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

Smorgasbord Pet Health – House training – reward not punishment for you or your dog.

There is nothing more endearing than a young puppy gambolling around the house and garden and bringing a great deal of fun and laughter into our lives.

When I first brought Sam home, when he was just 8 weeks old, it ended 18 years without a pet in the house. I had made the decision that I had to be working part-time before I got a dog, as I feel that it is not kind to leave them on their own for hours at a time.

This is especially the case with puppies – they not only have a very short attention span and get bored very easily but also have very small bladders.

I can remember some advice that I received when I had my first puppy in my twenties and I had not followed it then and I didn’t with Sam. The method of rubbing your dog’s face in any accident they might have had in the house is both cruel and unnecessary. Particularly if it is several minutes or even hours after the event. Puppies are like babies and do not necessarily have all the social graces at first but unlike babies they learn very quickly and can be house trained simply and kindly.

We were very lucky in as much as we had a very useful utility room, next to the back door which was the right size to accommodate both bedroom and prepared toilet areas.

Dogs do not foul their own beds so a clear definition needs to be made. Place some waterproof material under lots of newspaper by the door as far as possible away from its bed and drinking water, and leave the puppy in this small play area when you are either out of the house or cannot watch over them.

I put a gate up across the door between the utility room and the kitchen and Sam could watch us when we were cooking dinner, which is not a good time to have a puppy under foot. The first night we walked him in the garden late and got up early the next morning and discovered that he had just had a pee on the paper by the door. We took him out immediately and began a routine, which I will explain in a moment.

The next morning at the same time, we found Sam with both legs and eyes crossed hanging on for dear life. He made it outside to the garden and stood for about 40 seconds with a glazed look on his face.

He was a bright puppy and no one had house trained him in the previous 8 weeks, because he lived outside in a shed on straw. He instinctively knew that he should not soil his living area and that extended to the rest of the house as he gained more access. To this day the only accidents he has had in the house have been if he was unwell and it was unavoidable. He always asks to go out and you have to learn to understand the difference between pestering for attention and food and the absolute necessity your dog has to go out and relieve himself.

Here are some tips for house training your new dog. I am not a keen advocate of cages and crates that seem to be the modern approach to house training, as I believe them to be too confining. Yes a dog needs a safe place to retire to when they feel they wish that, but you can provide that in a quiet and safe room away from the main living areas.  To be honest, the dogs I have owned, have always wanted to be where we were, and it was usually a sign that they might be unwell that prompted them to remove themselves. What is very useful is a playpen with a solid washable floor that you can put newspaper down on, and small wheels – you can safely leave your puppy with suitable chew toys for entertainment and also where you can limit access to other areas of the house. With the wheels it means you can take the pen to the various rooms you are in easily and without accidents. It is much bigger than a crate and despite having to top will serve to give the dog a sense of security..

Tips for house-training your pet.

1. As with humans there are certain functions that stimulate the need to go to the loo and although it is an excellent idea to take a new puppy out every one or two hours there are certain times that you should try and stick to.

  1. Immediately your puppy wakes up in the morning or from one of their frequent naps.
  2. Last thing at night.
  3. Shortly after their meals.
  4. Before greeting sessions with visitors (otherwise they will go during in excitement)
  5. After a session of playing.
  6. Every hour for a few minutes.
  7. When training your puppy you need to establish both routine and also purpose. Keep toilet and play times separate so that when you go out on the hour or every two hours you are not distracting the dog from going to the toilet, going back inside and then pestering you five minutes later because they have a full bladder.
  8. Take the puppy out on a lead to a specific area of the garden, this will encourage the dog to know that when on the lead he is working and will help when you begin to walk him off your property on the street.
  9. Make sure that you keep the designated area clean, from a hygiene perspective but also because dogs do not like soiling over previous poops and will look for somewhere else.
  10. Develop a word for the puppy for the process that you will continue to use as they get older.
  11. Stay with the puppy as it will prevent him getting distracted from the task in hand.
  12. Reward him when he has either peed or pooped with your chosen word and telling him he is a good boy etc. You can also give him a small treat like a piece of cheese so that he begins to associate the action with the reward.
  13. Then spend a few minutes with the puppy off the lead having a game or taking them for a walk around the garden. If he has had vaccinations then you can take him out, which in itself will be a reward.
  14. Learn to interpret your puppy’s body language and vocal patterns so that you know when he needs to go out. If your puppy suddenly starts sniffing the ground and running around it usually means that he is looking for a place to go to the toilet. If you are not quick enough to get to him then distract him with clapping hands or  a word loudly in a non-aggressive manner (no point in scaring him into an accident). Pick him up swiftly and take to the designated place in the garden (not right at the bottom, as you may not get there unscathed). Place him on the ground and praise him thoroughly when he has finished doing what he needs to.

What happens if the puppy has accidents in the house?

You will be very lucky indeed to get away without any accidents during the lifetime of a dog but certainly make allowances for puppies at night. If you have given them more access to the house they will not always be in reach of their usual paper in their sleeping area so be prepared to clean up after them.

Do not use ammonia-based products as this will smell like pee to your puppy and he may decide to use this spot as a designated toilet area. Clean thoroughly with hot soapy water and there are some pet safe disinfectants that you should buy at the same time as you buy all your new puppies accessories.

It is likely at first that your puppy will have accidents at night and of course if he is in the utility room he is unable to attract your attention. Playpens are great for keeping in your bedroom at night so that the puppy can alert you with his cries. He will do so, and if you are prepared for a few sleepless nights then this is one option. I personally prefer a utility room or bathroom with a specific area for accidents and make sure that the puppy is walked as late as possible at night and as early as possible in the morning, even if it means going back to bed for a couple of hours.

We all know the discomfort caused by the need to desperately go to the loo without a toilet nearby and dogs are no exception, they will let you know and you will need to learn to understand their language and be patient with them and yourself.


Smorgasbord Pet Health – Cars and Dogs – Are you breaking UK driving laws?

We have all seen the funny videos of dogs in cars with their heads out the windows or through the sunroof, but in the UK there is a driving law that states that a driver must restrain all animals in a vehicle appropriately.

I know that not all of us have an estate car or hatchback but even if we do, a small dog can be flung from the back into the back passenger seats and even front seats with enough force to kill someone. Which is why it is important that you install some form of dog barrier across that area. If your dog is travelling in the back seat of the car then you can buy a harness that slips around their body and through a seat belt. This is not just to protect them if there should be an accident but for you safety too.

Tavelling with even a small dog on your lap can be potentially fatal for the dog especially if it is between you and the force of an air bag.. It is much safe for dogs to be restrained in the back passenger seats in my opinion rather than the hatch back when on long journeys where you are more likely to be at risk of high impact crashes.. the middle of the car is cushioned and there are plenty of ways to protect the seating with waterproof covers and towels etc. Buying a seat belt harness for you dog may save its life and yours.

Anyway.. here is an article that all dog owners should read, especially in the UK where is it law that your pets be suitably restrained in a vehicle.

In the Eastern Daily Press and contributed by The Dog’s Trust

Is Your Dog Wearing a Seatbelt – If not you may be breaking the law

Many of us would never dream of setting off on a long Bank Holiday car journey before making sure our children and loved ones are safely strapped in.

But today the Dogs Trust warns that even though our pets are much-loved family members, more than one in five dog owners in East Anglia regularly travel with their pooch unrestrained in the car.

Some drivers, according to the Dogs Trust – which has a rehoming centre in Snetterton, near Attleborough – even daringly drive with their dogs on their laps while they try to control the car at the wheel.

As many families set off on long Bank Holiday car journeys, the charity is today launching a dog safety awareness campaign to ensure people stick to the law and ensure their pets are properly strapped in.

Dr Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research for Dogs Trust, said: “Dogs are such an important part of people’s lives, so it’s understandable that owners want to take them out and about with them.

“However, our survey shows many people don’t know the safest way to travel with their dogs and some are even unwittingly breaking the law by letting their dogs roam around the car whilst they are on the move.”

What the law says

Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.

“A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

Read the rest of the article and even if it is not law yet in your country it is something you need to think carefully about as it might mean the difference of life or death for you and your pet:

Smorgasbord Health – Ancient healing therapies – Reflexology

smorgasbord health

It is a couple of years since I posted a series on some of the Ancient healing therapies that are still being practiced today. I am reluctant to call them Alternative therapies as that is an expression that was coined by the medical profession back in the dark ages…up to the present day…. to describe healing that has been used for thousands of years but is beyond their comprehension.  This is not to say that all treatments today that are offered on the back of ancient healing is effective. Over the last twenty years or so I have come across some practices that I find very difficult to support.

To become an effective healer in any of the ancient practices you need to undergo stringent training and to have a broad knowledge of the human body. You also have to understand that even physical therapies that require a hands on application can have a profound effect on mental and emotional health. For example reflexology in the right hands can produce a release of emotions as well as alleviating pain and soreness in a particular region of the body.

The other aspect that it is interesting to note is that some of the ancient therapies such as acupuncture and reiki, are used on pets and they can prove to be very effective. Since animals to not experience the placebo effect, it does go a long way to prove in my mind that the treatments are genuinely beneficial to humans and animals alike.


Reflexology is a form of complementary medicine that was first practised over 5,000 years in China where it was used to correct energy fields in patients. There is evidence in the form of wall art that the Egyptians and Indians also used this form of healing in the same time period. The Incas are believed to have passed down their skill of reflexology to the North American Red Indians who used it extensively for healing and relaxation.

It really only came to prominence in the Western world in the last century when various physicians discovered that reflexology points when stimulated acted as a form of anaesthetic. A doctor in the U.S called Dr. William Fitzgerald developed these first points into vertical zones and connected them to specific organs and parts of the body. He wrote a book on Zone Therapy in the early 1900’s and was the forerunner of modern day reflexology therapy.

Later doctors added additional horizontal zones to the upper and underside of the feet and then to the hands. Other parts of the body such as the face and ears were explored as the connection between massaging certain points on the body and acupuncture became more apparent.

In the 1920’s a therapist called Eunice Ingham completed the chart of the feet and developed the method that today we call reflexology.


As in acupuncture that I  will cover next week,there are a number of places on the body where pressure can be applied to benefit individual organs, systems and the structure of the body. This includes the hands and the ears but today I am going to focus on the feet which are the most common area of the body to be massaged.

In the feet there are reflex areas that correspond to all parts of the body and these areas are arranged in the form of a map on each foot. The right foot mainly corresponds to the right side of the body and the left foot to the left side with shared zones for central areas of the body. This enables therapists to be very specific about areas and conditions that require treatment. The important thing to remember with all natural therapies is that they work from the inside of the body to the outside of the body whereas conventional treatment tends to work from the outside in. In most cases this leads to the symptoms being treated and not the cause. Reflexology can treat the whole body internally and externally just by manipulating these specific pressure points.

Reflexology points

If you imagine the image of the foot from above with the toes facing away from you can get a clearer picture of the reflexology map.

There are horizontal zones running across the centre line of the toes and these pressure points relate to the face, sinus, teeth, gums and jaw on the left foot and the neck and brain stem on the right foot. Above the zone in the nail bed of the big toe is the zone for the head and brain and under the zone at the base of the toe is the zone for the neck.

Another horizontal band runs across the foot just slightly below the toes and this relates to the tops of the shoulders. Half way up the foot is a zone that can be massaged to relieve upper back problems and the zone around the base of the ankle controls the lymph glands, fallopian tubes and the groin area.

Along each side of the foot are smaller zones with specific roles in therapy. Along the outside edge of the left foot are the zones for the arm, lungs, chest and breast areas, elbow, waistline, knee and leg and lower back. Along the inside edge of the left and right feet are zones for the spine and the bladder.

On the bottom of the feet.

On the bottom of both feet you will find specific zones of varying sizes that are massaged to provide therapy for other parts and organs. On the underside of the left foot are the zones for shoulder, lungs, upper chest and back, diaphragm, gall bladder, ascending colon. Just under the last two toes is the zone for the inner ear. The big toe has a zone for the head and brain as well as one for the pituitary gland.

The underside of the right foot contains zones for the thyroid gland, eye, sinus, neck, ear, arm, stomach, spleen, transverse and descending colon and the small intestine.

Both feet share zones on the inside edge and centre which relate to the heart, solar plexus, liver, adrenal gland, pancreas, kidneys, spine, bladder, sciatic nerve and the lower back.

As in acupuncture the gentle manipulation of certain pressure points on the feet releases blocked channels in the body allowing healing to take place.


Your therapist should take a full medical history before beginning to treat you. You will then sit in a comfortable position with bare feet.

All the zones on the feet will be massaged usually using the side and end of the thumb to apply firm pressure. If there is a particular part of the body that is affected by pain or discomfort this will often be reflected in the specific zone for that area on the foot. A feeling of tenderness will be experienced that can ease with continued massage. The process should not be in any way uncomfortable and in fact many people find it very relaxing.


As with any alternative therapy, despite often having thousands of years of history, you have to be very careful about claiming that it works as a cure. Many patients find relief from stress, depression, fatigue, spinal problems, indigestion, Irritable bowel syndrome, hormone imbalance and sinusitis. It is also used for specific muscle and joint pain in conjunction with other complementary therapies.


This largely depends on the extent of the original problem but there may be slight detox side effects such as mild headaches, diarrhoea, and possible congestion as the body tries to rid itself of toxins that have been released. It is a good idea to combine reflexology with a detox programme along the lines of last month’s plan combined with additional fluids. You might also experience some emotional side-effects and certainly if you have been under stress you might find yourself feeling either a little weepy.  You should certainly feel relaxed.

Reflexology and pets.

Sam enjoyed both reflexology and reiki healing which I will cover in another post. He would actively ask for a massage, not just on his tummy as many dogs do but he would come and sit with his back to me until he was touching my knees… I would then massage the edges of his ears (like in humans probably relating to certain parts of his body ) and then his neck gently and then down across the tops of his front legs and then down his spine… He would occasionally lift his paw and I would massage the pads of his foot and lightly inbetween..He would sit perfectly still for 10 minutes or so before getting up, stretching and moving off to go to sleep.

For those of you who are interested here is the link to Pet massage from last week. Good for them and good for you.

Next time a look at Acupuncture which is a healing therapy that I have found to be very beneficial several times in my life.

©sallycronin Just Food for health 2007