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The First Signs of Dog Pregnancy

  The first sign of pregnancy is usually an enlargement of the nipples, and it may occur at varying times in different bitches. One of nine shows it unmistakably at two weeks, but with most it is noticeable about the fifth. At the same time there will be a somewhat swollen line running along both sides of the belly and including the nipples. There is usually a slight enlargement of the belly from the second week, but after the fifth it becomes very noticeable. About the seventh week the belly will drop, and about the eighth the puppies may be felt. By using a stethoscope and palpation I have always been able to tell beforehand how many pups to expect. This is a big help at whelping time, for you are then in a position to know when the last pup has arrived and you do not run the risk of leaving the bitch to her own devices before she has finished her job. It is also the only way of being sure that some bitches are pregnant. I have seen some on the day before delivery looking perfectly normal, and on the next day feeding puppies.

  As the time for whelping gets nearer, the bitch will become more aloof and will start to prepare the spot in which she wants to have her litter. If she is a house pet, beware! Unless precautions are taken, you may find that your bed or chesterfield has been torn to ribbons. The bitch is sure to choose the softest place for her young, and your wishes in the matter will be of small concern to her at that time. If she does anything like this, it is your own fault.

  Three days before the bitch is due to whelp she should be given a dose of castor oil or liquid paraffin. By this time the puppies are very low in her belly and exertion of any kind should be avoided.

  A few hours before labor commences, she will probably go off her feed and start scratching. Her external genital organs will sag, and a rhythmical muscular motion will run through her abdomen. This is the beginning of labor, and it may start as much as two hours before the puppies appear. The periods of labor come closer and closer together as time goes on, until suddenly there is a gush of clear fluid from the vagina. She has "broken water" and the big moment is at hand.

  There is a condition known as false pregnancy that is a heartbreak to the beginning breeder. In these instances the bitch goes through all the usual symptoms of pregnancy. Her nipples swell, her belly becomes enlarged, and her appetite is voracious, just as in the case of true pregnancy. The only symptom lacking is the feel of the puppies. There are no spasmodic twitching in her abdomen denoting the location of each pup, but you think the fault may be yours in failing to detect them. Possibly the bitch is too fat. There may be only one or two pups, with an excess of amniotic fluid. Then, with the suddenness of a pricked balloon, your bitch is back to normal.

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