How Long Are Dogs Pregnant? Dog Pregnancy Details and Tips


how long are dogs pregnant

If you are planning on breeding your dog, you’ll need to have an idea of how long the gestation period is in dogs. Knowing this information will assist you in planning for things such as emergencies, vet checkups and also whelping. So how long are dogs pregnant?

The gestation period in dogs is 63 days or approximately two months. However, this timeframe may vary by a few days, depending on several factors. Your vet will run tests to accurately determine how far along your dog is and when your dog will give birth. 

dog getting sonogram

Early Signs of Dog Pregnancy

There will be a few mild signs during the early stages of your dog’s pregnancy. For starters, you should notice some weight gain; however, this could be due to several factors and not necessarily due to pregnancy. 

Alternatively, noticeable symptoms of pregnancy will appear during the third or fourth week, in most cases. At this time, some dogs suffer from morning sickness, loss of appetite and tiredness as well. Then again, other medical conditions may also cause similar symptoms. 

However, if you suspect that it is morning sickness, serve smaller meals during the course of the day as opposed to two large meals. It is during the 25th to 28th day that your vet will be able to determine if puppies are on their way. This check should be carried out by a professional and licensed vet all times. Always consult a professional instead of trying to do it yourself.

Later Symptoms

The belly normally starts to expand around day 40. Your dog’s belly will start to sway as she walks, during the final stages of pregnancy. It’s also perfectly normal to see discharge or a milky fluid coming out of the nipples. So it is no cause for concern if you do see this.

However, if you do notice that something is out of the ordinary, you should speak to your vet right away. 

Approximately two weeks before she is due to give birth, you’ll be able to see and feel the puppies moving in the belly. 

However, it’s important to take that for someone who has no prior experience with pregnant dogs; some symptoms may be confused with other conditions. So it is important to have your vet run the necessary tests to determine your dog’s actual condition.

How Does a Vet Confirm Pregnancy?

As we mentioned earlier, pregnancy symptoms in dogs often mimic signs of other medical conditions. Therefore it is crucial that you have your vet run the necessary diagnostics if you suspect that your dog is with puppies. 

There are usually several tests done at several stages of the pregnancy. Your vet will also provide you with the necessary advice on how to properly take care of and feed your pregnant dog. 

Medications and supplements are unnecessary or not recommended for pregnant dogs and can possibly even harm the puppies so ensure that your vet knows about anything that you are giving your dog during the gestation period so that he can advise you on whether it is safe or not. 

It is usually around day 28 that your vet will be able to confidently confirm pregnancy by performing abdominal palpitations. However, you should never attempt to do this on your own as you could cause a possible miscarriage or harm the fetuses. 

Around this time, the fetuses feel more like small golf balls or grapes. 

It is around the 28th to 35th day that your vet can perform an ultrasound and determine the number of puppies to expect. An x-ray should give him a more accurate count. 

Your vet will also be able to do a blood test to detect the hormone relaxin in your dog. This hormone is only present during pregnancy. So this is another indication of pregnancy. 

Around day 45 to 55, the vet can do another x-ray to detect the skeletons of the puppies and accurately determine litter size. The closer to the due date this is done or the closer to the end of pregnancy, the more accurate it is. 

How to Care for a Pregnant Dog

Knowing how to properly care for your dog while she is expecting will help to ease the strain of the pregnancy. You should know that your dog will need extra care and attention during this time. You will also notice body changes during this time, and number one on the list of priorities is nutrition during your dog’s pregnancy.

pregnant dog on chair

Feeding and Nutrition

If you’re wondering what to feed your pregnant dog, you are not alone. In fact, most pet owners find themselves asking this question.

You should also be aware that the basic adult dog formula will not give your dog the adequate nutrients needed during the gestation period. So you will have to make some changes to her diet to help her get what she needs. It is advisable that just before mating, you switch your dog back to puppy formula, introducing it slowly over a period of seven to ten days as this will avoid an upset stomach. You should keep her on this new formula until she’s given birth and her puppies have been weaned. 

Exercise

Something that is extremely beneficial for pregnant dogs and will help keep them stay health and fit is daily walks. This ensures that they are primed for taking care of their little ones. Intensive training, showing, and obedience training should be avoided during this time as it could be stressful. Any type of bumps or knocks from boisterous dogs could harm the unborn puppies. Therefore walking is the best way to help expectant dogs keep healthy and fit and ensure that they are capable of handling both labor and birth. 

Walks should be kept shorter and more regular during this stage as your dog is likely to get uncomfortable and tired quicker. So it is advisable to take your dog on two to five short walks each day.

Vaccinations

it is recommended that you get your dog’s vaccines up to date, as the mother dog passes her immunity to her pups. So ensure that your dog’s antibody levels are at their peak. If you have any overdue vaccinations for your dog, speak to your vet. Some vaccines may be administered, and others may not be an option. The only way that you can know is by speaking to your vet.

Parasites

Flea and worm treatments should be kept up even during pregnancy. This should be a part of your dog’s care routine. Lots of mother dogs tend to pass their immunity to their puppies, so stay safe, and ensure that you treat your dog with products that are safe. Discuss these products with your vet as the puppies may also need worm treatments during the first few weeks.

Visits to the Vet

It is important to keep up to date with visits to your vet. While the vets will be able to do the necessary checks to see if all is well, they will also be able to detect other signs and symptoms of discomfort in your dog. If the pregnancy was unintended, this is also a good time to discuss taking the precautions to prevent pregnancy in future. It’s also not uncommon for emergencies to occur during your dog’s pregnancy. So during your checkup speak to your vet about what to do in the event of an emergency and set up a care plan with your pet sitter and family.

How Your Dog’s Breed Can Affect Pregnancy

Most dog breeds are pregnant for around nine weeks or so; however, smaller breeds and Brachycephalic breeds of dogs are at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. 

Large Breeds vs. Small Breeds

Overall, there are just a few minor differences between pregnancies in larger breeds as opposed to smaller sized dogs:

In smaller dogs, it’s not unusual to find a single puppy given birth to as compared to up to 17 puppies in some larger dogs. Some of the facts that play a role in litter size include the timing of the breeding, quality of the semen as well as the age of the mother.

How easily your dog gives birth depends on the size of dog as well as the size of the puppies. In most cases, smaller breeds will require intervention and possibly even a C-section compared to larger breeds of dogs that are able to get through the process on their own, with very little assistance.

Nutritional requirements are perhaps the biggest differences between large and small breed pregnancies. A small dog requires more calories per pound as compared to a larger dog in order to support her puppies throughout pregnancy and lactation. When it comes to smaller breeds, the female dog’s food intake should be around 15-25% more than her normal intake.

Furthermore, during peak lactation, she will require three times normal order to maintain adequate body weight and have adequate milk for her puppies.

Brachycephalic Breeds

These breeds have a wide and flat shaped skull. They also have a higher rate of pregnancy issues. Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Pugs, and Boston Terriers are some of the more common breeds that require medical assistance with birthing.

Eclampsia

This condition is also referred to as milk fever and is common in small breeds of dog. It is most common in toy breeds. It is basically a seizure-like disorder that can be fatal if left untreated. This condition is most likely to occur during the final stages of pregnancy or possibly during the first weeks after birth. A higher rate or level of calcium is demanded by your dog’s body during pregnancy to be able to support fetal skeletal development and lactation. Ultimately, it will trigger the release of calcium from the dog’s bones to increase intestinal absorption.

Calcium Supplements

It may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to making a decision to give calcium supplements during pregnancy, considering the increased demand for it. However, it is advisable to speak to your vet before placing your dog on any type of calcium supplement during pregnancy. Your vet will be able to tell you whether the calcium supplement is safe, advise you of any side effects, and advise you on how to administer the appropriate dosage.

dog momma with her babies

Preparing for Puppies

Your dog should be as comfortable as possible, and the birthing process should be as hasslefree as it can so the best way to do this is to set up a whelping box or nesting area for your dog. Birthing boxes provide a comfortable, safe and warm environment in order for your dog to have her puppies. 

The whelping box should also ideally be set up away from all other dogs and in an area of the home to give the mother dog some privacy. Once you’ve either purchased or built your own birthing box, take the time to get your dog used to it. 

Dogs prefer safe and warm places, so you’ll need to introduce her to the birthing box way beforehand, or she may just decide to have her puppies somewhere else such as in your closet. Speak to your vet about the labor and inform yourself of what’s involved, especially if it’s the first breeding your dog. 

You may also choose to have an experienced breeder on hand who will help you get prepared with the necessary steps to the birthing process. Ensure that you gather all the required whelping supplies early on, so you have them on hand as soon as your dog goes into labor.

Whelming checklist:

  • You will need to have enough newspaper to line the whelping box 
  • and ensure that cleanup is hasslefree
  • You also need non skid bath mats for bedding after the birthing is over
  • Clean and dry towels to clean up the puppies.
  • Paper towels are priceless in the cleanup process.
  • You need unwaxed dental floss to tie up the umbilical cords.
  • You also need a thermometer to check your dog’s temperature before the birthing process.
  • A hot water bottle will ensure that the puppies are kept warm but be careful that it’s not too hot.
  • A baby scale in ounces
  • Clean scissors to cut the umbilical cords
  • You need to also have your vet’s phone number on hand and the number of an emergency clinic. 

Keep these supplies in a clean and easy to reach place.  When the time comes, lookout for signs of labor.  Pregnant mothers may stop eating a few days before their labor begins. Lots of pregnant dogs also have a lower temperature than normal, and this can drop even lower hours before whelping. So just ensure that you are well prepared and you will soon be the proud owner of a new litter of puppies. 

Warning Signs During Labor

In most cases, delivery should go smoothly, especially with larger breeds. However, it is still crucial to be aware of the signs and any complications that may arise. 

While whelping is uncomfortable, it should never cause extreme pain in your dog.

Another red flag is if more than two hours go by without a puppy being delivered. If more than 45 minutes go by without a birth, call your vet.

Collapsing, trembling, and shivering are all warning signs of serious complications and a reason to call your vet immediately.

While some dogs are slow to go into labor, if your dog shows no signs of going into labor 64 days after the last meeting, you need to contact your vet immediately. 

So if you notice any of the above-mentioned signs during labor, contact your vet immediately. Failure to do so could mean that you are risking the life of your dog and her litter of puppies.

How to Prevent Pregnancy in Dogs

One of the most effective ways of stopping dog pregnancies is by spaying female dogs. The ovaries and uterus of the dog are removed during surgery. This procedure is only carried out by a professional vet. This procedure, along with neutering, is recommended and makes it impossible for our dog to get pregnant. So it is recommended to all pet owners who have no intention of breeding their dogs. 

puppies different breeds

Another option to prevent dog pregnancy is to isolate the female pet entirely from the male one. This option is available to you if the cost of spaying is an issue and is a useful way of preventing dog pregnancy. You can achieve this by placing your female dog in a kennel while they are in heat. You can also keep them indoors or in a  fenced-in yard. As long as the male is unable to reach the female, there should be no fear of pregnancy. 

Conclusion

Although dog pregnancy can be a stressful time for both owners and dogs, it doesn’t have to be. However, the more you educate yourself about how dog pregnancy works, and the better you prepare yourself to take care of your dog, the smoother things will go. When in doubt, consult your vet.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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