The length of pregnancy in cats and dogs is 61-65 days average 63 days. This means that about 63 days after a dog or cat is impregnated it will have its litter. Small dogs should always be bred with a male dog that is smaller than the female. This will make it easier for the female to have her puppies, as hopefully the puppies will be born small and will easily come out.
It is important that the female should always be current on vaccinations prior to becoming pregnant so that she can pass on high immunity to the puppies/kittens. These will give the litter protection from these diseases, but they still must be started on their vaccinations at 6 to 8 weeks of age because the mother’s protection will be wearing off and the puppy or kitten can begin making its own protection with the vaccinations.
The female must be well fed while pregnant and nursing, meaning she should be on a name brand puppy food and she should be fed canned food 2-3 times daily all she can eat, and leave dry food out all the time. Pregnant pets require additional nutrients to prevent depletion of the body’s resources as the fetus develops. Proper nutrition during this time can significantly affect the survivability of the newborns as well as the overall health of the mother.
What to expect toward the end of the pregnancy:
Closer to your pet giving birth you may notice that she is “nesting”, meaning choosing what she feels is just the right spot to give birth. This will usually be in a quiet place, away from activity. Dogs, especially, may drag toys, pillows or blankets to their nests.
Cats may seek privacy in places like closets or laundry baskets.
Within 24 hours preceding delivery (aka whelping in dogs, queening in cats) your pet will likely lose her appetite and stop eating altogether as labor approaches. A drop in the body temperature below 99 F indicates that the birthing will be occurring within the next 24 hours.
However, despite a loss of appetite, the pet alert and responsive. It is not normal for a pet to be depressed or become unresponsive so contact us immediately should you see these signs.
What are the first signs of labor?
If your pet is in labor, you will notice signs as listed below:
- Possible panting and pacing
- Decrease in body temperature (as indicated by a thermometer).
As labor progresses to major contractions, your pet will lay on her side and you will be able to see her abdominal muscles contracting.
This normally indicates that the first puppy or kitten is on its way soon. Note: Purposeful labor should last no longer than 30 minutes for dogs and 60 minutes for cats.
The labor process exceeds these times without birth, contact your veterinarian immediately
What should I do during the birthing process?
Kittens and puppies can be born head or tail first. Once you can see the new puppy or kitten, it should be expelled from the birth canal quickly by the female. In most cases, the mother won’t need your help, but do monitor the birth if you can do so without causing stress to the mother. The female should remove the birth sac and stimulate the puppy or kitten to breathe by licking it. If for some reason she doesn’t do this within a few minutes of birth, you may need to assist by removing the sac from the baby’s face and gently rubbing the baby with a soft, dry cloth to stimulate breathing. When the baby cries and starts moving around, return it to the mother immediately. Many dogs and cats will eat the placenta or birth sac. This is okay and is a normal, instinctual behavior.
When should you contact a vet during this process?
Don’t hesitate to contact your hospital team should any of the following complications occur:
- A newborn becomes lodged in the birth canal for more than ten minutes and you can not dislodge it
- The mother continues to have contractions for more than four hours and no kitten/puppy appears
- More than five hours elapse when you are certain another puppy/kitten is still present in the mother
- You counted less placentas than you have puppies/kittens
- Stillborn kittens or puppies
- Excessive bleeding or abnormal material from the birth canal
- Crying and licking or biting at the vulvar area during whelping or queening
Reason to contact the vet after the birthin
- Kittens /puppies will not nurse or appear weak
- A mammary gland (breast) is hot, hard or painful
- Kittens mew continuously, puppies cry continuously, do not sleep and are agitated
- Kittens /puppies are not receiving enough milk to keep their stomachs plump and distended
- The Mother’s temperature is over 102.5 and two days have passed since birthing
- The vaginal discharge has a strong odor or appears infected
Weaning a kitten
The weaning process normally begins when kittens are around four weeks old, and is usually completed when they reach eight to ten weeks. Generally, when a kitten’s eyes are open and able to focus, and he is steady on his feet, the introduction of solid food can safely begin.
The process typically takes between four and six weeks, with most kittens completely weaned by the time they’re eight to ten weeks old.
It’s important to remember that abrupt removal from the mother cat can have a negative effect on the kittens’ health and socialization skills they learn to eat, use a litter box and play, among other things, by observing their mother. Whenever possible, kittens should remain with their mother during the weaning process, as she will inherently know what to do.
When the kittens reach four weeks old, you can place them in a separate area for a few hours at a time to reduce their dependency on mother’s milk and her overall presence. Put them in their own special area with a litter box and food and water bowls. As the kittens become more independent, they can spend more time away from their mother until they are completely weaned.
Weaning a puppy
Weaning can generally begin between three and four weeks of age, and is ideally completed by about seven to eight weeks of age.
Although it’s often unavoidable, it’s preferable to allow weaning to be a gradual process that occurs over several weeks. Puppies need time to learn important behaviors from their mother and littermates, including how to interpret signs of dominance, inhibit their own biting habits and submit to more dominant dogs.
It is also preferable for the mother dog to slowly dry up her milk supply.
Start by separating the mother from her litter for a few hours at a time. While separated, introduce the puppies to eating from a pan.
The amount of food and the frequency and length of separation can gradually be increased. As the puppies become independent and self-confident, they can spend more and more time away from their mother until they are completely weaned.
During the weaning process, it’s a good idea to feed puppies the same high-quality puppy food they’ll eat throughout their growth period right from the start. Be sure to moisten the food with warm water to create a soupy gruel that’s appealing to their sensitive palates.
To prevent the mother from overproducing milk, which can lead to painful, engorged mammary glands, it is important to observe a feeding and separation schedule both for her and the puppies.
First vet visit for the newborns
Puppies and kittens are started on their vaccinations at 6-8 weeks of age