth, or dystocia as it is called medically,
two very common and important conditions associated with pregnancy are
eclampsia and false pregnancy.
Eclampsia is a condition that may occur within two weeks before giving
birth, though it occurs most often in the first two-week period after
the offspring are born. It demands immediate treatment, to which the
animal generally responds quickly and favorably, though recurrent
attacks are not uncommon. Since neglect usually terminates in death,
immediate veterinary treatment is imperative.
The symptoms of eclampsia appear suddenly. The animal shows signs of
extreme restlessness and the eyes bear an anxious expression. The
animal pants heavily and there may be some salivation from the mouth.
There usually occur intermittent muscular spasms characterized by
stiffening of the legs and falling on the side. In severe cases there
may be convulsions characterized by falling on the side, shaking
violently over the whole body, champing of the teeth, and copious
frothing at the mouth.
The disease is the result of a derangement in calcium metabolism, and
the symptoms manifested are those of a hypo-calcemia—that is, a lack of
calcium in the blood. This appears to be due to the excessive strain
placed on the animal in the production of milk.
Treatment consists in the injection of some calcium preparation into
the body of the ailing animal and in relieving the mother of the
nursing pups. If the veterinarian gives the injection into the vein,
relief from the symptoms will be almost immediate. If it is given under
the skin, the symptoms will start to disappear after the drug is
absorbed. This usually takes from fifteen to twenty minutes. It is
safer to use the subcutaneous method because the intravenous method is
accompanied by the danger of a possible calcium heart-block, in which
case death would result.
The feeding of an assimilable calcium supplement during the pregnancy
and nursing periods may assist materially in preventing eclampsia. This
is one of the reasons why the use of calcium gluconate or dicalcium
phosphate was suggested in the general discussion on pregnancy.
Eclampsia may be avoided if the pregnant pet is examined periodically
by a veterinarian.
False pregnancy is a rather common condition characterized by various
symptoms of pregnancy in the unbred, mature female dog or in one that
has been bred to a sterile male. It is a normal reaction that usually
disappears within ten days to three weeks. It is a minor difficulty
that ordinarily needs no special attention, but since it occasionally
causes distress, the veterinarian is called upon to administer
alleviatory and curative measures to assist the processes of nature.
The most prominent symptom of false pregnacy is the appearance of milk
in the breasts. This may or may not be accompanied by loss of appetite
and general uneasiness. Often there is an enlargement of the abdomen
and the animal presents many outward signs of being pregnant, even to
the extent of
selecting a "lying-in" bed, thus giving the illusion that it is
preparing to give birth. However, as the weeks wear on, the symptoms
disappear as mysteriously as they came. The swollen abdomen and breasts
reduce in size, the milk is no longer evident, and the animal reacts
The specific cause of false pregnancy is somewhat obscure though it is
definitely related to some sort of hormonal reaction, the details of
which are beyond the scope of popular discussion. In treating false
pregnancy, the pain and irritation of the swollen breasts may be
alleviated by lightly massaging them with camphorated oil. The
veterinarian usually attempts to assist in drying up the milk secretion
by means of a drug called stilbestrol, which is nothing more than a
synthetic form of female hormone. He administers the drug either in
tablet or injectable form, or both. Where the client desires the animal
to have rapid relief from the symptoms, repeated injections of
stilbestrol or other more potent preparations are given. Fewer
injections combined with moderate tablet doses are sufficient when
there is only slight discomfort. Even if the condition goes untreated,
the symptoms usually disappear but with veterinary assistance, the
time for this may be reduced.