Cats and Mating: What Do You Need to Know?

An integral part of feline social behavior revolves around sexual reproduction. Sexual development in cats begins at puberty. The age at which puberty begins differs between the sexes and between individuals and breeds.

Sexual and sex-linked behaviors are important to males and females with respect to procreation. It is important to understand the form that these behaviors take in adults and to realize that they are not always completely abolished by neutering. Also, it is useful to note that sexually dimorphic behaviors (behaviors considered typical to a particular sex) are not unique to males or females. Rather, these behaviors are expressed to a greater degree in one sex or the other.

Estrus in the queen (female cat) is defined as the time during the reproductive cycle when she displays interest in mating. Estrus begins when the queen allows the male to mount and breed, and ends when her receptive behavior ceases. In cats, mating behavior is required to induce ovulating.

Domestic cats usually reach sexual maturity (puberty) between five to 12 months, at which time they experience their first estrus. The adult cat is seasonally polyestrus, cycling repeatedly (about every two to three weeks) throughout the breeding season (mid-January to August), unless interrupted by pregnancy or illness. Several major phases compose the estrous cycle, and variations in the level of normal circulating hormones contribute to these different phases.

Estrus is a normal physiologic function of the intact female cat. Estrus can be prevented or eliminated by spaying the cat. The medical term for spaying is ovariohysterectomy, which means that both the ovaries and uterus of the cat are surgically removed. All signs of estrus cease within a few days of spaying the cat.

There are certain hormonal changes in the cycling queen until she mates. Estrogen is responsible for the queen’s going into heat and progesterone is necessary for pregnancy. When the estrogen concentration rises, the queen goes into heat, and when it drops, the heat ends. Until the queen is mated, this rise and fall of estrogen will continue.

Cats and Mating: How it Happens

Since the female is less sensitive to environmental changes when in heat, she is brought to the tom for breeding. Once the cats get together, the mating process doesn’t last very long – only about half of a minute to about 4 minutes. First the male bites the female’s neck, mounts her and positions himself on top of her. He then thrusts his pelvis into her and finally penetrates her, which usually only lasts about 4 seconds.

During this last phase or shortly thereafter, the female will scream and attempt to break free by turning, rolling or striking the male with her paw. Then she will have a so-called “after-reaction” where she’ll roll or thrash and clean herself. This after-reaction may last up to 9 minutes.

The time intervals between matings may be as short as 5 minutes or as long as half an hour. A female may allow up to 30 matings, and studies have shown that if only one single mating is allowed only 50 percent of the queens will get pregnant. Queens are not too particular. They will allow mating will various males and this can result in a variety of different fathers for the same litter. Each kitten has only one father and kittens within the same litter may all have different fathers.

If you are not looking forward to the pitter-patter of little paws, there is a simple solution: Neuter or spay your pet. For cats, the most reliable and effective method for birth control is the removal of the reproductive organs.

For some people, however, the procedure is too permanent. They may want their pet to breed some time in the future, and are looking for a way to suppress the sex drive. Two medications — progestin and mibolerone — have been shown to suppress the reproductive drive, but they are only effective in the female. So far, there is no medication that can suppress the libido in male cats.

Cats and Mating: How to Tell if Your Cat is Pregnant

It happens before you know it. You turn around and the cute little kitten that you just got yesterday is having a litter of kittens of her own. As most people know, cats are quite good at reproducing. In fact, the average size of a litter is four kittens. For Siamese cats, it’s even higher — six kittens. And that’s just the average. But remember, it’s a good idea to get your cat spayed or neutered as soon as he/she is old enough. Otherwise, you could have a lot of homeless kitties on your hand. Only leave your cat intact if she’s a purebred and you plan on breeding her.

Pros and Cons of Spaying and Neutering in Dogs

It’s time to start thinking about spaying or neutering your dog. But, maybe you are not quite sure if it is the right thing to do. If you’re wondering whether you should just leave your dog as nature intended, consider the positive and negative aspects of spaying and neutering before making your decision.

First, what does neutering mean? Neutering is a procedure used to “de-sex” an animal. This procedure has been used to control animal population growth, reduce unwanted sexual behavior in pets, and decrease or eliminate the possibility of certain disease conditions later in life, such as pyometra or infection in the uterus.

Castration is a term used to describe the removal of the gonads (testicles) in male animals. Spaying is a term used to describe the sterilization procedure of females. The procedure of spaying most often consists of removal of both the ovaries and uterus, which is called an ovariohysterectomy. Both procedures are performed under general anesthesia and both involve a surgical incision.

Neutering is done most commonly at or around six months of age. However, many veterinarians perform this procedure earlier – as early as 8 to 10 weeks in some situations. Early neutering can be done safely and has a number of advantages, especially in cases of pet adoption.

Spaying – The Positive Side

  • Spaying removes the risk of pregnancy.

    Pet overpopulation is a serious issue and by allowing your dog to have litters, you are adding to the problem. Finding homes for your new family additions is not as easy as you may think. Even if you choose to keep the puppies, you now have the additional cost of vaccines, parasite control, toys and food for several pets. In addition to costs, the health of the mother can be in jeopardy during delivery. Some new mothers can have serious complications delivering puppies and can even develop health problems during nursing. All these potential problems can be avoided by spaying your dog.

  • Spaying makes for a cleaner, calmer dog.

    Without the drive to mate, your dog may be quieter and not prone to an incessant need to seek out a mate. The spayed dog no longer attracts males and their annoying advances and serenades. Dogs won’t have a bloody discharge for several days while they are in heat. Without proper protective products, the discharge can stain sofas, bedding and carpets. Spayed pets are also easier to get along with. They tend to be more gentle and affectionate.

  • Spaying keeps your dog healthier.

    A final positive aspect of spaying your dog is that spayed pets tend to have fewer health problems. Spaying is the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Without these organs, ovarian cysts, uterine infections and cancer of the reproductive tract are no longer a concern. Studies have shown that dogs spayed before puberty have a significantly lower chance of developing breast cancer than unspayed dogs or dogs spayed later in life.

  • Spaying – The Negative Side

  • Spaying means sterilization.

    Spaying will result in the sterilization of your dog, and she will no longer have the ability to become pregnant. In the era of pet overpopulation with thousands of unwanted pets being euthanized each year, this is really not so bad. 

  • Spaying may cause weight gain.

    Some pets may gain weight after spaying and as they get older. Just as with people, to loose weight we need to either diet or exercise. Cutting back on food intake or increasing your pets activity will help reduce weight gain.

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    Neutering – The Positive Side 

  • Neutering removes the risk of pregnancy. 

    Pet overpopulation is a serious issue and by allowing your dog to breed, you are adding to the problem. Although you may not own the female dog, and you are not burdened with finding homes for those new puppies, someone else is. Even if you accept your responsibility and choose to keep the puppies, you now have the additional cost of vaccines, parasite control, toys and food for several pets. 

  • Neutering makes for a calmer dog.

    Another positive aspect of neutering your dog is that neutering can result in a calmer, and sometimes cleaner, home. Without the drive to mate, your dog may be quieter and not prone to an incessant need to seek out a mate. The neutered dog no longer feels the need to seek out and serenade females. He no longer has the stress of needing to mark his territory and urinate throughout the house and yard. Neutered pets are also easier to get along with. They tend to more gentle and affectionate. Neutered males tend to roam less and typically are not involved in as many fights with other animals.

  • Neutering keeps your dog healthier.

    A final positive aspect of neutering your dog is that neutered pets tend to have fewer health problems. Neutering is the removal of the testicles. Without these organs, testicular cancer is no longer a concern and the risk of prostate problems is reduced. For those people who would like to sterilize their dog but do not wish to alter his appearance, testicular implants are available.

  • Breeding Spiny Mice

    Before breeding your spiny mice, learn what to expect. Mice are prolific animals and breeding should only be done if you know you will find homes for all your new little companions. Here are some of the basics:

    Nests are shared and several individuals literally pile on top of each other. “Nest” is probably the wrong word to use as spiny mice do not usually build a nest, but simply use a hollow in the litter or shelter under rocks or in crevices.

    The gestation period for these mice is 35 to 45 days, with an average litter size of just two. The young are born well developed with their ears open and their fur already grown in. The eyes may be open at birth or will open in the first few days. Within a couple of days they will begin exploring the cage. The female does not retire from her fellows when about to give birth but gives birth in a standing position. Once the babies are born, any female will feed any baby and it is not unusual to see a lactating female with a newborn feeding from one nipple and have an almost weaned animal on another.

    Within a couple days the babies will be exploring the cage. Babies are weaned at 14 to 21 days. They become sexually mature at about seven weeks of age but their growth is not complete until they are about six months old. Even after that their weight continues to rise.

    Pros and Cons of Spaying and Neutering in Cats

    It’s time to start thinking about spaying or neutering your cat. But, you are not quite sure if it is the right thing to do. If you’re wondering whether you should just leave your cat as nature intended, consider the positive and negative aspects of spaying and neutering before making your decision.

    Spaying – The Positive Side

     

    • Spaying removes the risk of pregnancy.

      Pet overpopulation is a serious problem and by allowing your cat to have litters, you are adding to the problem. Finding homes for your new family additions is not as easy as you may think. Even if you choose to keep the kittens, you will have the additional cost of vaccines, parasite control, toys and food for several pets. In addition to costs, the health of the mother can be in jeopardy during delivery. Some new mothers can have serious complications delivering kittens and can even develop health problems during nursing. All these potential problems can be avoided by spaying your cat.

    • Spaying makes for a calmer cat.

      Without the drive to mate, your cat may be quieter and won’t be prone to cat calls and the incessant need to seek out a mate. The spayed pet no longer attracts males and their annoying advances and serenades. Spayed cats are also easier to get along with. They tend to be more gentle and affectionate.

    • Spaying keeps your cat healthier.

      A final positive aspect of spaying your cat is that spayed cats tend to have fewer health problems. Spaying is the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Without these organs, ovarian cysts, uterine infections and cancer of the reproductive tract are no longer a concern.

     

    Spaying – The Negative Side

     

    • Spaying means sterilization.

      Spaying will result in the sterilization of your cat, and she will no longer have the ability to become pregnant. If you wish to breed your cat, spaying should not be done.

    • Spaying may cause weight gain.

      Some cats may gain weight after spaying. Unspayed animals typically have a strong mating desire and can expend a lot of energy seeking a mate and reproducing. Without this energy burden, your cat may eat the same amount but not burn off as many calories.

     

    Neutering – The Positive Side

     

    • Neutering removes the risk of pregnancy.

      Pet overpopulation is a serious issue and by allowing your cat to breed, you are adding to the problem. Although you may not own the female cat, and you are not burdened with finding homes for those new kittens, someone else is. Even if you accept your responsibility and choose to keep the kittens, you will have the additional cost of vaccines, parasite control, toys and food for several pets.

    • Neutering makes for a cleaner, calmer pet.

      Another positive aspect of neutering your cat is that neutering can result in a calmer, and sometimes cleaner, home. Without the drive to mate, your cat may be quieter and not prone to cat calls and an incessant need to seek out a mate. The neutered cat no longer feels the need to seek out and serenade females. He no longer has the stress of needing to mark his territory and urinate throughout the house and yard. Neutered cats are also easier to get along with. They tend to more gentle and affectionate. Neutered males tend to roam less and typically are not involved in as many fights with other animals.

    • Neutering keeps your pet healthier.

      A final positive aspect of neutering your cat is that neutered cats tend to have fewer health problems. Neutering is the removal of the testicles. Without these organs, testicular cancer is no longer a concern and the risk of prostate problems is reduced. For those people who would like to sterilize their cat but do not wish to alter his appearance, testicular implants are available.

     

    Neutering – The Negative Side

     

    • Neutering is sterilization.

      Neutering will result in the sterilization of your cat. He will no longer be able to reproduce, so if you intend to breed your animal, do not have him neutered.

    • Neutering changes his appearance.

      Your cat will look different because his testicles will no longer be present. If the absence of these organs is a cosmetic problem for you, discuss testicular implants with your veterinarian.

    • Neutering may cause weight gain.

      Some cats gain weight after neutering. Intact animals typically have a strong mating desire and can expend a lot of energy seeking a mate and reproducing. Without this energy burden, your cat may eat the same amount but not burn off as many calories.

     

    What is Neutering in Dogs?

    Neutering is a procedure used to “de-sex” an animal. This procedure has been used to control animal population growth, reduce unwanted sexual behavior in pets, and decrease or eliminate the possibility of certain disease conditions later in life, such as pyometra or infection in the uterus.

    Castration is a term used to describe the removal of the gonads (testicles) in male animals. Spaying is a term used to describe the sterilization procedure of females. The procedure of spaying most often consists of removal of both the ovaries and uterus, which is called an ovariohysterectomy. Both procedures are performed under general anesthesia and both involve a surgical incision.

    Neutering is done most commonly at or around six months of age. However, many veterinarians perform this procedure earlier – as early as 8 to 10 weeks in some situations. Early neutering can be done safely and has a number of advantages, especially in cases of pet adoption.

    Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Ferret

    Ferrets are becoming increasingly popular as pets throughout the United States. Historically, they have had three primary roles throughout the world – they have been used for hunting, utilized in research settings and kept as pets. Because they are friendly, relatively easy to care for and are becoming legal as pets in more areas of the United States, the numbers of ferrets seen in private practice has increased dramatically throughout the last several years.

    Many potential ferret owners are concerned about the odor that ferrets may have. In fact, this odor is under the control of the androgynous (sexual) hormones and is evident in the ferret’s skin. Intact male ferrets have the strongest odor; female ferrets in heat will also produce an odor but less so than the males. The actual scent or anal glands produce little odor. Therefore, spaying/neutering a pet ferret will reduce the majority of this ferret scent.

    Unless your ferret is going to be used for breeding purposes, spaying/neutering your ferret at an early age is strongly recommended in order to avoid certain health issues and reduce their musky odor. Most ferrets sold by pet stores have been spayed/neutered and de-scented at a very early age – usually by 4 weeks of age. Most ferrets obtained through private breeders are sexually intact, that is, not spayed or neutered.

    Ferrets become sexually mature by six to nine months of age. Your veterinarian should discuss spay/neuter surgery with you before your pet reaches this age.

    Potential health problems associated with intact male ferrets become evident at an age later in life. For example, testicular cancers in the ferret have been reported, but if caught early in the disease process, neutering the affected ferret will eliminate the problem.

    For the intact female ferret, potentially life-threatening diseases are likely to occur as she goes through the estrus (heat) cycle. Female ferrets are induced ovulators; that is, they will begin a heat cycle and remain in heat until they are bred or induced to ovulate. As a ferret begins a heat cycle, the estrogen level rises and continues to do so for up to six months.

    The disease associated with this process is called “hyperestrogenism.” The rising estrogen hormone concentration in the blood can induce toxic changes in the bone marrow and destroy the normal bone marrow tissue. Bone marrow in mammals is the site of red and white blood cell production. The more these cells are damaged, the less normal red and white blood cells will be produced. The ferret then develops a severe anemia and white blood cell deficiencies. Because white blood cells are a significant part of the immune system and help fight infection, the ferret is then susceptible to secondary infections due to a weakened immune system. If not detected early, these ferrets will become progressively weak and most will die within 4-6 months.

    Any female ferret in heat for one month or more is susceptible to developing this highly fatal disease. Physical signs early in the course of this disease process are generalized weakness, decreased appetite, weight loss, hair loss over the hindquarters and an enlarged vulva. Any of these symptoms should alert you to a potentially serious problem and you should make sure your ferret is seen by a veterinarian familiar with ferrets.

    These problems are all avoidable by spaying your female ferret before she becomes sexually mature or by 6 months of age. Spay and neuter surgeries for ferrets are routine for veterinarians familiar with these animals. A physical examination should be performed prior to surgery, along with necessary bloodwork. In general, ferrets do well with the anesthetics used commonly in practice. Following the spay/neuter surgery, your pet should have restricted activity for approximately one week.

    Ferrets make wonderful pets, but as with any pet brought into a home, you should research the recommended care through the lifetime of that animal. If you are considering opening your home to a ferret, then spaying/neutering that potential pet should be a part of that responsibility.

    Trends in Animal Health: Hysterectomy in Dogs

    The procedure referred to as a “hysterectomy” in dogs is a surgical procedure in which all or most of the uterus is removed. It is used as a method of birth control which works by preventing pregnancy. Hysterectomy results in a sterile dog whose ovaries continue to produce important hormones. This also means dogs will continue to have heat cycles and will be receptive to mating after a hysterectomy.

    The procedure may also be recommended to:

    • Prevent pregnancy while maintaining normal hormonal development
    • Reduce the risk of problems associated with birth such as difficult labor
    • Avoid pyometra, a condition in which the uterus becomes filled with pus

    Hysterectomy is one alternative to the traditional spay procedure; an alternative to a traditional castration is a vasectomy. This article will compare traditional spay procedures to hysterectomies in dogs.

    What is a Hysterectomy vs. a Traditional Spay in Dogs?

    The traditional “spay” procedure, also called an ovariohysterectomy or OHE, involves the removal of both ovaries and most of the uterus from the body. Removal of the ovaries removes the normal reproductive hormones responsible for heat cycles, breeding and reproduction. In contrast, hysterectomy results in the removal of only the uterus and leaves a dog's ovaries in place. Both procedures will prevent pregnancy in dogs.


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    Benefits and Risks of Hysterectomies in Dogs

    The most notable benefit of hysterectomies is a reduction in unwanted pregnancies. It also eliminates the risk of pyometra (an infection of the uterus) which is common in dogs. Historically, spaying was thought to minimize the risk of canine mammary tumors (breast cancer). However, recent studies have failed to confirm if spaying really protects dogs from mammary cancer.

    Research regarding the health risks associated with the removal of reproductive hormones in young growing dogs has led some to question the benefits of traditional spay and castration procedures and the rise of hysterectomies.

    Some studies suggest that there may be benefit to continued reproductive hormone production by dogs, and even potential risks related to the lack of such hormones. As a result some pet owners have begun looking for alternatives to these common procedures. For more information on the concerns about spaying and neutering, go here to learn more.

    Hysterectomy in dogs is becoming a more frequent consideration for owners who want to prevent their dogs from getting pregnant but are afraid of the negative aspects of traditional procedures. Tubal ligation is considered another alternative.


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    What to Expect When You Are Expecting Puppies

    Dogs began having puppies long before humans came into their lives. So there’s no vital need for intense, day-to-day management of your pregnant dog. It’s much more important for owners to understand what’s normal during their dog’s pregnancy and to intervene when there are signs of trouble.

    The Pregnant Dog

    The average canine pregnancy lasts approximately 64 to 66 days. During the first two-thirds of her pregnancy, you will likely notice little change in your dog’s appetite, appearance or activity level. During this time of the pregnancy, your dog will do best if fed her normal maintenance diet. Overfeeding early in pregnancy will usually result in fat deposits and does not help the growth of the developing puppies.

    During the last 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy, rapid weight gain and mammary gland development typically occurs. This is the point in pregnancy when the puppies begin to rapidly develop and the expectant mother will need additonal calories to help the pups during this growth phase. By the end of pregnancy, your bitch’s weight may increase by 15 to 25 percent. Slowly begin changing her diet from maintenance to pregnancy or puppy food during the last trimester.

    Another concern during the later stages of pregnancy is that the expectant mother’s stomach cannot hold much food. All the space is being taken up by growing babies. Feed your dog several small meals throughout the day to provide adequate nutrition.

    Making sure your pregnant dog eats normally is very important. Pregnancy toxemia can develop if the dog does not eat adequately. Some bitches will lose their appetite just before going into labor and some may show a decrease in appetite early in pregnancy. Temporary appetite loss can be normal and have no impact on the mother or developing babies. However, prolonged anorexia is a problem and your veterinarian should be alerted.

    Though you may think your dog needs supplemental vitamins and calcium to help her growing babies, this is not true if she is fed a balanced diet. Supplementation can actually be detrimental to the puppies if done inappropriately. Consult your veterinarian before adding any supplements.

    Canine Birthing

    Most dogs whelp (give birth) without any complications. Difficulties in whelping are most common in toy breeds and breeds with short snouts and large heads (such as English bulldogs). Dogs of these breeds may require Cesarean section surgery if pups cannot be delivered vaginally (through the normal birth canal).

    Approximately one day before whelping, the level of progesterone in the blood, which has been high throughout pregnancy, falls to a level not seen since the dog first went into heat. Within 14 hours of this progesterone drop, there will be a fall in the dog’s rectal temperature (normally around 100 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit; prior to whelping, the temperature may drop below 99 F). This temperature decrease is usually followed by labor within 12 to 24 hours.

    The Stages of Labor

    Labor consists of three different stages.

    Stage I begins with the first contractions of the uterus and ends when the cervix is completely open and ready for puppies to pass out through the birth canal. Owners cannot usually see the contractions, but your dog may exhibit panting, restlessness, vomiting, anorexia (loss of appetite) and nesting behavior. Stage I may last from 6 to 24 hours. It’s best to keep the environment quiet for your dog so as not to further excite her. Little else can be done for these completely natural events of whelping.

    Stages II and III alternate with one another: Stage II ends with the delivery of a pup, whereas Stage III ends with the expulsion of the placenta. It may take between 15 minutes and 4 hours between the deliveries of one pup and his placenta and the next. You shouldn’t be concerned unless pups have not passed for longer than 4 hours or if your dog has been actively straining to deliver a pup longer than 30 minutes with no success. Contact your veterinarian or your local emergency hospital immediately should this occur.

    They’ve Arrived!

    The new mother should vigorously clean each puppy as he or she is born. This helps to remove placental membranes, dry each puppy from maternal fluids and stimulate the puppy to breathe. This will also stimulate the mother’s nursing instincts. The mother will usually eat the pup’s placenta; this is natural. Approximately 40 percent of puppies are born breech (rear legs first). This isn’t a problem unless the mother is straining excessively with little change in the pup’s position. Any deviation from the normal whelping process should signal you to seek immediate veterinary advice.

    Newborn Puppy Care 101

    Assuming that the new mother has cleaned her pup of his placental membranes, the pup should be clean and dry within minutes of delivery. Always check for a normal breathing pattern and call your veterinarian immediately if there seems to be a problem. If the mother is not cleaning her pups, free them of their membranes immediately and call your veterinarian.

    Orphaned Dogs – Their Mental and Social Needs

    If women believe it’s hard to find a family-oriented man, consider this: For more than 95 percent of mammalian species, the male plays no role at all in raising the young, leaving the entire parenting business up to the mother. So when a young dog finds itself without its mom, it is effectively devoid of all parental attentions and is alone in the world.

    A puppy receives a lot of care, attention, and even education from its mother. If a pup becomes separated from its mom, it is clearly in its own best interests to find an alternative caregiving source at the earliest opportunity. But this is not always an option. The worst-case scenario occurs when a pup is left alone with no alternative nurturing resource and no siblings, i.e. is completely deprived of all company and attention. If an orphaned or abandoned pup loses its mom but still has the company of littermates, the predicament less austere. In this latter situation, circumstances may not be optimal, but being part of a group will provide the pup some solace. A problem shared is a problem halved.

    Some orphaned pups fall on their feet by being adopted by a caring human foster parent. In this situation, they don’t lack care and attention. In fact, just the opposite may occur. They may get everything they want without any direction or correction. No proper instructions or discipline from the well-meaning human caregiver can give rise to a set of problems embraced by the term, “yuppy puppy syndrome.”

    Finally, it is sometimes possible to raise a young pup with a foster family of the same species if timing, know-how and luck are all favorable.

    The Worst-Case Scenario

    In nightmarish deprivation experiments, it was shown that young monkeys become depressed, rocking back and forth and sucking their thumbs; isolated pups become markedly disturbed, fearful, depressed or hyperactive; and isolated kittens cried upon separation, became uninterested in their surroundings, became increasingly withdrawn, and were poor learners. The unavoidable conclusion is that moms and littermates are necessary for proper mental and social development.

    Littermates but No Mom

    This is another far from ideal situation but one that is several orders of magnitude better than being entirely alone. Mom normally provides nurturing support in times of stress. Nursing, for example, is more than simple a way of obtaining food; it is a comfort behavior, too. Being groomed by mom is more than a bath; it builds close bonds and facilitates more rapid and sophisticated brain development. Puppies deprived of opportunities to nurse in times of stress often displace their nursing drive onto littermates’ appendages or onto a human caregiver.

    Puppies that do not receive the benefits afforded by grooming will develop more slowly and not to their full potential. On the plus side, they will be able to enjoy the friendship and challenges provided by their littermates. Through play and other mutual interactions, even conflict, they often learn appropriate social skills with respect to other members of the same species. Whether people are recognized as friendly and cooperative depends on the degree and type of human-pet interactions that occur at this time. The sensitive period for learning about social interactions for pups is between 3 and 12 weeks of age.

    Human Foster Parents

    People who have the energy and thoughtfulness to foster orphaned pups deserve a medal. Because of their great compassion, they will probably not fall short in the attention-giving department. But knowing how to interact with puppies is not intuitive. Human-to-animal fostering skills must be learned and foster parents must be prepared to flex and bend in their own learning experiences. The puppy’s natural mom gives a lot, but has certain expectations, and sets limits. We must be prepared to do the same if we are to raise young pups to become good canine citizens.

    One tip that helps prevent pups from becoming overly cowed is to direct rather than correct unwanted behaviors. Harsh or physical punishment is never appropriate. On the other hand, it is always best to meal-feed youngsters and to try to train them to receive food and treats on cue. This practice keeps you in the driving seat and helps prevent the pup from becoming an overly pushy adult.

    Same Species Fostering

    This is not often possible but can be done if a receptive, (preferably) nursing mom is available. Under these circumstances, the pup may have the very best chance of a normal development, as long as you arrange for all-important socialization to people during the sensitive period.

    Pups mature quickly. Much of their critical learning will have occurred by 3 to 4 months of age. Even their own moms would be trying to encourage them to be independent by this stage because they know that their work is done and that independence is in the best interest of their young. We all have to grow up sometime, but for puppies, the witching age occurs frighteningly early.

    Many hand-raised orphan pups have not had much, if any, social experience with other dogs and many grow up to be socially inappropriate. They often don’t have much experience with the subtleties of canine etiquette and do not communicate properly with members of their own species. In fight situations, for instance, they may fail to read the deferential signs of a dog they have dominated, and will keep on coming, like the Terminator. On the other hand, when attacked, they may not know how to defer properly or how to acknowledge defeat. The result is that the attacker doesn’t back off because the victory is not appropriately recognized.

    Other common problems of orphaned dogs include:

  • Overattachment to human caregivers
  • Owner-directed bullying/dominance
  • Displaced nursing behavior – such as self-directed flank sucking

    These problems, and the more dramatic effects of total social isolation during the first few weeks of life, illustrate the importance of moms and littermates in the developmental experience. Our pets’ behavior may be genetically programmed to some extent, but proper mental and social development is highly dependent on the correct social influences that a family provides. To foster youngsters unfortunate enough to lose their mom, we would do well to turn to nature for lessons on how to go about this. To this end, mimicking mom and the experiences she provides you can’t go wrong. Nature always seems to know what’s best.

  • Normal Labor and Delivery in the Dog

    Giving birth can be a frightening, confusing and painful experience for both the dog and the owner. Knowing and understanding normal labor and delivery, as well as proper pregnancy care, can help make the process go more smoothly and help you know what is normal and when it is time to get the veterinarian involved.

    Gestation

    In the bitch, a female dog, gestation lasts 63 days. Knowing the exact time of conception, however, is difficult since a bitch can be receptive to the male before and after ovulation. For this reason, the time from breeding to delivery is usually somewhere between 58 to 70 days. Your veterinarian can help narrow this time frame by examining the cells of the vaginal wall.

    Be aware that just because your bitch bred does not mean she is pregnant. Some dogs will even show signs of pregnancy and not really be pregnant. There is a phenomenon in dogs known as false pregnancy or pseudocyesis. For confirmation of pregnancy, an examination, with ultrasound and possibly X-rays by your veterinarian, is suggested.

    Nutrition

    Once pregnancy is confirmed, proper care of the mother-to-be is very important. Before breeding, make sure she is up to date on all her vaccinations. It is not recommended to vaccinate your dog during pregnancy. Also, make sure she is dewormed and tests negative for a bacteria known as Brucella. This bacteria can cause abortion in dogs and is also contagious to people.

    After breeding and conception, most bitches do well during the first 4 to 5 weeks of pregnancy and do not need any special treatments. Things start to change during the last trimester (week 5 to 6). The babies start to rapidly develop and this results in a significant nutritional drain on the mother. At this time, you may want to consider gradually changing her diet to a growth type diet or a food specifically made for pregnant or lactating bitches. Continue this diet throughout the remainder of pregnancy and until the puppies are weaned. Vitamins or other supplements are not recommended nor needed. With a proper diet, your dog will receive the proper amount of nutrients. Excessive amounts can actually result in birth defects.

    Do not begin feeding your dog a higher calorie food before the last trimester. This can lead to weight gain and fat deposits. This has the potential to cause difficulty in maintaining the pregnancy and can result in problems delivering the puppies.

    Preparing for Delivery

    As the time of delivery approaches, you may want to make a whelping box to provide a safe and clean area for your dog to deliver. Whelping boxes are intended to be easily accessed by the mother but escape proof for the new arrivals. You can use wood, Formica or any building material that is easy to clean. Make the box large enough for the bitch to comfortably stretch out. Make sure the sides are just low enough for the mother to step over and place the box in a warm, dry, draft-free area. If possible, try to choose a quiet and secluded area. Initially, place newspapers on the bottom of the box for easy clean up. Once all the puppies are born, place blankets or towels to provide some footing for the puppies. Be aware that you must get the bitch used to the whelping box before the birth. If not, she may make her own decision on where to have the puppies – and this may be a closet, a pile of fresh clean laundry or even in the middle of your bed!

    An additional suggestion is to have your dog examined by a veterinarian toward the end of pregnancy. A thorough physical exam, along with ultrasound or X-rays can help determine how many puppies you can expect. This way, you will know when she is done delivering and not just in another resting phase between pups.

     

     

    Labor and Delivery

    As the time of delivery approaches, twice daily monitoring of the bitch’s body temperature will help alert you to the impending birth. About 24 hours before the beginning of labor, there will be a temporary drop in the body temperature. Normal temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Twenty-four hours prior to labor, the temperature can drop to 98 to 99 F.

    Labor Stage I

    After the temperature drop, stage I labor begins, characterized by restlessness and anxiety. You may notice panting, pacing, refusal of food and maybe vomiting. Nesting behavior begins. This is the time to place her in the whelping box (hopefully she is already accustomed to the box). After getting settled in the whelping box, you may notice her dragging clothing or fabric to the area to form a comfortable bed. You may want to remove any clothing as whelping begins or these pieces of clothing may be permanently stained.