Accidental Puppies: Reaching the Finish Line
In our last piece, we discussed confirming pregnancies and possible diet changes for the canine mother-to-be. One of the best tools for monitoring accidental pregnancy is the radiograph, or x-ray. Radiographs can be taken as early as 45 days or so. They are a great way to confirm pregnancy and the best way to estimate the number of pups you should expect. Puppy bones are showing up white and well-defined at this time, but the litter count still can not be guaranteed accurate due to overlaps inside the female's abdomen. Radiographic images are also very useful as an early forecast of whether the babies will emerge without assistance. Especially large pups will require surgical removal (a c-section). Similarly, a pup with no siblings may have trouble finding his way out and require veterinary intervention on the big day.
Ultrasound is a different kind of imaging, used much more often in human pregnancies. It's the earliest way to confirm the existence of puppies and is good for determining that they are alive and unstressed, although we can have little influence over their stress level--or their survival--until the very end of the pregnancy. It doesn't allow us to accurately count or size the pups but does introduce an extra cost. Can I assume, from the word "accidental", that you haven't set aside a few hundred dollars for optional testing? Even if you did, I'm afraid you're going to need that for feeding and vaccinating all your new friends. And for laundry detergent, and the anti-anxiety medication you'll need when you fully realize that not all pregnancies go as planned. But I digress. Ultrasound really shines when birthing is imminent. If there's a hitch in the delivery, this will help determine if surgery is needed. C-sections cost a couple thousand in 2022 dollars, so you might want to start moving some money around, just in case.
Now, if you were a professional breeder, your pet would be current on her vaccines and preventatives before she had those buns put into the oven. An accidental pregnancy, however, is one you didn't see coming. Certain items may have been overlooked. We do want her to be as healthy as possible, for her sake and for the safety of the pups, but I regret to inform you that dogs can not be cured of heartworms or updated on their vaccines during pregnancy. It is very important to be honest with your vet about her previous care, however, because it does have an important impact on the way we care for the pups. In all cases, the doctor will want to prescribe medicine for intestinal parasites and start changing the patient's diet over to puppy food in her last few weeks of pregnancy.
This will get you through to the finish line on the vast majority of canine pregnancies. Actually crossing the finish line, however... that's a major undertaking. Delivery might proceed smoothly without any supervision at all, but this could just as easily swing the other way to substantial expense or even devastating personal loss. In one of our upcoming pieces, I'll help you navigate those risks.
Dr. M.S. Regan