How Long Are Dogs Pregnant For

Written by Kirstin Opal
Published: April 17, 2022
Image Credit framsook/Shutterstock.com
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If you think you’re dog is pregnant, getting the education about everything that goes along with a pregnant pooch is key for a healthy pregnancy. Just like humans, dogs that are going to have babies have changes in their behavior, weight, hormones, diet, and more! 

It can be difficult to know if your dog is pregnant since many female dogs don’t show signs until after the first several weeks. Adjusting her lifestyle is a great way to keep her comfortable and get prepared for her upcoming labor. 

Being a pet parent can be stressful. We’ve done the research to provide you with this guide with everything you need to know about caring for your pregnant pup. Everything from what they should eat to preparing for puppies is covered below! 

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How Long Will My Dog Be Pregnant? 

Again, similarly to humans, a dog’s pregnancy can vary but generally lasts around nine weeks. As soon as the fertilized eggs begin embedding in the uterine lining, the timeline begins. Your vet will be able to show you the heartbeats of the little pups within the first month of gestation. 

Around the 45-day mark, you’ll be able to see puppies in the womb during an ultrasound. At this point, your pooch will have gained weight and likely had a decrease in appetite. Near 60 days into pregnancy, you should be eagerly awaiting puppies any day! 

Stages of Labor 

Uterine contractions start during the early stage of childbirth. It’s possible that your dog will pace, quiver, pant, or even puke. These are all typical actions that do not necessitate your assistance. Simply make sure she has access to clean drinking water and expect to wait 6-12 hours for the cervix to dilate for the delivery process to begin. 

Stage Two

More uterine contractions occur in the next stage of labor. Anticipate one puppy per 45-60 minutes, with heavy straining lasting 10-30 minutes. Contact your veterinarian straight once if your dog has been straining for more than an hour and no puppy has emerged. If any of the pups are born tail first, don’t be frightened; this is a common occurrence.

Puppies are born with separate membranes that the mother tears off by aggressively kissing the puppy shortly after birth. If she doesn’t, you’ll have to clean the puppy for her since newborn puppies only have a few minutes of oxygen before their supply runs out. Simply peel away the slick layer and massage the dog with a clean cloth until he cries.

Your momma pooch will naturally severe the umbilical cord as she is cleaning her newborns. Sometimes, dogs won’t do this and it will be your job to cut the cord about an inch from their little bellies. It’s important to not pull on the cord, as it can be painful for the puppy. 

It’s typical for a pregnant mother to take a break halfway through birth, and she may not exert any effort for up to four hours between pups. Contact your veterinarian immediately away if she spends longer than 4 hours without laboring and you know she hasn’t given birth to all of the puppies.

Final Stage

The placenta passes through the third stage of labor. This might occur after each puppy or at the end of childbirth. The mother may urge to consume the placentas, but this is not a smart idea because it can cause her to vomit. Make careful you clean up after yourself and dispose of each placenta. Keep count of how many placentas you have, as a retained placenta might create complications for the mother.

Dog Pregnancy Symptoms

Here is a week-by-week look at the symptoms most commonly associated with canine pregnancy:

Week NumberWhat to Look For
1 and 2Morning sickness is possible, but her weight should remain steady. 
3Keep an eye out for an increase in her appetite. 
4Make an appointment with the veterinarian, as the puppies’ legs and paws will be starting to develop. 
5Because she is in the second trimester of her pregnancy, her weight gain may become more noticeable. Rough exercise should be avoided.
6Her appetite may be waning, so plan smaller meals and encourage her to eat little and frequently. 
7Make an appointment with your veterinarian and start preparing the whelping box. 
8She’ll start lactating. 
9She will be due to give birth, therefore she may appear more agitated and worried than normal.

How to Determine Your Dog is Pregnant,

Unfortunately, we can’t just run to the store and pick up a trusted pregnancy test for your four-legged friends. There are plenty of ways to tell if your dog is pregnant. Here are the most common! 

Palpitations

If you know when your dog was bred, your vet can do belly palpation around the 28-30-day mark if you know the date. The pups feel like small golf balls or grapes at this time in the pregnancy, depending on the size of the dog. The fluid-filled sacks that encircle the fetus are referred to as “balls.” 

Without the help of a veterinarian, belly palpation should not be undertaken, as it may cause harm to the puppies. After a month, the sacks lose their characteristic structure, therefore the scheduling of this test is critical.

Ultrasounds

Additionally, between 25 and 35 days of pregnancy, your vet can do an ultrasound. In most cases, an ultrasound can identify fetal heartbeats, allowing you to estimate the number of puppies your dog is expecting. 

Hormone Tests

Your veterinarian can run a blood test to check the dog’s hormone levels around 25 to 30 days of pregnancy to see if she is releasing the hormone relaxin. The test is relatively accurate since relaxin is only created during pregnancy.

X-Rays

X-rays are one of the most reliable methods for determining whether or not a bitch is pregnant. However, the pups’ skeletal systems don’t show up on an x-ray until they’re 55 days old or older. An x-ray at this time will allow you to acquire a precise count of the number of pups, allowing you to know when your dog has completed giving birth.

Exercise for Pregnant Dogs 

Some doctors feel that minimizing vigorous movement during the first two weeks of pregnancy can help the embryo’s implant. Normal activity is fine after that until your dog’s tummy is expanded. Your dog’s optimum activity during her last trimester should not be too rigorous. Shorter, more frequent walks will become more helpful to the expectant mother, as she will use her strength to deliver the puppies and feed them.

What to Feed Your Pregnant Dog

At four weeks of pregnancy, pregnant dogs should be switched to a higher-calorie diet. This might be a puppy diet or a commercial diet designated for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Many high-quality, over-the-counter, veterinary-recommended foods for pregnant dogs are available.

Weaning should be done while the canine is still on this higher-calorie diet. Because of their reduced calcium, phosphorus, and energy levels, dog kibble made for big breeds is typically not suggested for pregnant and nursing dogs. 

These diets can assist provide enough nutrition for pregnant and nursing bitches, who have a substantially greater metabolic requirement involved with developing, delivering, and feeding puppies. Because your dog’s stomach will be smaller, she will need to consume smaller, more frequent meals.

Preparing for Puppies

You’ll notice a dramatic growth of your dog’s breasts and nipples as the end of her pregnancy is near, and you could even discover some milky fluid as the milk glands expand and swell. As she walks, her abdomen will expand and she may wobble a little. You also might be able to see or feel the pups wiggling about within the mother at the conclusion of the gestation.

If this is your first time dealing with a pregnant pooch, speak with your veterinarian about your involvement during birth and study up on all you can. Unless you have an expert breeder on hand, you’ll need to be ready to intervene during the whelping process if required. It’s often a good idea to have a second person around to help keep the newborns warm or help you if you require assistance.

What is the Whelping Process? 

Whelping is the term used for the process of a dog giving birth. You may find that your dog refuses to eat completely in the 24 hours going up to labor, and her temperature will likely decrease as well. 

Her contractions will be apparent during the second stage of labor, and she may start panting excessively. When the mother enters the second stage of labor, the first puppy is usually delivered within fifteen minutes.

The amount of time a dog spends in labor varies by breed. It’s critical to be there and check in every 15 minutes or so. If either the newborn or their mother is suffering, you may need to intervene to help the first pup break out from the embryonic sack or to cut the umbilical cord. It is recommended that first-time mothers be cared for until at least two pups have been delivered. 

Many people opt for making what is called a “whelping box.” This is an area designated for your pooch to give birth. Depending on the size of your dog, you could make your own, or use something like a small plastic swimming pool. In the whelping box, there should be a lining with a soft, comfortable fabric, such as fleece. 

Bottom Line 

We hope that your journey with your pregnant canine is a healthy and happy one. Our four-legged friends naturally know how to give birth and just need us to help them along the way. Good luck and be sure to give all the puppies plenty of extra cuddles! 

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs, 14-year-old dog, or her cat Spirit, Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.