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Poodle Pregnancy


One of the most common questions is "How do I know if my Poodle is pregnant?" All Poodles, whether toy, miniature or standard will be pregnant for approximately only 63 days.

An ultra sound is inconclusive until around 30 days and a x-ray will not show anything till around 45 days when the calcium in the puppies bones solidifies. This leaves very little time to get prepared. So let's discuss some important Poodle pregnancy facts. 
Poodle 51 days pregnant
This is Curly, who is 19 months old and 51 days pregnant. Photo courtesy of Jhe Malaap

Signs of Pregnancy

Not sure is your Poodle is pregnant? Let's first clear up some myths and look at some Poodle pregnancy facts. A female Poodle may become pregnant:
  • Any time after her 1st heat, no matter how young she is
  • At any age, no matter how old she is, as long as she is still entering heat... and many female dogs will have heat cycles for their entire lives if not spayed
  • Even if there has not been a full 'tie'
Since an ultrasound or x-ray will not be conclusive until much further into the pregnancy, you will know by observing the following signs:
  • She may act moderately lethargic, wanting to rest more often
  • Her stomach will enlarge rather quickly. Starting at about week 2 it will become firm. By week 4 it will be noticeably swollen. 
  • Her mammary glands will become enlarged
  • Some inverted nipples that you may not have even noticed will "pop out"
  • She will clean herself more thoroughly than usual
  • Nesting behavior may begin. Some dogs will gather toys and other articles from around the house, showing maternal instincts toward them. She may also drag pillows, blankets and other soft materials to a quiet corner of a room to build a 'nest'. 
  • Her appetite should increase
  • There may be minor to moderate clear discharge. This usually begins by week 4 or 5.

Litter Size

  • The average size litter for a Toy Poodle is: 3 pups
  • The average size litter for a Miniature Poodle is: 5 pups
  • The average size litter for a Standard Poodle is: 6 pups
Do keep in mind that these are averages. It is common for a Toy Poodle to have just 1 puppy and while it is rare, she may have up to 5. 

The largest Poodle litter ever recorded is...16 puppies. This was with a Standard Poodle from British Columbia , Canada named Charlie owned by Deborah Bridgman who is a professional dog breeder. Charlie (named for Charlie's Angels) was in labor for 23 hours, giving birth to 10 female puppies and 6 males. 

And believe it or not, this was an unplanned breeding. The sire, Magnum (another standard Poodle) broke through 2 wooden fences to get to Charlie when she was in heat.

Caring for a Pregnant Poodle

Once you suspect that your Poodle may be pregnant, you will want to have this confirmed. There are several ways that the veterinarian can do this, at different stages:
  • A blood test can test for pregnancy and will be most reliable by day 30.
  • An ultrasound can pick up fetal heartbeats by day day 28.
  • An x-ray should be performed to determine exactly how many fetus are growing (so that you will know how many to expect). This is not done until late in the pregnancy, usually after day 45, since bones are not sufficiently calcified until this time.
Moderate daily exercise should continue throughout the pregnancy while excluding any more intense activity. Walking will allow the dam to maintain muscle mass and keep her body in top shape in preparation for labor. Her appetite will increase by week 2 or 3 and by week 5 nutritional needs nearly double. While food should not be denied, the focus should be on offering a well-balanced, healthy diet. Adding an egg once per day as well as a scoop or two of cottage cheese is a good way to offer a bit more protein. 

Pregnant dogs should not be given any extra calcium via supplements as this can predispose a dam to the dangerous health condition of eclampsia (a life-threatening drop in blood calcium levels that can happen when the dam is nursing). The home environment should be as stress free as possible and the pregnant Poodle should be allowed to retreat and rest as she pleases.

You may wonder how much weight a pregnant Poodle gains.  It is considered healthy to have gained 25 to 30% of the dog's ideal weight by the time she gives birth. For example, a toy Poodle that was 8 lbs. (3.62 kg) will gain 2 to 2.4 lbs. (.9 to 1.08 kg).  A standard Poodle that was 55 lbs (24.94 kg) and considered to be at a healthy weight should gain 13.75 to 16.5 lbs. (6.23 to 7.48 kg).

Preparing for the Birth of a Poodle Litter 

There is a greater chance of the need for C-sections with Toy and Miniature Poodles than with Standard Poodles. However on average, 98% of deliveries go well, without the need for a C-section or complications. While the majority of delivers are without complications, you will want to be prepared for any situation. You will need: 

1. A thermometer 
2. Sheets, towels or clean newspapers
3. Floss or thread 
4. A suction bulb - the type that is used to suction out mucus from human babies’ noses
5. A whelping box - This can be a cardboard box, lined child's wading pool (for standards) or even a canine bed (Perla beds work quite nicely)
6. Heating pad 
7. Having an assistant be there with you is always a good idea.

How to Know it is Time

All dog breeds carry the puppies on average for 63 days; however a Poodle pregnancy can last anywhere from 59 to 65 days and still be considered normal. You will know that labor is to begin in approximately 24 hours when your dog's internal body temperature drops. For this reason, at least one week before the due date, start taking your Poodle's temperature twice per day. 

This is done using a canine thermometer, lubricating it with a bit of petroleum jelly and inserting it rectally roughly 1/2 inch for Toys and Miniatures and 3/4 inch for Standards. While some digital thermometers will beep, if you are using a standard type, leave it in for 3 minutes. Your dog’s normal temperature will be between 101 F (38.33 C) and 102.5 ( 39.17 C). 

When your Poodle’s temperature drops below 100 F (37.78 C), she should deliver the pups in less than 24 hours. At this time, you should be prepared to remain with your Poodle, set her up in the whelping area and separate any males dogs in the house so that they cannot reach her. If your Poodle does not go into labor within 24 hours after her body temperature drops to below 100 F, you will want to alert the veterinarian. 

Stages of Labor

There are 3 main stages of canine labor.

Stage 1 During the first stage of labor the cervix will dilate and contractions will begin. This element of Poodle labor can be painful and a dog may express this by:
  • Acting restless
  • Shivering
  • Pacing
  • Vomiting (should be acute)
  • Crying and/or whining
It is very important that you do not feed her during this stage. If there is a need for an emergency C-section, her stomach will need to be void of any food. If she appears very thirsty, and she may due to extreme panting, you can offer cool water. It is not uncommon for a Poodle to vomit when labors begins; however this should be acute. A Poodle will be in labor for as few as 4 hours to as many as 18 hours.

Stage 2 This is the stage in which the puppies will be born. In some cases, a gush of fluid may be expelled before the first pup is birthed. Each puppy is born encased in his/her own amniotic sac. In some cases, it will ruptures as the puppy passes through the birth canal. In other cases, it will be intact and as soon as the newborn pup emerges, the dam will tear it open. 

If she does not do this, it must be done by the owner. She will then chew off the umbilical cord and lick the pup to clear breathing passages and to stimulate breathing. If the dam does not do this, the suction bulb must be used to clear fluid from both the nasal passages and the mouth of the newborn. Breathing is stimulated by gently rubbing a finger over the chest and back. 

Puppies are born one at a time and the time between each being pushed out may be as few as 5 minutes or as long as 60 minutes after forceful straining. A puppy is not always necessarily born head first. Some are born feet first and in some instances, sideways. It is best to not interfere and allow this natural process to play out. However, If a pup appears to be stuck halfway out, you can assist by gently pulling in a downward and rearward arcing motion. 

It is normal for the dam to ingest all tissue that are expelled. This includes the placenta, sacs and umbilical cord. 

Stage 3 Once all the puppies have been born the dog enters this 3rd stage of labor during which time the uterus contracts fully, expelling any remaining placenta, blood and fluid. 

Once you are sure that all puppies have been pushed out, you can then begin cleaning the area. Once everything is clean, allow her and her pups to cuddle and snuggle on a new and clean sheets or blankets. A heating pad should be placed under the sheets or blanket; do not allow pups to lie directly on the heating pad. A close eye must be kept on everyone. Often a tiny newborn will have trouble crawling over to the dam and will need some assistance getting close enough to suckle.

Problems During Pregnancy

Signs of complications in which the veterinarian should be contacted asap include:
  • Your Poodle has been pregnant for more than 65 days
  • Labor is unproductive after 24 hours
  • The dam is experiencing strong contractions for more than 30 minutes without producing a puppy
  • More than 60 minutes has passed and the next puppy has not been pushed out.
  • There is a foul smelling fluid discharge
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Extreme lethargy (most dam spring back amazingly well after giving birth)
  • Straining when having bowel movements or diarrhea

Post-Pregnancy Elements

Within 48 hours of giving birth, both the dam and newborns should be examined by the veterinarian.
The following is considered to be normal:
  • Due to a wild fluctuation of hormone levels, it is not uncommon for the dam's coat to thin out after pregnancy. This is a temporary event and as her hormones level out, the coat will grow back.
  • While the dam is still nursing, she will continue to have an increased appetite
  • Stools may be softer than normal for the first few days
  • There may be minor clear to pink discharge for several days. Moderate to severe bleeding is not normal.
  • Pregnancy does not interfere with the onset of the next heat cycle; if not spayed she should come into season again in 5 to 7 months.
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