Once you’ve discovered your pet is expecting a litter you will need to prepare carefully both for the arrival of the puppies or kittens and to ensure that your dog or cat is kept in the best possible health in preparation for the birth.
- Visit your vet for a check-up and for general advice on diet, exercise and vaccination during pregnancy.
- Have contact details for your vet to hand throughout, particularly during the birth in case you need advice or a home visit.
Consider where your dog or cat will give birth.
They will need:
-Peace and quiet away from other pets and children.
-Dogs may benefit from a whelping box. Traditionally this has a small shelf around the inside under which puppies can fi t to help avoiding the risk of being trapped underneath their mother. If this is unavailable a large cardboard box will give the bitch a ‘nest’ for whelping.
-Both puppies and kittens will benefit from a warm and draught free area after they’re born.
-Allow your pet to become familiar with the whelping box/area well in advance of giving birth.
-Ensure you have plentiful supplies of clean newspaper to line the whelping box so that you can remove the top layers as they become soiled.
- Follow the dietary advice given by your vet. During pregnancy animals may want to eat less because their stomachs cannot expand very much so it’s important to feed highly nutritious food. Pregnant animals are often fed puppy or kitten foods to give the growing young the nutrients they need. Try to avoid treats as it’s important to keep the mother’s weight under control to help their recovery following the birth. Always ensure plenty of clean water is available.
- Once whelping/kittening starts allow your pet some privacy but remain close at hand in case you need to intervene or contact your vet. It is typical for first time breeders to want to get involved but remember that handling the puppies and kittens increases the chances of the mother rejecting them before they have had the chance to bond because of the human scent. Some mothers will even kill their newborn when confused.
- Even new mothers have a natural instinct to clean each new puppy or kitten to make sure they’re breathing freely and to direct them to suckle for the first time. Keep an eye on proceedings and only intervene if you are concerned about one of the puppies or kittens.
- Remember both puppies and kittens are born with their eyes closed – this is quite normal and they will open within a week.
- The delivery time for the litter varies considerably depending on species and breed and your vet will be able to advise you on this. If you have a breed such as Bulldog or Pekingese (which tend to have large broad heads) delivery is likely to take longer and they may need veterinary assistance. The golden rule is that if your bitch or queen has been straining for at least 2 hours without producing, call your vet.
- Once labour is complete you should clean up the whelping/kittening box and lay down fresh layers of newspaper. The mother should then be left to tend and suckle the litter and is unlikely to venture far for the next few days. It may be necessary to encourage them out to relieve themselves but don’t try to keep her away from the litter for long.