Caring for an Akita bitch during pregnancy is basically commonsense. She should be watched carefully and made as comfortable and happy as possible. You should ensure that she has a dry bed, ample clean drinking water and regular feeds of good quality. For the first five weeks she will probably behave quite normally. She may have her “off” days. She may be extra hungry. She may display a slight change in temperament and be more careful how she carries herself, but so long as she is obviously healthy and happy, that is all that matters.
As soon as you suspect that she is pregnant, it is a good idea to contact your vet so he can enter the date of the expected birth in his diary and monitor the bitch’s progress. Akitas do not carry much water with their puppies, nevertheless a considerable amount of weight will have to be carried as the weeks progress. It is generally not advisable to give lots of extra food in the early 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 causes two problems. Firstly, she will not exercise so well, and so she will not be keeping her muscles toned up. Secondly, the puppies will be fat, which means they will be larger 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, vigorous puppies, who will fight to get to the teats to fill themselves with that all-important mother’s first milk. We have found the best policy is to feed a balanced diet with an increase in food after about five weeks. Naturally the future mum will be hungrier, but rest assured that whatever food you give to her she will pass 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. These days most foods are carefully balanced and numerous additives should not be needed. Indeed, the general view 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 undertaken.
Akita bitches “hide” their puppies very well until at least five weeks, more often six. They may show no signs at all that they are pregnant, and this can be extremely annoying to the owners, who obviously want to know if they are to expect a litter so they can make the necessary preparations. Probably the best indication is a swelling of the bitch’s teats. From as early as three weeks these can “pop”, or enlarge slightly and become pinker in appearance. In our experience this is the only “sure” sign. Ultra-sound scanning can also give a definite diagnosis, but this is costly and sometimes the hair on the bitch’s side or underside 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 do not generally carry their babies across their loin like most breeds. They hide them under their ribs and then later “drop” them and carry them in the belly, rather like a cow carries its calf. Whether you observe positive signs or not, it is wise to contact your vet and book the expected date of birth into his diary so he will be available if necessary.
Seven weeks into the pregnancy, introduce the bitch to her whelping place. A suitably sized box should be prepared and the absolute minimum measurements for this would be about 4ft 6ins by 3ft. This will allow the bitch to lie fully stretched on her side. The box can certainly be larger, but not so big as to allow the puppies to crawl away from their mother and so 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 so will accept it as the natural place when the time comes to give birth. If she is at all unhappy you must give in to her and make other arrangements. She probably has a good reason for not wanting things the way you do. So listen to her and adjust. She may accept the box, and then on the day of whelping, she changes her mind and wants to go somewhere else. Again, you must give in to her request. She may return to the box after she has had her first puppy, but let her decide. It is worth all the upheaval to have a happy, contented bitch who comes through her pregnancy successfully and delivers her puppies safely, without causing you – – or herself – – any undue anxiety.