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Caring For a Pregnant Akita
Caring for an Akita bitch during pregnancy is basically common sense. She should be watched closely and made as comfortable and happy as possible. You should ensure that she has a dry bed, plenty of clean drinking water and regular, good quality feeding. The first five weeks she will probably behave quite normally. She can have her “off” days. She may be extra hungry. She may show a slight change in temperament and be more careful with how she carries herself, but as long as she’s obviously healthy and happy, that’s all that matters.
As soon as you suspect that she is pregnant, it is a good idea to contact your vet so that he can write the date of the expected birth in his diary and follow the bitch’s progress. Akitas do not carry much water with their puppies, nevertheless a considerable amount of weight must be carried as the weeks progress. It is generally not advisable to give lots of extra food in the first weeks. Experience has taught us that overloading a bitch with food will put weight on her puppies and she will also put on extra weight. This presents two problems. First, she won’t train as well and therefore won’t keep her muscles elevated. Secondly, the puppies will be fat, which means they will be bigger and will experience a more difficult passage down the birth canal. And when they are born, they will be fat and lazy.
It is far better to have an active mother and lean, powerful puppies who will struggle to get to the teats to fill themselves with the all-important mother’s first milk. We have found that the best policy is to feed a balanced diet with an increase in food after about five weeks. Naturally, the mother-to-be will be hungrier, but rest assured that whatever food you give her, she will pass on to her unborn babies before she takes it herself. She is a natural at parenting. Additives in the form of calcium and perhaps iron are a good idea, again after the five week deadline. These days, most foods are carefully balanced and numerous additives should not be necessary. In fact, the general view is that they can do more harm than good. However, if the bitch suggests that she may have a deficiency, you should take her to the vet so that proper tests and analysis can be done.
Akita bitches “hide” their puppies very well until at least five weeks, more often six. They may show no signs of being pregnant at all, and this can be extremely annoying to the owners, who of course want to know if they should expect a litter so they can make the necessary preparations. The best indication is probably a swelling of the bitch’s teats. From as early as three weeks, these may “pop” or enlarge slightly and become pinker in appearance. In our experience, this is the only “safe” sign. Ultrasound scanning can also give a definite diagnosis, but it is expensive and sometimes the hair on the bitch’s side or underside has to be removed.
Your bitch may show signs of rib or loin thickening earlier, but this is highly unlikely. Akita Inu bitches generally do not carry their babies across the back like most breeds. They hide them under their ribs and later “release” them and carry them in their stomachs like a cow carries her calf. Regardless of whether you observe positive signs or not, it is wise to contact your vet and book the expected birth date in his diary so that he is available if needed.
Seven weeks into the pregnancy, you must introduce the bitch to her whelping place. A box of suitable size should be prepared and the absolute minimum dimensions for this would be about 4ft 6ins by 3ft. This will allow the bitch to lie fully extended on her side. The crate can definitely be bigger, but not so big that the puppies can crawl away from their mother and then get lost. Make sure the bitch is happy with the box and its position. After a few days she will welcome the peace, quiet and solitude of this area and will therefore accept it as the natural place when the time comes to give birth. If she is at all displeased, you must give in to her and take other measures. She probably has a good reason for not wanting things the way you do. So listen to her and adjust. She might accept the box and then on puppy day she changes her mind and wants to go somewhere else. Again you have to give in to her request. She can return to the crate after she has her first puppy, but let her decide. It’s worth all the upheaval to have a happy, content bitch who successfully gets through her pregnancy and delivers her puppies safely, without causing you – – or herself – – undue anxiety.
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