West Highland Terrier Pregnancy and Their Health

Image taken from www.whatissharondoingnow.wordpress.com

Image taken from www.whatissharondoingnow.wordpress.com

So you have decided to breed your dog:

If you have a purebred female Westie and have planned to have her bred to a good line, you will be eagerly awaiting confirmation that she has become pregnant.

The first step is to make sure that the female and male dogs have the opportunity to successfully mate.

As this can be a difficult procedure, especially if this is the first time the female or male has bred it is important to have an experienced breeder there to facilitate the process.

Once the female comes in heat there is a limited amount of time to have her breed with the male, so timing is critical.

Once the two have mated you may begin to note signs of change in the female’s behaviour.


  • The female may appear to stay in heat longer than usual, and her vulva may stay swollen for longer than ordinary.
  • She may become very affectionate towards humans and other dogs and will appear to be lazy and not as active as normal.
  • At around 3 weeks she may experience signs of morning sickness and may vomit or dry heave frequently. You will notice that her teats become enlarged and may be warmer to the touch than the rest of her body.
  • Between 28 and 32 days a vet or breeder can check for pregnancy by palpating the abdomen.
  • At about day 35 it is important to gradually start to switch the female’s food from dog food to puppy formula dog food. This process should be completed over about a week by gradually increasing the amount of puppy formula dog food mixed into the regular food. Pregnant females will eat about one and a half times more food than non-pregnant females.
  • Smaller breeds may begin to appear to thicken throughout the ribcage by the end of the fourth week.
  • Weeks 6-7 will show a noticeable pregnancy. The female may also have a clear discharge at this time. This is normal, and there is no need for concern unless it is discoloured or bad smelling. If there is any concern schedule a vet appointment.
  • By the eighth week, you might hear the heartbeat of the puppies if you have a larger breed of dog. They will be most noticeable down the outer edges of the female’s abdomen. You may also feel the puppies kicking and moving.
  • In the ninth week the abdomen will drop and the female will prepare to birth the puppies. She will start to nest and become more secretive.
  • The normal gestation or pregnancy period for dogs is 63 days.


Once the female Westie begins to make a bed, it is a good indication that she is close to giving birth. In order to prepare for this you should make available a quiet, warm and private area for the female.

Line it with soft, washable material that is free from lint, strings or other potentially damaging materials. Avoid using perfumed or scented materials as this can irritate the female and the puppies.

A whelping box is a great idea, and can easily be constructed of wood or other solid material. It should be big enough to allow the mother to stretch out in when she is delivering her puppies.

The bottom of the whelping box can be lined with paper during the delivery to help with clean up. Soft clothes or towels can then be used to help the puppies move about. The sides of the whelping box should be short enough that the female can easily get in and out but the puppies cannot.

The box should be available to the female prior to the time of the birth, so she has ample time to get used to the box. If it appears stressful to her to stay in the box, let her find a suitable place that is comfortable to her, as an alternative.

The female Westie will appear restless just before labour. You may notice her standing up and circling repeatedly. She may dig or otherwise try to make a bed for herself. Her temperature will drop slightly about 24 hours before delivery.

Be aware that some females become very secretive at this time and may not want to have people or other dogs around. Provide as much privacy for her as you can, while still being able to monitor for any complications.

Know your vets emergency number and have transportation available to get the mother to the vet if there are any complications. For larger breeds it is far easier to have the vet come to the dog. Check with your vet to see if house calls are an option.


Many females will go through false pregnancy, know as pseudocyesis. They will exhibit all the physical and behavioural signs of pregnancy, but will not actually be carrying any pups. If you have any questions as to whether or not your female is actually pregnant. a vet can complete an x-ray or ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy.

Usually false pregnancy will resolve itself in a few weeks, but you should be aware that females that have had pseudocyesis once are at a high risk to exhibit the signs again. Therefore, they generally should be spayed to prevent the condition from continuing once they have had one or more instances.