Everything You Need to Know About Dog Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be an emotional experience, and in the case of dogs and their owners, that goes for both of you. If you’re setting off down the path of mating your dog, you’ll need to know all the ins-and-outs of dog pregnancy beforehand. That includes everything from knowing about the length of canine pregnancies, through to understanding how best to support the mother during the whelping process.

By understanding all this and more, you can be not just a pillar of emotional strength to your dog, but also a responsible breeder, equipped with all the practical skills you’ll need throughout every stage of the pregnancy.

How to tell when your dog is pregnant

Just like us, dog pregnancy runs through three trimesters. Those trimesters are shorter than ours, though. If you’re expecting obvious signs of pregnancy in the early days, you might be disappointed. Most dogs hide the initial physical symptoms fairly well.

Morning sickness

Morning sickness can affect some dogs and usually lasts for days rather than weeks. They may also be a little low on energy or have a reduced appetite. Supporting her by allowing plenty of rest and providing small meals will help her through it.

Other ways to tell

Other ways to tell when your dog is pregnant include weight gain, increased appetite, and larger nipples. In order to be sure, it’s important to visit the vet around 28 days after mating. Through a physical examination, they’ll be able to feel whether little puppies are forming. It’s important to note that this check should only ever be carried out by a vet. The risk of damaging the fluid-sack around the foetus is too great for it to be done by anyone other than a qualified professional. This examination is only possible within a short window of time, so if you miss the boat, you can always ask the vet to check your dog’s levels of the hormone, relaxin, which will give a clear indication of whether or not she is in fact pregnant.

Dog pregnancy symptoms week by week

  • Weeks 1-2: Potential for morning sickness, but weight should remain stable

  • Week 3: Monitor her for an increase in appetite

  • Week 4: Schedule the first visit to the vet, as the puppies’ legs and paws will be beginning to form

  • Week 5: This is the second stage of gestation, so her weight gain may become more noticable. Limit rough exercise.

  • Week 6: Her appetite could decrease, so you may want to schedule smaller meals and get her eating little and often

  • Week 7: Arrange a check up with your vet, and begin setting up the whelping box

  • Week 8: She will begin lactating

  • Week 9: She should be ready to give birth, so may seem more anxious and irritable than usual

How long is a dog pregnant for?

Although the length of the dog gestation period can vary, the mother will usually meet her pups within around 63 days, or 9 weeks, of falling pregnant.

The timeline starts with the fertilised eggs embedding in the uterine lining, and the first detectable heartbeat will be present in month one. During this period, you may notice that the mother has an increased appetite, enlarged nipples, and, in some cases, may even exhibit more affectionate behaviour.

Canine pregnancies develop quickly, so by the second month a scan ought to reveal recognisable puppies in the womb. By this point, the mother will experience noticeable weight gain, as well as a decrease in appetite around day 45.

By the beginning of the third month, you’ll be expecting the litter any day. At that point, usually around day 58, you’ll probably notice her scoping out potential places to give birth to her puppies in peace.

How to care for a pregnant dog

Being prepared is key if you want to give your dog and her puppies the best experience during pregnancy, the birth, and in the weeks that follow. It’s true that dogs prefer to handle the birthing experience themselves, but you’ll still need to be there, just in case there’s an emergency. And that doesn’t mean that the pregnancy should go unmonitored, or that your care for the pregnant dog should in any way lapse.

Beginning at the early part of the process, it’s important to start off by ensuring you have everything covered when it comes to caring for your dog in pregnancy. That includes regular vet visits to make sure everything is progressing normally.

Towards the final few days, you can support your dog by providing a whelping box, filled with clean blankets and towels, placed in a quiet, warm part of the house.

Understanding the whelping process

Whelping is the name given to the birthing process for dogs. In the 24 hours leading up to labour, you may notice that your dog stops eating altogether, and her temperature is likely to drop, too. During the second stage of labour, her contractions will be visible, and she may start panting heavily. The first puppy will typically be delivered within fifteen minutes of the mother entering the second stage of labour.

The length of time a dog is in labour varies from breed to breed. Being present and checking in every 15 minutes or so is crucial. You may need to step in to help the first pup break free from the embryonic sack, or to cut the umbilical cord if either the puppy or their mum is struggling. It’s best practice for first-time mums to be attended until at least two puppies have been born.

If you notice that your dog has been straining for more than two hours without giving birth, contact your vet.

The causes of canine infertility

Sadly, not every dog is able to enter the gestation period and birth a litter of puppies.

A healthy reproductive system and stable hormone levels are needed to make your dog fertile, so if your efforts to mate your dog have so far proved unsuccessful, look out for the most common signs of canine infertility: an irregular cycle; miscarriages, or a noticeable lack of interest in mating.

Often, it’s older dogs that will start to show signs of infertility, but that doesn’t mean younger dogs won’t sometimes struggle too. After all, problems like uterine cysts and infections can cause infertility at any age. Then there’s the added potential for cystic endometrial complex (CEH), which creates a hostile environment for foetuses.

Ultimately, following best practices and taking your dog to the vet regularly, both for check-ups and advice, will help to keep her in good shape, and sidestep avoidable infertility problems. They’ll be able to advise based on information from physical examinations and the dog’s history, so you can plan your future as a dog breeder.