By Alfred J. Plechner, D.V.M.

Once you and your veterinarian have decided your dog or cat is pregnant by the 5th week of conception, it is best to offer a third meal to your pet at lunch time if you're pet is interested. I personally believe it is best to keep the protein, carbohydrate and fat in the same ratio.

It is important to increase the nutrition for your pet while pregnant, but not to increase their weight. The increased amount of foods, are designed to help her embryos develop to their maximum.

At this same time a calcium, magnesium compound, including a montmorillinite, should be given twice daily and continued two weeks past weaning. This will help guarantee that the mother does not develop low blood calcium, which may lead to excessive shaking and seizures. This is typically found in dogs with large litters, whether the mother is small or large.

If the litter is fairly large, it is best to place the puppies and kittens into two separate groups, which will allow them to nurse at separate times thus avoiding a loss of nutrition to one or more of the offspring. Please realize that 90% of the deaths that occur with normal offspring, come from lack of nutrition and reduced body temperature. A proper bed for mom and her offspring is also very important. Unless provided for, it is a known fact that certain large breeds mistakenly lie on their offspring, which may end in death.

Once the puppies and kittens have reached 2 to 2 ½ weeks of age, it is best for the mother, to start to have the pet owner, offer the offspring, baby meats, soon mixed with canned food. Allowing the offspring to nurse after they reach 3 weeks of age, may be very damaging to their mother and her overall health. Please remember, after 48 hours, the offspring on mother's milk cannot absorb the antibodies in that milk called colostrums.

While you are beginning solid food for the offspring, if the mother's breasts continue to fill up with milk, it may be necessary for the pet owner to either milk the glands or allow for short term nursing or have your veterinarian give the mother an injection to dry up the milk.

If this is your pet's first litter, it is always a good idea to speak to your veterinary for directions, and I personally like to do an x-ray at 6 ½ weeks of the pregnancy, to check for the size of the pelvic outlet as compared to the size of the heads of her offspring. Also it is important to know approximately how many offspring are present for delivery, and if the offspring are in the normal position for delivery.

Many times, one to three days before labor begins, the mother's temperature may drop to below 100 degrees, that may be a sign that labor may soon happen. If labor does begin, and an amnion (a small green bubble) presents itself with no offspring, the time has come to get your veterinarian involved.

Hopefully this will help.

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