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Pregnant Paws

If you have a female pooch or puss-cat and are thinking of having a litter, then you are in for a fun time. Infant puppies and kittens are so cute and it is fascinating to watch them grow. It is also very expensive and exhausting - so be warned!!

Before embarking on such a mission, mark time for a moment and be sure you are going into breeding for the right reasons. There are already excess numbers of puppies and kittens available, as a trip to the local animal shelter will confirm, and allowing your girl to have a litter will not make her 'settle down' or be 'more content'.

If you are thinking of the profits you will make from selling the pups, then you really should reconsider. Responsible breeding of pups and kittens is not a profit making venture!

If you are thinking of the profits you will make from selling the pups, then you really should reconsider. Responsible breeding of pups and kittens is not a profit making venture!

Assuming that you have covered all these responsible musings, let's tour through your duties as a prospective parent of pups and paediatric puss-cats.

Vaccinations

Prior to mating, you should ensure your pet's vaccinations are up to date. If your pet has not been vaccinated in the last six months, it is worthwhile getting them boosted to ensure the mum is able to pass her immunity to her puppies or kittens.

It is safer to have your pet vaccinated prior to mating but if you have neglected this, be sure to tell your vet your pet is pregnant because some vaccines should not be used in pregnant animals.

It is also a good idea to have you pet wormed prior to mating. Worming should also be undertaken six weeks into the pregnancy and should continue thereafter every two weeks until the puppies are weaned. This is to prevent roundworm infestations of the puppies. Roundworms that are lying dormant in the mother are often reactivated in the last trimester of pregnancy and are then passed onto the puppies or kittens. Worming in pregnancy will stop this problem.

Feeding Pregnant Pets

When feeding your pregnant pooch, you need to provide a diet which is higher in energy than you would normally give. The diet should contain higher levels of protein and fat but should also be cautiously higher in calcium and phosphorous. It should also be a diet that is easy to digest so the nutrients are readily taken into your dog's body from its intestines.

The ideal diet for a pregnant dog is a growth diet - the same that you would provide to a growing puppy. Such diets are readily available from veterinarians and pet shops.

Providing a pregnant dog or cat with additional calcium, above that provided as part of a balanced growth diet, is not necessary or advisable. Excess calcium can cause abnormalities with the puppies and it will not prevent milk fever when the bitch or queen is lactating.

How Much to Feed

In the first six weeks of pregnancy, the puppies do not grow very much so a pregnant dog (or cat) should be fed the same volume of food that you would give before it was pregnant - except that it should be a growth formula. Interestingly, most dogs reduce the amount they eat for a brief period in about the fourth week of pregnancy.

Puppy size increases dramatically in the last trimester of pregnancy and therefore a pregnant dog should progressively receive more food from six weeks of her term onwards so that she is receiving roughly 25% more food by the time the pups are born.

She may not be able to consume this much food in one sitting, so you may need to feed your expectant poochy mum smaller meals, two to three times a day.

When the puppies or kittens are born, the proud mum needs to turn on milk production immediately. This consumes a large amount of energy and therefore, during lactation, a dog and cat will consume much more food than when they are pregnant.

During the first week of lactation a dog with a good size litter will need one and a half times more food than when she was not 'in the family way'. Her food intake will increase to double that of her non-lactating state in the second week and then will triple in the third week. This is often best achieved by allowing the bitch free access to food during lactation.

While she is lactating, feed your dog on a growth or puppy formula as this provides the best form of nutrition for this demanding stage of her motherhood.

Weaning

It is routine to start weaning your pup at about three weeks of age. Most inquisitive pups will sample some of mum's food at three to four weeks of age. This is a good beginning for the weaning process and should be encouraged.

Don't forget to worm your new brood. Worming can be commenced at seven days of age using a syrup and should continue fortnightly until the pups or kittens are three months of age. Vaccinations for the young rascals are due at six weeks of age.

Producing a litter of healthy pups and puss-cats is very rewarding. Be sure their new owners are as devoted to the care of your brood as you are.