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The Papillon Information Center       
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Papillon Pregnancy

There are many owners who worry about a possible unplanned pregnancy with their female due to a variety of reasons.  Perhaps you did not know that your Pappy was in heat and she was left with an unfixed male.  Or maybe your female escaped while in heat and you are concerned that she may have tied with a male. 

For others, you may be purposefully trying to breed - hopefully with all ethical standards in place - and want to know what the signs of a successful tie are.

Pregnancy is a bit risky for any toy breed dog and even a bit more so for the Pappy due to relatively narrow pelvic girth.  Pups are born with large head to body ratio and this can warrant a C-section.
With this said, litter size is generally small with 3 being the average.  It is not uncommon for a female to birth just one single pup. 

This section will cover the many details of Papillon pregnancy including:
  • How to know if a Papillon is pregnant
  • How long gestation lasts
  • How to care for your Pappy during this time
  • The signs that labor is about to begin
Signs of Pregnancy

All dogs, regardless of size or breed, have an average gestation period of 63 days.  The range that is considered to be normal is 60 to 65 days.   This is counted from the day of conception to the day that the litter is born.  Therefore, if she births before 60 days, the litter is considered premature.  If labor has not begun or has not concluded past 65 days, this is reason to have veterinary intervention and may call for a cesarean section.

Since a Pappy carries a litter for only 63 days (9 weeks), signs of pregnancy are often noticeable by Week 2.  As time goes on, symptoms will become more obvious.

Week One:

During this very early stage of the first trimester, there may be no signs of being pregnant.  With some, there is some light bleeding and/or a quieter mood.

Week Two:

This is when the general signs of pregnancy will begin to develop.  These symptoms will be very negligible at first and you may wonder if you really do see a difference. She will begin to show some or all of the following:

Enlarged nipples - Not only will her nipples enlarge, previously flush nipples may begin to emerge and pop up from the stomach.

Discharge - There may or may not be some light discharge.  If so, it will be clear to light pink.  Any heavy discharge is a red flag that there may be a complication.

Swollen stomach - Week 2 may still be a bit early for a Papillon to look pregnant, however it is usually by the end of the second week that an owner will look at the tummy and wonder if there is a change.

Decreased appetite - Possible light nausea combined with changing hormonal levels may cause a recently pregnant Papillon to have a slight decrease in appetite in the first couple of weeks.

Week Three:

By this time, the abdomen will have a slightly swollen, taut appearance however it will be enough that you do notice.  Nipples are now a tad bit larger and her appetite may start to come back.

She may retreat more than usual; though some expecting females become clingier and seek out affection.

Week Four:

By this time, there should be no question as to whether or not a Papillon is carrying a litter.  Her stomach will be undeniably larger.  Her nipple will be notably enlarged.   With most, desire for food has come back and for many there will be an increase in food cravings. 

Any reluctance to eat has been replaced with a hearty appetite and a pregnant Papillon may begin to show nesting behavior.

An experienced veterinarian can often feel the fetus(s) by examining the pelvic area by touch. A blood test can confirm the presence of relaxin, a hormone that is produced by the implantation of a fertilized egg.   This test, however, can produce a false negative with litters of 3 and less which is often the case with the Papillon breed.

At the end of this week - 28 days in- heartbeats can be picked up via ultrasound or via stethoscope; this is the most effective method of confirming pregnancy.

Week Five:

The same signs will be there:  a distended stomach, mammary development which includes larger nipples and wanting to eat more than normal.  It is during this week that an expectant dam may have a clear mucoid vaginal discharge that continues until birthing.
Weeks 6, 7 and 8:

Pregnancy is now confirmed and plans are being made for the birthing process.   It is only during Week 6 (about 45 days in) that the number of fetuses can be confirmed. This is done via x-ray and the reason it must be done so late is that the pups will not show up until the bones have calcified.  This is an important step so that you will know how many puppies to expect and you will know if a pup has not been pushed out.

Nesting behavior can be quite strong during this phase.  She will actively seek out a sheltered, warm and cozy area to rest.  She should have a doggie bed, blankets, soft toys, etc...  Anything that makes her feel safe and secure.  This area should be in a quiet corner of a room where she can still see the family but not so far away that she feels alone and isolated.  It is not uncommon for a pregnant dog to gather up belongings to keep in her special spot.

She may begin to act a bit sluggish and may be slow to react when called, preferring to be left alone to rest.   There are some females that will show a marked increase in craving affection, wanting to remain right by their human's side and shadowing the owner. 

Toward the end of the seventh week and into the eighth, you may be able to see the pups moving in her belly.

She will begin lactating and it will be normal to see that her chest is damp with leaked colostrum.

Week 9:

With 63 days being the average gestation time, this brings us to Week 9 when the litter will be born.  If a C-section was planned it will be scheduled before her due date.

How to Care for a Pregnant Papillon

The almost immediate reaction from owners who have not had an expectant dam before is to coddle her and to try and give her supplements however this is the human reaction and is not what is best for canines. Let's look at what you can do to provide proper care during this time:

No extra calcium -
There is often confusion regarding how much calcium to give a pregnant Papillon.  This mineral is important for bone and tooth development in the fetuses. However, giving her too much can suppress her natural calcium releasing hormones.  It can also cause uterine inertia, which increases the likelihood of needing a cesarean section. Finally, calcium supplementation can contribute to the occurrence of seizures connected with low blood calcium levels during lactation.

For these reason, a Papillon that is pregnant should not be given extra calcium supplements. When fed a high quality food, she will have all the necessary vitamins and minerals in her daily meals.

Appropriate food and quantity - Many owners want to know what to feed a pregnant Papillon.  Since this breed is prone to having a sensitive stomach, it is often best to remain with the same high quality brand that you have been offering, however switching to the puppy formula for increased fat and calorie content.   For most, this switch happens once pregnancy is suspected (14 to 21 days in) or confirmed (21 to 28 days along). She should remain on this until the puppies are done weaning, which is usually complete when the pups are 6 weeks old.

An expecting dog may consume up to twice as much as normal and food should not be restricted. With a vigorous enthusiasm to eat, you'll want to give her full meals as well as healthy snacks.  Cottage cheese and eggs can be good, wholesome sources of protein.   As with any ingredient, don't overdo it; an egg - cut into small pieces - every other day should suffice.

Exercise - Hopefully an owner has already been taking the Pappy for daily walks and making sure that she has been staying active to maintain good health.  During the first few weeks of pregnancy, mood changes and/or nausea may cause a dog to be reluctant to exercise as normal and later in the pregnancy a larger stomach and distended nipples may make it more difficult for her to maneuver around. 

However, it is a good idea to still provide her with daily walks, even if this means splitting up one longer walk into two smaller ones.   Taking your pregnant Pappy for walks will help her preserve muscle tone and stay healthy, just be sure to not allow her to overdo things.   Follow regular guidelines such as walking in the early morning or evening on summer days to avoid the hottest parts of the day and properly clothe her on cold days.

Do not allow jumping - Jumping down from furniture or any other heights that can put pressure on the knees or back or cause a jostling should not be allowed.

Keep veterinary appointments - Complications can arise at any time during a Papillon's pregnancy and while it is best to think positive (your dog can pick up on your nervous emotions), an experienced, reputable vet should oversee her during this time as well as after the birth.  He will be able to check on her progress, make sure that she is gaining weight as needed and monitor the fetuses for strong heartbeats and positioning.

No new medications -
Unless specifically directed by the vet, refrain from giving any new medication. This includes OTC medications or any herbal or at-home remedy treatments.

Keep up on grooming - Some owners have a tendency to not want to 'bother' a nesting female; however it is important to maintain with normal grooming for hygiene reasons.  You'll want to brush her teeth, groom the coat, keep her facial hairs clean, etc.

Keep the environment the same -
When a Papillon is pregnant, she needs to feel safe and secure and does not do well with changes to the house. This includes moving around furniture or making changes in where she rests, sleeps, etc.  She may not react well to the introduction of a new family member and this is certainly not the time to introduce a new pet.  She will often prefer to stay at home and not be taken to visit any other house.

Clean the bedding - Since there can be light discharge at the beginning and then again toward the end of pregnancy, you will want to keep your Papillon's bedding clean and sanitary and regularly wash any areas that she normally lies down on or rests on. 

This will not be the same as when she is in heat; it is usually a clear fluid however areas need to be kept clean as this will accumulate on fabrics and other surfaces.

The covering of the mattress should be washed with hypo-allergenic detergent in warm or hot water and dried well (though read the instructions on the material's label) on a regular basis.

Removal of the male - If the sire is in the household, he can stay with the pregnant Papillon during her pregnancy but he should be securely removed by week 8 (in the case of early labor and delivery).  Check gates and other methods of keeping them separate to ensure that he is properly isolated and not able to reach her and the soon-to-be newborns. He can generally be safely introduced back in once the pups reach the age of 4 weeks old.

Keep an eye out for red flags - There are several complication and warning signs that there may be a problem with a pregnant Papillon.  You will want to bring her to the veterinarian if you notice the following:

* Not eating -While she may eat less food during the first couple of weeks, if the pregnant dam does not eat for more than 24 hours, she needs to be checked.

* Listlessness - If she appears unwell at all, showing any signs of illness or discomfort, this is reason to bring her in right away.

Signs that a Papillon is Entering Labor

Those 9 weeks went by very quickly and now it is time to watch your girl for signs that she is ready to give birth.

Temperature drop- 
  A drop in body temperature  is #1 method of knowing that a dog is about to enter the stage of actual labor.  A week before she is due, take her temperature twice per day.  This should be done with a canine rectal thermometer that is lubricated with petroleum jelly and inserted 3/4 of an inch.

Her normal reading should be between 101 and 102.5 Fahrenheit (38.3 and 39.2 C). When it drops below 100 F (37.7 C), a pregnant Papillon will enter labor within 24 hours.  At this point on, she should not be left alone and all needed whelping items should be set up.

Swollen vulva - The vulva will swell and become moist with discharge.

Restlessness - As contractions begin, a dog will become restless and find it impossible to get comfortable.

Refusal to eat -
As a dog enters labor, often she will refuse food.

Vomiting - It is not uncommon for there to be an acute vomiting episode.  Chronic vomiting is a red flag that something is wrong.

Signs of discomfort - As pain increases, there may be panting, whining, panting and shivering or shaking.

A Final Word

Toy breeds with small frames must have excellent care during pregnancy and should be under the care of an experienced veterinarian. 

If you wish to avoid accidental litters, do be sure to have your dog spayed, since enduring pregnancy, labor and delivery can be very taxing on a Papillon.

If you feel that something is 'off' and you have any concerns about her during this time, do not hesitate to contact your dog's veterinarian. 

It is better to be safe than sorry and catching any problems early gives you the best chance of helping to keep both your Papillon and the impeding litter healthy and happy.