Your German Shepherd dog’s pregnancy will last approximately sixty days after ovulation. In the article, Breeding Your German Shepherd Dog, I stressed how you should feed her a well-balanced diet when she is in the season. This holds true during the pregnancy also. Everything you give your female German Shepherd is aiding in the fetal development within her. Make sure the food source has extra calcium, phosphorus and iron, and all of the other vitamins and minerals in a dog’s normal diet. It also should be rich in protein and have at least 20% fat, but not more than 30%. This should be taken even more serious in the last thirty days of the dog’s pregnancy. Be careful to not overindulge the pregnant German Shepherd. If you do, she will become fat.
Make sure her surroundings are clean and worm and flea free. She should be allowed to roam and get exercise at will to keep her from becoming fat and soft. Being physically fit is very important to your female. This will help her not only in stamina and keep her muscular tone, but in elasticity as well during the birthing process. Just like humans, some pregnant German Shepherd is lazier than others. If you Shepherd is on the lazy side and you see signs of her getting fat, introduce her to exercise a little bit at a time to get her muscle tone back. Do not jump into a plan that is too difficult, it will make her abort her litter.
A trick my father taught me, to help aid in the pregnancy. Feed your female fresh liver two or three times a week a month before she is due. This will help her in the production of milk for the litter and keep her from getting constipated. Her appetite will steadily increase at this time and her own awareness of the pregnancy will become more and more evident.
About a week prior to her due date, a box should be prepared in a dimly lit area. Make sure this is an area that is free from human and dog traffic. This needs to be as private as possible. The box should be at least four feet square, enclosed on all sides by eight to ten-inch boards. These can be either plywood or plank type. Three weeks after the litter is born, the same sized boards need to be applied to the box above the original box to keep the puppies from climbing out. Also put a three-inch guard rail about four inches up from the bottom of the box. This will prevent your female German Shepherd from accidentally squeezing a puppy to death when they crawl behind her. On the floor of the box lay an old blanket, layers of newspaper or something that can be easily removed and replaced when its time to clean the box. If you have the ability to get some straw, your female shepherd will actually make a nest. Be sure to leave enough that the puppies will have some of the straw under them also.
Just prior to the time of birth, the female German Shepherd will become restless. She will probably refuse food and begin to make her nest. Her temperature will drop about one day prior to birth. Her stomach will drop and forces the pressure necessary to push the puppies towards the pelvis. Don’t be surprised that sometimes the sac surrounding the puppy will burst. Most will be born within the sac or membrane material called a fetal envelope. There will be a cord running from the puppy’s navel to the placenta. The female will generally eat the placenta and rip off the cord herself over time.
Some breeders remove the sac, cut the umbilical cord and help remove the placenta if it still hasn’t been released. It is generally a good idea to keep a small box nearby and place each placenta in it to keep count of the placenta and puppies ratio. In complicated births, a placenta might not have ejected and this would be a good indication of a problem if there are not an equal number of placentas to puppies. Cut the navel cord about three inches away from the puppy’s belly. In about three day’s time, the extra three inches left will dry up and drop off. One detail you need to keep in mind, you do not need to sterilize your hands. The puppies are born surrounded by bacteria of all kinds naturally.
The German Shepherd puppies normally come out either head first or tail first. If one is particularly hard on your female, wrap a towel around your hands and gently help pull the pup out. Do not pull to hard, you might injure the pup. As the puppies are born, gently dry them with a towel and put them on their mother’s breast to feed. Squeeze some of the milk to the end of the nipple and then open their mouths to taste it. You might have to hold them by their head until they catch on to what they are supposed to be doing.
Some puppies are born in phases. There may be seemingly large laps of time in-between. Do not worry, this is normal. After a few hours rest of enjoying the new sensation of motherhood, take her away from her litter to relieve herself. She may not want too, so you need to be patient. Treat her to some warm milk. From then on feed her as you have during the pregnancy with the addition of two to three milk feedings a day. She needs this calcium to help her with her own structure as well as her pups.
There are illnesses the female German Shepherd may get during her pregnancy and birth. Eclampsia or milk fever is the most common. This can be prevented by providing her will meat for phosphorous and milk calcium about a thirty days prior to her due date. If she was given the diet I talked about previously in this article, she should not experience any complications due to pregnancy and birth. Some symptoms of milk fever are excessive shaking, muscular stiffness, accompanied by wild expressions, and high temperature.
Udder infection is the number one cause of puppy deaths. It causes part of the milk supply to be cut off and the puppies either die of starvation or infected milk. There really isn’t much you can do yourself to help in this condition. You should call the veterinarian and they can take measures to help save as much of the litter as possible.