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Keep Your Cat or Dog Healthy and Safe During Pregnancy and Birth

Keep Your Cat or Dog Healthy and Safe During Pregnancy and Birth

What do I need to know about queening and whelping?

Although cats and dogs are different in many ways, their needs during pregnancy and the birthing process are very similar. Here are some of the things that you will need to know to ensure the pregnancy and birth goes as smoothly as possible.


Download our Queening and Whelping handout to help keep your dog or cat during pregnancy and birth. 

Queening and Whelping Handout Summary

Nutrition for pregnant dogs and cats

Nutrition for pregnant dogs and cats It is very important to consult your veterinarian about the nutritional needs of your pet during pregnancy and after giving birth. Pregnant pets require additional nutrients to prevent depletion of the body’s resources as the fetus develops. Proper nutrition during this time can significantly affect the survivability of the newborns as well as the overall health of the mother.    

Pregnancy Duration (Gestation) for Dogs and Cats

Once a cat or dog, she will remain pregnant for approximately two months. Just like in people, the exact number of days is variable, but there are signs you can watch for to let you know that the new family members are on their way.  

What are the signs of impending birth?

You may notice your pet choosing what she feels is just the right spot to give birth. This will usually be in a quiet place, away from noise and activity. Dogs, especially, may drag toys, pillows or blankets to their nests. Cats may seek privacy in places like closets or laundry baskets. Within 24 hours preceding delivery (called whelping in dogs and queening in cats) your pet will likely lose her appetite and stop eating altogether as labor approaches. However, despite a loss of appetite, the pet alert and responsive. It is not normal for a pet to be depressed or become unresponsive so you should contact your Banfield veterinarian immediately if you see these signs.

What are the first signs of labor?

If your pet is in labor, you will notice common physical signs as listed below: 

  • Restlessness
  • Possible panting and pacing
  • Decrease in body temperature (as indicated by a thermometer)  

As labor progresses to major contractions, your pet will lay on her side and you will be able to see her abdominal muscles contracting.This normally indicates that the first puppy or kitten is on its way soon. 

Note: Purposeful labor should last no longer than 30 minutes for dogs and 60 minutes for cats.the labor process exceeds these times without birth, contact your veterinarian immediately

What should I do during the birthing process?

Kittens and puppies can be born head or tail first. Once you can see the new puppy or kitten, it should be expelled from the birth canal quickly by the female. In most cases, the mother won’t need your help, but do monitor the birth if you can do so without causing stress to the mother. The female should remove the birth sac and stimulate the puppy or kitten to breathe by licking it. If for some reason she doesn’t do this within a few minutes of birth, you may need to assist by removing the sac from the baby’s face and gently rubbing the baby with a soft, dry cloth to stimulate breathing. When the baby cries and starts moving around, return it to the mother immediately. Many dogs and cats will eat the placenta or birth sac. This is okay and is a normal, instinctual behavior.

When should you contact your Banfield team during this process?

Don’t hesitate to contact your hospital team should any of the following complications occur:
Purposeful labor without birth for more than 30 minutes in dogs
Purposeful labor without birth for more than 60 minutes in cats
A kitten or puppy becomes stuck in the birth canal
More than four hours elapsed between the births of puppies
Stillborn kittens or puppies
Excessive bleeding or abnormal material from the birth canal
Crying and licking or biting at the vulvar area during whelping or queening  

Although most births go well, pets can get into trouble and may need urgent or emergency care. By keeping in contact with your Banfield veterinarian during your pet’s pregnancy, you’ll help to ensure the safest possible delivery and you’ll start your new puppies or kittens off on the right paw toward a long, happy, healthy life.