If the pitter-patter of tiny four-legged companions appeals to you, then make sure you know what to expect when pups or kittens are in the offing.

Let’s start by looking at pregnancy, which can be tricky in itself. There is a distinct set of signs and symptoms that can suggest that a dog is pregnant, but some female dogs can experience a false pregnancy which very closely mimics genuine canine pregnancy.

Also, many dogs never “look” pregnant. It is thus best to get confirmation by taking the dog to the vet. He or she will do an examination, and if this is not conclusive enough then the vet will more than likely do a sonogram.

Nevertheless, it is useful to know that the following signs are commonly seen in pregnant canines:

  • Increased Appetite
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Prominent Nipples
  • Lethargy
  • Increased Sleeping
  • Clear Discharge from the Vagina
  • A Firm Abdomen
  • “Nesting” Behaviours
  • More Frequent Urination

A full term pregnancy for a dog is, on average, between 60 and 63 days and the technical term for when a dog gives birth is “whelping”. Make sure to ask your vet if your breed of dog has any special problems when it comes to whelping. While the vast majority are fine, some breeds – such as Bulldogs – may require human assistance.

When birth is imminent, there is typically a decrease in appetite, an increase in nesting behaviours – digging and scratching at bedding, floors, etc. – along with restlessness, panting and salivation. And, within about 24 hours before giving birth the pregnant dog’s body temperature will drop by a couple of degrees.

When she begins to whelp, make sure she is comfortable and leave her in peace. A place that is warm, with low lighting is ideal. Watch from a distance and let nature take its course.

You should, however, consult a vet immediately if not all the pups have been delivered after 24 hours and if contractions, in which the dog will actively strain and push, last for more than 20 – 30 minutes at a time and do not produce a puppy.

The bitch should lick the puppy when it has been delivered and bite the cord. If a puppy does not show signs of life and the mother is not attending to it, you may want to stimulate it by rubbing it with a towel.

When it comes to cats, you may be surprised to learn that they are seasonal in their reproductive cycle and will normally tend to have kittens – known as “queening” – only in the warmer months of the year. They show similar symptoms to dogs when pregnant but, once again, a vet is best to confirm a pregnancy.

Make sure that your pregnant cat is free of fleas as this may seriously affect the pregnancy and good quality, nutritious food, as with pregnant dogs, is vital. Also, like dogs, cats will seek out a comfortable and secluded nesting area, which is ideally quiet and free from people and other pets.

Sure symptoms that the cat is going into labour include pacing, vomiting, panting, restlessness, crying and nesting. Do not attempt to move the cat to another place once she is in labour.

Once again it is best to watch from afar and not interfere. Most cats will queen a litter within six hours, but this can extend into the next day, and usually goes off without a hitch. If the cat shows signs of strong contractions for more than 30-60 minutes and no kitten is produced, immediately consult your vet. And remember to have the number of a 24 hour emergency vet at hand in case you have problems during the night.

There’s nothing more exciting than having new life in the house – and who can resist the cuteness of puppies or kittens – but I do recommend that your pets only reproduce because you planned it and not because you never got round to spaying or neutering them.

Think very carefully when you are considering breeding your animals. Be well prepared, read up extensively on possible problems (Google is your friend), consult your vet and you’re sure to be rewarded. Enjoy your little ones!

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