To be certain that the mating has been successful, it is customary to visit the vet for a scan 24 to 28 days after the event. The scan is not the ideal method to find out the number of puppies, as the same pup can be counted several times over, however it is useful to asses the condition of the foetuses (size, heart beat┬ů) to be sure that all is in order.
Of course the pregnant mother will display changes that become more evident during the second part of the gestation period, and the following can be noticed: an increase in weight, increased size of abdomen, swelling of the mammary glands with or without milk secretion (with some first timers milk is produced just minutes before giving birth). Also there may be a change in behaviour, such as eating several times a day.
It is most important that, before mating, the females are correctly vaccinated against distemper and parvovirus (so as to transmit the immunity to the pups) and cleared of parasites internally as well as externally. The latter should take place at least one week before giving birth. It is important to consult your vet on this matter.
Feeding and exercise must not be overlooked. It is advisable to provide a feed of high nutrition during the first 5-6 weeks of pregnancy and then gradually changing to a feed intended for pregnant bitches and or growing puppies.
It is recommended to start with mixing to mix the feed for nutrition with that for puppies in equal parts, then gradually decrease the nutritional feed and replace with that for puppies, this will avoid gastric problems (vomit and especially diarrhoea). If the mother is used to eating home made foods, this must be supplemented with calcium and vitamin D according to a dosage prescribed by the vet. She will need to be fed with the new feed for as long as she is breastfeeding any of the pups. Exercise must be constant but not for long spells, thus exercising her without tiring her.
Finally, we must choose an appropriate location for the birth of the pups. From the 50th day of gestation, we must have a place ready for her in a quiet corner free from droughts or low temperatures (often it is where she normally sleeps and finds herself most comfortable). Ideally there should be a labour box, which inside has a safety barrier to avoid the mother squashing them and the height of the box should be such that puppies cannot get out while the mother can get in and out without problems. A basket or a small baby batch are quite adequate for small dogs as long as we fill them with newspapers and towels so the mother does not slip or the pups absorb the birth fluids.
At last, next month we shall see the mother give birth to the puppies, until then "cheerio" from the examining table where Luna, a future mother, is having a scan to confirm that she is pregnant and that the foetuses are live and well.