Smorgasbord Pet Health – New arrivals on their way – Pregnancy in cats and dogs


I am an advocate for adoption for both dogs and cats. There are so many needing homes.

However, accidents happen and when it does then there are some simple things that you can do to ensure the health of your pet as well as give them a stress free pregnancy and delivery.

As with human pregnancies sometimes our pets and their resulting offspring are also accidental. Cats are pretty organised and their gestation period (pregnancy) lasts between 63 and 65 days whilst dogs can be a little more varied, dependent on breed, and can have a pregnancy lasting between 56 and 72 days.

Unless you catch your pet “in the act” during a receptive period (heat) then you may have to ask the vet to verify the pregnancy at about a month. If you need to know how many there are going to be in the litter you can also splash out for a scan at about 45 days, and this might be important if you are concerned for the health of the dog or cat.


If you are planning to breed your dog or cat then they need as much attention to health and diet before the event as we do.

For dogs and cats it is important that their vaccinations are up to date and that they have just been wormed before conception.

During pregnancy

In the second half of pregnancy you need to gradually increase the level of her food day by day until at the end she is eating about twice her normal amount. Divide the meals into five or six smaller meals per day, as this will be more comfortable for her. She will need a balanced diet that is appropriate for pregnancy and you can ask your vet for recommendations on specific nutrients and what natural foods should be included.

If your dog is used to eating healthy home prepared meals then continue that way, with additional lean poultry and fish as well as vegetables. Make sure that she stays hydrated as her needs for fluids will increase as the pregnancy progresses.

Cats are usually very self-sufficient, but they too need regular small meals later in pregnancy, along with plenty of fresh water.

A dog should have moderate exercise throughout pregnancy and this will help her keep supple and flexible for the birth. It is a good idea to keep your cat indoors during the last two weeks of pregnancy as she may discover what she feels is a suitable place to give birth in your neighbour’s tool shed.

You need to make preparations around three weeks before the litter is due and a whelping box is the safest for both the mother and puppies. The puppies or kittens need to be clustered as closely as possible together, for both warmth and safety, but the mother should be able to lie outstretched to enable her to nurse them comfortably.

If you are building the whelping box yourself it should have sides between 4 and 8 inches high, depending on the breed of your dog. Encourage her to sleep in it up to the birth so that she is used to it. Use shredded newspapers as bedding, or smooth sheets that can be washed easily. Place the box in a quiet place away from the family and noise so that your dog associates it with a safe place to deliver and keep her babies.

Cats like a slightly higher whelping box with sides about 6 to 10 inches high and they too like a secluded corner where they can nurse in safety. Cats may turn their noses up at your efforts and find their own haven – usually in inconvenient places such as the airing cupboard or under your bed – but you will have to leave her alone at least for the first ten days to avoid stressing her unnecessarily. They usually like their boxes to be covered with a towel or something similar so that it is dark as well as quiet.

Signs of impending labour

The mammary glands in both dogs and cats will engorge in the last two or three weeks and milk will become available in the last two to three days and is a good sign that they are about to begin labour. If you are brave enough (my dog likes to try and rip the arm off the vet at the sight of a thermometer) take your dog’s temperature once the milk appears and you will see that it drops to 99F within 10 to 24 hours of labour starting.

If you are not planning on having the vet assist at the birth, which to be honest is unlikely for most domestic pets, then be prepared to help out if necessary. Usually you will come down in the morning and find a proud mother with her litter tucked up and already nursing.

Both dogs and cats will begin to exhibit nesting or nursing behaviour and I have seen dogs and cats start to mother anything from an old slipper to a hairbrush. The maternal instinct is very strong and it is not a good idea to fuss around them unless they come to you specifically for comfort.

This stage lasts from 6 to 24 hours and they will eventually seek seclusion, either in the whelping box they have become used to or their chosen spot. They will start to have contractions and their cervix will dilate as during a human birth but it will not be visible to you.

During labour

Contractions will become stronger and will be accompanied by abdominal contractions pushing out the puppies or kittens. If you are present during the birth you will notice a small, green sac visible at the vulva before the puppy or kitten arrives. The placenta will follow each individual birth and the mother will lick and bite the sac to release the baby before cleaning it and biting the umbilical cord.

With an inexperienced mother, you may need to help nature along by gently rubbing the kitten or puppy with a towel to stimulate its breathing. This may also happen if the mother begins the contractions for the next member of the litter immediately following the birth of the last one.

There a number of things that you need to look out for during the last stages of pregnancy, and during labour, that might signal that your pet is having difficulties.

If the mother has been having strong contractions for longer than ten min-Utes and it looks as though the kitten or puppy is lodged in the birth canal, gently grasp it around the shoulders with a thin towel and gently rock back and forth. Without grabbing the legs pull towards you carefully until it is freed.

After the birth, if the mother does not sever the umbilical cord then tie a piece of strong cotton around the cord about an inch from the body and then cut on the side of the knot away from the baby. Dip the end in a little iodine to prevent infection.

Usually there is a ten to thirty minute rest between individual births – but this might vary, particularly with cats.

When to call the vet

  • You should have taken your pet to the vet for a check-up during the pregnancy so they will be expecting to be called out it there are problems.
  • If the pregnancy lasts more than the usual 65 days or 71 days in the case of a dog then take them to the vet to be checked.
  • If after the stronger contractions begin and the mother is having abdominal contractions but no births then you need to call the vet.
  • If there is a lapse of more than two hours between puppies, or four hours between kittens, and you are sure that labour is still in progress then you will need help.
  • If after gently moving the kitten or puppy in the birth canal you still cannot deliver it then you again will need assistance.
  • If the mother has been in labour for over three hours and develops a greenish/black discharge but no babies there is a problem.
  • Sometimes a placenta is not delivered for each individual birth and leaving it inside the mother is dangerous and needs to be dealt with.


Having new kittens or puppies in the house is as miraculous as human birth and if you have helped your pet through the process it makes it even more meaningful.

And then perhaps you might get something like this

22 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Pet Health – New arrivals on their way – Pregnancy in cats and dogs

  1. We had an accidental set of kittens when we were kids – we took our cat in to get her spayed, but the vet told us the local male cat population had already found her! It turned out to be a great experience for us kids, and my parents had those kittens for 15-16 years (though they did keep a closer eye on them and get them fixed before similar problems were had with them)!

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  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Pet Health – New arrivals on their way – Pregnancy in cats and dogs | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Pet Health: New arrivals on their way. Pregnancy in cats and dogs. – The Militant Negro™

  4. Great advice, Sally. I could have used this post several decades ago, but we did okay, given all. Quite an experience! The video was priceless – perfect musical accompaniment.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love the video of puppies and kittens! Beautiful kittens with blue eyes! Adorable puppies! Thanks for sharing this information.

    My first dog had two pregnancies. The first one I didn’t even know that she was pregnant I had just come home from the hospital after having my first child and she was acting funny. I called the vet and he said it sounded like fake pregnancy and recommended that I give her a baby aspirin which I did. Soon after she delivered a puppy and cleaned it and cut the cord – did everything without any assistance. Thank God because I wouldn’t have known what to do.

    Unfortunately her puppy only lived one day. It was evidently weak and she sat on it. She only weighed 8 lbs too. It was a cross between a miniature Doberman and (my dog) toy terrier/chihuahua. It was adorable. I had planned to raise it too. So sad.

    She also had another pregnancy several months later and this time she had two puppies that were bigger than she. One black and the other white – cross between a poodle and terrier/chihuahua. It was amazing to see! I saw both births. She cleaned up after them when they pooped and peed too! What a good mother! LOL! Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My partner is breading Chesapeake Bay retrievers. Our dogs have produced 2 litters in the last six years. Nothing is accidental if you are a responsible breeder. The stud is carefully selected to enhance the breed. Before the breeding happens both parents are checked for any possible defects. During pregnancy there are quite a few trips to the vet. The puppies are born at home in a whelping box marked in birth order, weighed at least once a day and assured that all of them get enough milk. It’s an expensive endeavor, therefore the puppies are not cheap. I still have to find a breeder that actually makes money (unless the puppies are born in a puppy mill, yikes) Usually the money goes to the vet before they are sold, because they have all the shots and are de-wormed several times if necessary. Possible buyers are carefully selected and matched with a puppy that will hopefully be their life companion. You have to be dedicated to the breed and pursue the best quality in every way. It’s hard work and also pleasurable and gratifying. Responsible breeders take their puppies back if it doesn’t work out, buyers fill out a contract that states never to turn a puppy into a shelter, they are obligated to let the breeder re-home them to a suitable new human.
    I had both shelter dogs and pure breed dogs. I like them both but know exactly what I’m getting when I get a pure breed dog. I do think quality breeders are maligned too often.
    Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your feedback Christina and I know that there are responsible breeders out there. Unfortunately, despite being regulated in the UK there are still some who would rather conform to style and appearance than health. Such as with the Rhodesian Ridgeback where the genetic abnormality of the spine is considered to be its most desired feature and the rare puppies not born with this are culled. Combined with interbreeding and drive towards creating dogs that bear no relation to their original shape or size it is no wonder that the lifespans have been shortened and diseases such as cancer have become so common. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are beautiful dogs and you obviously do everything to ensure that some of the breed specific health issues are not carried forward such as hip dysplasia and eye issues. Your partner is clearly not in it for the money and if every breeder of dogs followed those protocols it would be great. And I hope that everyone reading your response will also take your comments on board and buy responsibly by asking the right questions and asking for a name of one of their previous puppies owners who is now five or six years old to contact and ask about health problems. My experience is with boxers and rough collies. 95% of Collies now carry the PRA gene (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) which is something the Chesepeakes can also be prone to. Boxers now have a very strong chance of getting skin or bone cancer in fact 45% of them die from it.
      Pure breed dogs can be absolutely stunning and intelligent and deserve the care you describe.. But our own vet in Spain said that she was so saddened by the number of pure breed dogs that she was treating and that she recommended getting a mongrel under 10k. Thanks again for your response and I hope that people check their breeders out to find one as concientious as your partner.

      Liked by 1 person

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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