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Caring For a Pregnant Akita
The care for an Akita bitch during pregnancy is basically usual. She must be carefully looked after and made as comfortable and happy as possible. You need to make sure she has a dry bed, plenty of clean drinking water and regular good quality food. 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 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 enter the expected birth date in his diary and monitor the bitch’s progress. Akitas do not carry much water with their puppies, however a considerable amount of weight will need to be carried as the weeks progress. It is generally not recommended to give a lot of extra food in the early weeks. Experience has taught us that overloading a bitch with food will make her puppies gain weight, and she will also put on extra weight. This causes two problems. First, she won’t exercise as well, and so she won’t keep her muscles up. Second, the puppies will be fat, which means they will grow larger and experience a more difficult passage through the birth canal. And when they are born, they will be fat and lazy.
It is much better to have an active mother and lean, powerful cubs, who will struggle to get to the teats to fill themselves with that 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. Of course, the mother-to-be will be hungrier, but be sure that the food you give her will be passed on to her unborn babies before she takes it herself. She is a natural in parental care. Additives in the form of calcium and perhaps iron are a good idea, again after the five week deadline. Nowadays, most foods are carefully balanced and many additives should not be necessary. Indeed, the general opinion is that they can do more harm than good. But 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 performed.
Akita bitches “hide” their puppies very well until at least five weeks, more often six. They may not show any signs that they are pregnant at all, and that can be extremely annoying for the owners, who of course want to know if they should expect a litter, so that they can make the necessary preparations. Probably the best indication is a swelling of the bitch’s teats. As early as three weeks, these “pops” can become slightly larger and pinker in appearance. In our experience, this is the only “sure” sign. Ultrasound scanning can also give a definitive diagnosis, but this is expensive and sometimes the hair on the side or bottom of the bitch has to be removed.
Your bitch may show signs of thickening in the rib or loin earlier, but it is most unlikely. Akita Inu bitches generally do not carry their babies across their loins like most breeds. They hide them under the ribs and later “drop” them and carry them in the belly, just like a cow carries the calf. Whether you observe positive signs or not, it is wise to contact your vet and book the expected date of birth in his diary, so that he is available when needed.
Seven weeks into pregnancy, introduce the bitch to her whelping place. A box of suitable size should be prepared and the absolute minimum measurements for this would be approximately 4ft 6ins by 3ft. This allows the bitch to lie completely on her side. The box can certainly be bigger, but not so big that the cubs crawl away from their mother and 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 accept it as the natural place when the time comes to give birth. If she is unhappy at all, you should tell her and make other arrangements. She probably has a good reason for not wanting things the way you do. So listen to them and adapt. She may accept the box, and then on the day of the whelp, she changes her mind and wants to go somewhere else. Again, you must grant their request. She can return to the box after having her first puppy, but let her decide. It’s worth all the fuss to have a happy, satisfied bitch who successfully gets through her pregnancy and delivers her puppies safely, without causing you – – or herself – – any unnecessary anxiety.
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