How to Care for a Pregnant Golden Retriever (A Complete Guide)

When your golden retriever gets pregnant, it can be an exciting and stressful event for both you and the mother-to-be! Pregnancy in any species requires some special care, so how should you care for a pregnant Golden Retriever? 

To care for your pregnant golden retriever, you should make sure they are on a high-quality, regular dog food diet and that they are not exercising too much. You should also avoid giving them vaccines during their pregnancy and make sure to never to give them calcium. 

There are a few crucial things to remember when caring for a pregnant golden retriever. This article will describe in detail what kind of diet the mama golden needs, and how much exercise is safe for her and the babies. The article will also cover what to avoid during pregnancy and how to be prepared for when the special day comes. 

Golden retriever mother and puppy.

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Give Your Pregnant Retriever a Proper Diet

One of the most important things to monitor during pregnancy is your dog’s diet. An improper diet can cause discomfort for the dog, so there are a few things you should remember: 

  • Make sure they are on a high-quality diet. If your golden is already eating good quality food, don’t worry about changing their feeding schedule until the second month. But if you haven’t given much thought to their food before, and they are eating lower quality products, make sure to put the time and effort into buying a healthy and higher quality food for them. If you’ve always been hesitant about buying expensive food, now is the time. You could try something like CANIDAE PURE Real Salmon (Amazon) as it’s an excellent grain free kibble.
  • Feed them about 35-50% more than their usual diet as they get into their second month of pregnancy. Since they’re carrying a whole litter, they will need more food as the puppies start to grow since both mom and the pups will need additional nutrients. As the second month approaches, slowly start feeding her more food until she is eating 35-50% more food than normal. 
  • Feed her small meals instead of large, bulky meals. When you feed your pregnant dog large meals, this can cause discomfort since her abdomen is already full all the time.
  • Make sure they are drinking enough water. Something to constantly monitor is their water bowl. Make sure it’s clean and is constantly filled with fresh water. Staying hydrated is very important for your pregnant dog. 
  • Do not feed them puppy food. Some people tend to change their dog’s diet drastically, and this is not a good idea. While you may change the amount you feed them, stick to regular adult dog food. 
  • Do not feed them scraps or treats. While it’s good to keep feeding them their regular food, try not to feed them any scraps or treats from the dinner table. Just keep the food bowl out at all times. 

Take Them to the Vet When Needed

During the pregnancy, you’ll be taking your dog to the vet at least once before the birth. At this appointment, the vet will be able to check for any infections or diseases, or any physical abnormalities with the puppies. 

  • Your vet will be able to perform x-rays to find out how many puppies the mother is carrying.
  • If the mother has any signs of illness or experiences vaginal bleeding before the birth, make sure to bring her to the vet asap. 
  • Talk to your vet about getting your dog spayed after giving birth if the pregnancy was accidental. 
  • Ask your vet about what to do in case of emergencies. Sometimes complications can happen with the pregnancy or birth, and it’s always good to know what to do in case something unexpected happens. 

It’s easy to overlook symptoms of illness in a dog since they usually get better within a day, but it’s especially important to be vigilant during their pregnancy. Any sort of infection, injury, or disease can be life-threatening to the puppies and the mother. 

Know How to Contact Your Vet After Hours

Even though most births go smoothly, it will be important to know how to contact your vet after normal office hours. Just ask what your vet’s after-hours phone number is, and make sure they know your dog’s due date (they will most likely already know). Since dogs usually give birth at night, this information is important to get prior to the event.

If, for some reason, your dog does have complications, make sure to have a car available that will fit your golden retriever. To make the process even less stressful, have a towel already set down on the floor of the car.

Don’t Give Your Pregnant Retriever Any Vaccinations 

Other than a few heartworm treatments and Frontline Plus topical flea treatments, make sure not to give any treatments or vaccines to your pregnant dog unless you speak to your vet about it first.

  • Make sure to check with your vet before giving them any sort of medication. 
  • If your golden retriever is due for vaccinations while they are pregnant, make sure to wait until after they’ve given birth.
  • It’s generally safe to give your golden retriever vaccinations while they are nursing. 
  • If the mother is not up to date on her heartworm and flea treatments, talk to your vet. The mother can pass heartworms and fleas to her unborn puppies. Make sure to consult with your vet if she is due for treatment while she is pregnant. 
Pregnant golden retriever at the veterinarian.

Make Sure They Get Exercise, but Not Too Much

Especially during the first month of pregnancy, it’s okay for your golden retriever to exercise normally. This means that they can play or run according to how they feel, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Do not take them on long walks.
  • A good way to make sure they get exercise is to play fetch but not throw the ball too far.
  • If you like walks, you can take your pregnant golden retriever on about three to five short walks throughout the day. 
  • Have them rest easy for the last 2-3 weeks before they’re due. This is because those last two weeks are vital for the health of the puppies. If the mother gets bumped or hit too hard on the abdomen, one of the puppies could die. 

Even though you may be nervous about exercising your dog during the pregnancy, short interval exercises can actually help the mother handle labor and birth better. 

Know What to Expect During the Different Weeks of Pregnancy

There will be about nine weeks of pregnancy, and you can expect different things during different weeks. There will also be multiple ways you will be able to help your golden retriever stay comfortable. 

  1. During the first week, the only way to tell if your furry friend will be a mother is if they experience morning sickness. You won’t need to worry about changing their diet or exercise during the first week. 
  2. During week two, the embryos will still be very small, so no change is necessary for how you care for them yet. This is the stage where the fertilized eggs descend into the uterus and attach to the wall. 
  3. Week three is when the embryos will start receiving all of the nutrients they need to survive and grow. This is when you may detect a change in your dog’s appetite – she may be slightly more hungry than usual, but her normal feeding routine will still be adequate. 
  4. This is the week when you should start lowering the amount of daily exercise. On week four, you should consult with your vet to see if your mother-to-be needs any vitamins or extra nutrients. Furthermore, you will be able to do an ultrasound scan to see how big the litter is and if there are any health issues.
  5. During week five, the puppies will become much less vulnerable to health issues. Your golden retriever puppies will also be growing substantially, and you will have to feed them more. Make sure to feed the mother a lot throughout the day in small proportions. 
  6. Your golden retriever will become even more hungry during week six, but it is important to keep her portions small. Her stomach will be full already, so if she eats a lot, it could cause great discomfort. It’s okay to just leave her food bowl out all day if necessary. This way, she can eat whenever she wants, but make sure she doesn’t overeat at one time. 
  7. This is the week when the mother will become very tired. Week seven is when you should make the whelping box (a box with sides where your golden can give birth and the new puppies can’t get out). Try to encourage your dog to sleep in the whelping box for the remainder of her pregnancy. 
  8. During the eighth week, your expectant mother may become abnormally restless and start digging in the whelping area. You should also prevent any highly intense activity to avoid health complications or premature labor.  
  9. During the last week, your golden retriever will be very restless. She will also be spending most of her time in the whelping area. The only thing to do in this stage is to take her temperature multiple times a day (this will be explored in further detail later in the article) and wait for labor to start. 
A pregnant golden retriever at seven weeks, the signs and symptoms.

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Isolate the Mother During the Last 2-3 Weeks of the Pregnancy

Since the last 2-3 weeks of their pregnancy can be so critical to her health, it’s best to isolate your pregnant golden retriever from other dogs during this period. As previously mentioned, something as simple as a bump on the stomach can result in a stillborn pup. 

Even during the last few weeks, the puppies can still be developing on the uterine wall. When something bumps into the stomach, this can detach the pup from the wall and ultimately kill them. So if you have small children or other dogs that could easily hit the mother in the stomach, make sure to prevent that from happening by blocking them off with baby gates. 

Keep Them Comfortable

When your golden retriever is pregnant, they will likely be uncomfortable some of the time. This is why it’s your job as the owner to try to keep them as comfortable as possible. They’ll need more love and affection than normal while they are pregnant. 

  • Try to cuddle them and pet them more than usual while they are pregnant. 
  • Make sure they have a comfy bed to sleep in. 
  • Make sure to keep their bedding clean. 
  • Provide extra blankets and dog cushions for comfort around the house. 
  • Try to avoid situations that could stress them out. This could be taking them to a crowded dog park, having company over, or anything else that could make your dog nervous. 

Don’t Give Your Pregnant Golden Retriever Extra Calcium

Even though giving them extra vitamins may seem like a beneficial thing during the dog’s pregnancy, this can be very harmful, especially if you give them calcium. 

  • Calcium can cause a medical condition called eclampsia. Eclampsia is a life-threatening condition that can happen within minutes of introducing extra calcium to their system. If this happens, you will need to take your golden retriever to the vet to save her life.
  • Do not give the mother any extra vitamins. 
  • Stick to her regular high-quality diet routine. 

Have a Dog First Aid Kit on Hand

It’s always good to be prepared for an emergency, especially when your golden retriever is pregnant. The mother’s health is important during this time, so having a first aid kit will always be a good idea. Refer to the list below to create your own kit: 

  • Tweezers
  • Bandage scissors
  • Gauze squares
  • Eyewash
  • Thermometer
  • Latex gloves
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibacterial gel ointment 
  • Benadryl (Diphenhydramine tablets)
  • Nail trimmer
  • Towels (paper towels, washcloths, and blankets)
  • Hydrogen peroxide 

You should also make sure to include a manual for pet emergencies. Having all of the correct supplies will not help if you do not know what to do with them. The Pet Emergency Pocket Guide (Amazon) is an excellent option for this. 

Also, make sure to keep the kit separate from your human first aid kit. When you finish your first aid kit, make sure to keep it in an easily accessible place. You can also create a second first aid kit for traveling if you’d like.  

Keep Calm

As the owner of a pregnant dog, it is essential to keep calm. According to the dog whisperer, Caesar Millan, dogs can sense your mood. Your mood can affect how they feel and behave. 

With that being said, make sure to keep a relaxed demeanor around your pregnant golden retriever. Even if you are not sure what to do in the case of an emergency, stay calm and call the vet. Above all else, keeping calm will make the experience much more positive for you and your pregnant golden retriever.  

Prepare for When the Puppies Arrive

Not only should you prepare for caring for your pregnant golden retriever, but you should also prepare for when the puppies arrive. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Set up a whelping box – To keep both your golden retriever and her puppies safe and comfortable, set up a whelping box in a safe and easily accessible location. 
  • Get your dog accustomed to the whelping box Before your dog has the babies, make sure she is familiar with the whelping box. This way, she will be likely to use it for the birth instead of another location in the house. 
  • Know what your role will be during labor Another good way to prepare for the puppies is to know your role during the birthing process. Make sure to talk to your vet about this beforehand if you won’t have an experienced breeder with you. 
  • Assemble supplies ahead of time – An easy way to lower the stress of looking after puppies is to gather all the supplies you will need beforehand. 

Make Sure to Have Everything You Need for Whelping 

While many people know what a whelping box is, it’s hard to remember everything you will need when the time comes. Refer to the list below when purchasing supplies for the box: 

  • Clean towels – You can use towels to clean the puppies off after the birthing process
  • Paper towels – the area will be messy after birth, so use some paper towels to clean up the whelping box.
  • Newspapers – This will make the clean-up process much easier. 
  • Thermometer – You will need a thermometer to check your dog’s temperature before the birth. 
  • Non-skid bath mats – After the whelping, you can use bath mats to lay down. 
  • Clean scissors – You will need clean, small scissors to cut the umbilical cord with. 
  • A heating pad or a hot water bottle – These can be used to make sure the puppies stay warm, just make sure they are not too hot.

Whenever you purchase these supplies, make sure to keep them in a clean container. 

Know What to Look Out for During Labor

The best way to watch out for labor is to take the mother’s temperature every day, twice a day, during the last week of pregnancy. This can be done using a canine rectal thermometer (Amazon). When her temperature drops from 38.5℉ to 37℉, that’s when you will know she is going into labor soon (usually 12-24 hours after the temperature drop). 

If taking her temperature is causing her stress, though, make sure to stop. Keeping the mother stress free is more important. 

Furthermore, during the last week of pregnancy, your golden retriever might become antsy and restless. This is a reliable sign that she will be going into labor relatively soon. The restlessness could involve her moving her whelping area to various places around the house. If possible, try not to move her nest, since that could cause her more stress. 

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Caring For a Pregnant Golden Retriever

Know What to Expect During the Birthing Process 

When the time comes, knowing what is happening will be the first step to handling the situation calmly and effectively. There are three stages of labor that can last from 3-12 hours. 

Stage One

Stage one is when the cervix and uterus have small contractions. They are so small that you won’t be able to notice when this is happening. During this stage, the mother will also start to shiver, become restless, and pant. These symptoms are completely normal. 

Stage Two

Stage two involves the birth of the puppies. This can take up to 24 hours. As the mother gets ready to deliver, her rectal temperature will return to normal. The mother will experience much stronger contractions during this stage. 

There will be clear fluid that will discharge from the mother’s vulva, and after this, there should be a puppy in the next 20 minutes. If the mother rests for more than two hours between puppies, make sure to contact your vet. 

Don’t be alarmed if the puppies are born tail first. This is safe, but you might need to encourage the mother a bit when this happens. The mother should also bite the puppy’s umbilical cords and then clean them. 

Watch a pregnant Golden retriever mom give birth to her puppies!

If the labor lasts a long time, the mother may have to go to the bathroom in between puppies. If this happens, make sure to keep an eye on her during this time, just in case she starts delivering again. Lastly, if you see a greenish/brown discharge and a puppy isn’t born within the next 2-4 hours, make sure to call your vet. This may indicate a complication with the birth. 

Stage Three

After stage two, make sure to check how many placentas there are since there should be one for every puppy. A placenta passes after each birth. If there are more puppies than placentas, there may be one still inside her and you will need to contact your vet. 

Also, keep track of the placentas because the mother may eat one. That’s not a problem in and of itself but if she eats one without you noticing you might think one is still inside her.

The mother again will become unsettled and restless during this stage and may pant or shiver. Don’t worry if this happens; this is normal as well. 

Know How to Help During Delivery

There may be some slight complications during the birth, so make sure to know how to help the mother in any way you can. 

  • Sometimes, puppies can be delivered one after the other without a large break. If this happens, you may have to help out and wipe the puppy down with a clean towel. Try wiping against the grain of their fur. This will also encourage them to take their first breath. 
  • If the mother doesn’t clean the puppy, you will have to do so. Take your pointer finger (making sure that it is clean) and perform a scooping motion in their mouth to get rid of any excess fluids. You should also wipe their nose. This will prevent fluid from blocking their airways. 
  • If the mom is busy with another puppy, you might have to cut the umbilical cord of an older pup. This can be done fairly easily. Take some thread and tie a knot about one inch from the puppy’s body, and tie another one a few inches from the first knot. Cut the umbilical cord between the two knots. If you cut the cord too close or too far from the pup’s body, there could be some health issues.

Popular Questions About Pregnant Dogs

How Long Will My Golden Retriever Be Pregnant?

Dog’s pregnancies are much different from humans, especially regarding how long they’re pregnant for. Your dog will be pregnant for about 63 days, which will be approximately two months. The development of the puppies is so fast that you can detect a heartbeat by the end of the first month, and the embryos will develop into puppies by the second month. 

How Do I Tell if My Golden Retriever Is Pregnant? 

Normally, diagnostic tests are used to see if your dog is pregnant. By the 28th day, your vet can perform abdominal palpation to see whether your furry friend is carrying a litter. Another way to detect if your dog is pregnant is with ultrasound. This technique allows you to detect heartbeats and see how many pups your dog is carrying. 

Furthermore, a hormonal test can be done at the 30-day mark. The test can detect the hormone relaxin, which is the only hormone released during the dog’s pregnancy. Lastly, there are x-rays. This technique can only be done on days 45-55, though, since the pups don’t form a skeletal system until then. 

For more information about caring for your pregnant dog, check out the video below. It covers the most important issues regarding both the pregnancy and the birthing process in about six minutes:

A veterinarian discusses pregnancy in dogs.

Conclusion

There are a few things to remember when caring for a pregnant dog. First of all, make sure she is eating high-quality, regular adult dog food. By the sixth week of the dog’s pregnancy, make sure she is eating 35-50% more food than normal. 

If there are any health issues, make sure to take your dog to the vet right away. Furthermore, avoid giving her any vaccinations during her pregnancy unless recommended by your vet. 

As your pregnant golden retriever continues to grow, make sure they avoid high-intensity exercise. Many short walks throughout the day will be best. Don’t give your dog any supplemental vitamins, especially calcium, unless your vet says so. Lastly, make sure to be in contact with your vet throughout the pregnancy. 

Now you know how to care for your pregnant golden retrieve!

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Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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