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Carlisle Vets


If your bitch is whelping and you don’t feel you have time to read the whole article please scroll down to “When to contact your veterinary surgeon”.

We can perform an ultrasound scan to confirm pregnancy from 28 days after mating. It is not possible to determine the exact number of pups using our high-resolution scanner as it designed to show fine detail rather than scan the whole womb at once. We recommend vaccinating pregnant bitches against herpes virus infection which is an important cause of death in very young puppies. Protection is provided by two injections of the first of which is given 7-10 days after mating; the second injection is given 1-2 weeks before the expected whelping date.

The gestation period in the bitch is usually stated to be 63 days, but can be as short as 56 days or as long as 72 days. Most of this variation is down to the bitch’s variable and prolonged heat period and because a dog’s sperm can survive for many days in the bitch’s reproductive tract. Larger breeds such as the Doberman tend to have a longer than average gestation and smaller breeds, including toy breeds, tend to be a little shorter. Larger litters tend to be born earlier and small litters later than the average gestation of 63 days. If your bitch goes over her time, don’t worry.

It is possible to predict when pups will arrive by taking their mother’s temperature every 1-2 hours from just before her due date. Her temperature will drop sharply 8-24 hours before the pups are born. The normal rectal temperature is within half a degree of 38.9 degrees centigrade; the temperature will drop by one degree or more. The smaller the breed the further the temperature falls and miniature breeds can fall to as low as 35 degrees. Giant breed will rarely fall to less than 37 degrees. The temperature returns to normal at about the time the pups are born.

For first-time mothers lactation can be established as late as 24 hours before pups are born but for bitches that have had several litter milk can be produced as early as one week before the pups are born.