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Beyond the Basics: Tackling Morning Sickness in Canine Moms

June 12, 2024
Guest blog by Dr Emmanuel Fontaine, Scientific Communications Veterinarian at Royal Canin North America
 

In a recent webinar, I encountered an unexpected wave of inquiries about "morning sickness" in pregnant dogs. Surprisingly, this topic was absent from my education in canine reproduction and scarcely mentioned in veterinary studies. However, it wasn't completely unfamiliar; a few clients had briefly discussed it, though I hadn't deeply considered it until now. The webinar's interest spurred me to consult human medical texts, where morning sickness is extensively covered, wondering if any similarities or insights applied. This exploration led me to write this blog, aiming to share vital knowledge with dog breeders and provide insights into possible solutions. Whether you're an experienced breeder or just a curious pet owner, this article seeks to illuminate and assist in navigating this lesser-explored facet of canine pregnancy.
 

Exploring Morning Sickness During Dog Pregnancy

The typical canine pregnancy lasts about 63 days. If we compare this to human pregnancies, we might expect dogs to experience morning sickness early on, with symptoms peaking mid-pregnancy before easing.
 
In practice, I've observed that some dogs start to show signs of nausea and vomiting around three weeks into their pregnancy, though these symptoms usually subside quickly.
 
Given the severe complications that can arise in humans, like hyperemesis gravidarum, it's important to closely observe any similar symptoms in dogs.
 
One effective way to monitor health during pregnancy is to keep track of the dog's weight gain.
 
For the first 42 days, there's minimal weight increase.
 
However, after this phase, the weight gain becomes more pronounced, and by the end of pregnancy, a dog's weight will typically reach about 115-125% of their optimal body weight.
 
This simple mathematical measure can help ensure that morning sickness or any other issues don't negatively affect the pregnancy's natural course.
 
Monitoring weight gain is essential, as it not only indicates the mother's health but also significantly influences the newborn puppies' survival chances.
 
Low birth weight in puppies is linked to a higher mortality rate in their early days, underscoring the importance of the mother's diet and health during pregnancy for their offspring's well-being.
 

How Can We Manage Morning Sickness in Pregnant Dogs?

Given the limited direct evidence regarding dogs, we can look to human healthcare practices for guidance on managing morning sickness in pregnant canines, to minimize discomfort and promote their health.
 

Is Genetics a Factor?


In humans, genetics are known to influence the likelihood and intensity of morning sickness, suggesting a similar possibility in dogs.
 
If certain lineages within a breeding program are more prone to these symptoms, especially in their severe forms, this information becomes critical for the kennel's breeding decisions.
 
By recognizing and addressing these genetic predispositions, breeders can make knowledgeable choices aimed at improving their dogs' health.
 
Applying these insights into breeding practices not only aims to lessen the occurrence of such conditions in future litters but also enhances the general health standards of the breed.
 

Modifying Dietary Practices


A straightforward but highly beneficial method to combat morning sickness involves altering the feeding schedule of the dog.
 
Offering smaller, more frequent meals can avert the stomach from emptying, a common trigger for morning sickness. This tactic also aids in keeping blood sugar levels even, which can lessen feelings of nausea.
 
It's crucial to ensure that the pregnant dog eats consistently, as pregnancy toxemia—a condition seen in dogs—can arise from insufficient food intake during gestation.
 
Close observation of her dietary consumption is key to foreseeing and averting possible health issues.
 

Selecting Appropriate Nutrition


The importance of choosing an appropriate diet for a pregnant dog, especially one that might be dealing with morning sickness, cannot be overstated. It's crucial to opt for foods that offer a well-rounded nutritional profile to avoid any nutritional shortfalls.
 
Foods that are gentle on the digestive system and highly digestible are particularly important to prevent any additional stomach upset.
 
Adding antioxidants to the diet can also be very helpful, as they assist in reducing oxidative stress that may accompany morning sickness. Opting for foods enriched with antioxidants is, therefore, a smart choice.
 
I often suggest adding moist food to their diet and employing a mixed feeding strategy, as this tends to make the food more appealing and encourages eating during these challenging times.
 
Feeding a pregnant dog involves a strategic approach, recognizing the significant weight gain puppies experience in the final stretch of gestation, where they acquire about 70% of their birth weight in the last 20 days.
 
Initially, up to day 42, a maintenance diet or one tailored for early gestation suffices.
 
However, transitioning to an energy-rich diet, such as one designed for puppies, becomes essential for the concluding 20 days.
 
This strategy underscores the importance of choosing diets that are easily digestible, nutritionally complete and balanced, rich in antioxidants, and appealing in taste throughout the entire pregnancy.
 
These factors are vital to support both the mother and her unborn puppies' health and development effectively during gestation.
 

Considering Medication?


In human healthcare, morning sickness typically doesn't warrant medical treatment, but severe cases might lead to the prescription of anti-emetic drugs to ease symptoms.
 
Whether to use medication largely depends on symptom severity.
 
It's worth noting that, in humans, extreme cases like hyperemesis gravidarum could require hospitalization for dehydration and to administer intravenous fluids.
 
This treatment model in humans sheds light on potential approaches for managing similar issues in dogs.
 
Once again, monitoring a pregnant dog's weight is vital, especially during the initial 42 days of gestation, as weight loss during this phase could signal the need for medical intervention to protect the health of the mother and her unborn puppies.
 
I'm grateful for the time spent researching morning sickness in human scientific literature, as it revealed many clinical similarities with canines. This exploration of human studies highlights possible methods for managing similar conditions in dogs, and I look forward to future research bringing more clarity to veterinary practices. In the interim, it's comforting to learn that there are effective, and at times simple, ways to significantly reduce symptoms in pregnant dogs.
 

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The opinions expressed by authors on the Canadian Kennel Club Blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Canadian Kennel Club or any of its employees.

Les opinions et les commentaires exprimés dans le blogue du Club Canin Canadien sont ceux des auteurs et ils ne reflètent pas les opinions du Club Canin Canadien ni de ses employés.


Author InformationInformation sur l’auteur

Emmanuel Fontaine

Emmanuel Fontaine


Emmanuel Fontaine graduated from the Toulouse Veterinary School in 2004, he continued his studies at the Alfort Veterinary School (Paris) as trainee Vet in the domestic carnivore unit of the Reproduction Department. From 2005 to 2011, he worked at the Centre d’Etude en Reproduction des Carnivores (CERCA) [Research Centre for Reproduction in Carnivores], a unit specializing in pet breeding assistance. Emmanuel Fontaine is also qualified at the European College for Animal Reproduction (ECAR) and completed his PhD in 2012 on the use of GnRH agonists in canines. From September 2011 to September 2018, he worked as Technical Services Veterinarian for the PRO team at Royal Canada. He then was in charge of Scientific Communication for the Americas until August 2022. He now works as Senior Scientific Communications Veterinarian for Royal Canin North America.

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