For those puppy parents who are unaware, female dogs become pregnant quickly, and often times in ways you have never known about. After about two years, a female dog has the ability to breed successfully, whether planned by her owner or not. Many stories are told about dogs skipping fences, traipsing in other yards, and making a family out of other’s dogs. Preparing for a pregnant dog is a trying time for those who are inexperienced. If you have just discovered that your female dog has become pregnant, and you are handling this situation for the first time, there may be several questions that are likely to come up in your mind. After wondering how the dog becomes pregnant, you may also be wondering about how long do dogs stay pregnant?
How long are dogs pregnant?
Dogs have an estimated gestation time of approximately 58 to 62 days. While being pregnant for two months at most may be considered by human women a blessing, the two months of pregnancy your dog exhibits is a quick and very efficient use of time and the female’s body. Your vet will probably be able to tell you if your dog is actually pregnant nearly a month following the breeding. This will be possible only through an examination of the dog’s abdomen, a blood test or an ultrasound. If you do not feel the need to confirm the pregnancy, you will find out soon anyways because her stomach will begin to bulge more and more as the pregnancy progresses.
If a dog is discovered to be pregnant one month into the pregnancy, and the cycle may last up to 62 days, there is not a lot of time to plan, prepare, and care for the mother and puppies if you are inexperienced. One must learn as much as possible about the female’s pregnancy and attempt to care for the dog as best as possible for the month or two she is creating lives.
After wondering how long a pregnancy lasts in your dog, your next question will be how many puppies.
How many puppies do dogs have?
The puppy count is bound to vary depending upon the type of dog, breed, size, and health disposition. Just as humans carry a variety of numbers of babies, a dog will carry any number of puppies. However, dogs are more apt to produce more than one baby per pregnancy than their human counterparts. The typical female dog may carry just one puppy in one pregnancy or even have a litter compromising a dozen puppies. The number of puppies in a litter depends on the breed. Larger breeds such as a Great Dane often have larger litters due to their capability of carrying more babies in comparison to smaller breeds.
How does the usual dog pregnancy proceed?
The first month of a dog’s pregnancy is often uneventful and you may not observe much change in your dog’s behavior. You may also not observe much change in behavior if you are unaware your dog has had the possibility of conceiving. In the event you have purposefully bred your dog and are awaiting signs of pregnancy, you may be on high alert to any subtle changes and thereby allowing yourself the discovering of pregnancy a bit earlier than others.
However, there is the possibility that you may observe some signs of unusual behavior, such as lesser physical activity, an effort to be alone or decreased appetite. The only physical sign would be an enlargement of nipples. With the passage of time, the pregnancy will progress further and the dog’s belly will begin to get bigger. Once the delivery date is close, your dog might begin to produce some milk. The pregnancy will seem to move very quick when considering the pregnancy lasts less than two months. Slight and subtle changes in behavior signify the beginning of pregnancy, followed by an enlarged belly and some fatigue.
Once the puppies are about to arrive, many mommy dogs start exhibiting some particular changes in their behavior. This is often during the last 15 days of the pregnancy. Humans begin to ‘nest’ as they are ready to give birth, creating a home and beds, and safe spaces for their babies. Dogs will do something similar to ‘nest’. Your female dog may do things like shredding your rug, paper or cloth, in an effort to create a place for giving birth. Other unusual behaviors displayed by your mommy dog may also be incontinence, irritability and restlessness. While you may not agree with the dog making what seems to be a mess, and shredding your cloth items, the dog must follow through with these urges to finishing the nesting phase and begin labor.
Sometimes dogs experience a false pregnancy. Check out this video on how to identify a dog’s false pregnancy:
How do the embryos develop?
The embryos start taking shape after a month. The face and eyelids begin forming and soon the toes, coat and bones are formed. By the end of 50 days, your vet will be able to count the puppies after taking an x-ray as the skeletons will be suitably well-formed. From around the fiftieth day, until around day sixty two, you will have only a couple of weeks to know the number of puppies your mommy dog is carrying. In the event you have more than one or two puppies, you will need to plan well in advance to ensure the puppies are cared for, that the mother is healthy to offer milk, and that care is on hand in the event of a sick pup or an emergency. You may also wish to begin to find homes for the pups once their six weeks of nursing time passes.
Close to the end of the two month pregnancy, your dog will start searching for a nesting place. It is your responsibility to set up a suitable room or area for the delivery. It has to be safe, clean and comfortable, and preferably offer privacy. It is often a good idea to create a self-contained space for your dog to have privacy during and after the birthing process so that it can rest quietly with her babies after their birthing process is complete.
Dogs are similar to humans in wanting to experience their delivery in peace, quiet, and in a clean and warm environment. Offering these elements to your pregnant dog is kind and humane, and will help her and the pups remain healthy during this time.
Dog Gestation Period Timeline
Here is a detailed timetable of your dog’s pregnancy week by week.
The first day ( day 0) is when your dog starts to ovulate (going into heat). Generally, dogs go into heat every six months and the heat cycle lasts about three weeks.
When breeding takes place, the sperm reaches the eggs within a few days and fertilization occurs.
The fertilized eggs find their way to the uterus for implantation. The fertilized cells will start to grow into tiny embryos.
By now, the implantation has taken place and the little embryos that were formed in week 2 will start to develop. Your dog will start to show breast tissue development and appetite changes. Moreover, your dog may experience mood swings.
During this week, fetuses can be felt and also seen on the ultrasound. It is recommended to go to your veterinarian to confirm the pregnancy.
The fetuses are starting to develop faces and spinal cords. Your pregnant dog’s uterus will become getting fluids to make sure the fetuses remain safe. Generally, after this, it may take weeks until you can feel the puppies again. Make sure to offer more food to your dog since her appetite will increase.
Now the fetuses will start growing sex organs, toes, and claws and will begin looking like little puppies. You will be able to see the sex of the puppies on the ultrasound. Your dog’s stomach will begin to look much bigger since the puppies take up more space.
Offer your pooch smaller and more frequent meals since there are less space for larger meals.
In week 6, puppies will develop pigmentation. Additionally, the eyes of the pups will have lids and continue to be sealed until about 10 days after birth. Your pregnant dog gets more uncomfortable and may throw up occasionally due to the extra pressure against her stomach. She may also produce clear fluid discharge from her genitals. This is nothing to worry about and is completely normal.
It’s advisable to remain in contact with your vet about your dog’s pregnancy.
During week 7, puppies are well developed and begin preparation for birth. Your pet may begin to shed her belly hair and you may be able to feel or actually see the puppies’ movements in her stomach. Her breasts may already contain a little colostrum (first milk).
Your dog will be more tired but busy nesting. She will want to find a cozy and warm place for her and her new pups. The place should be comfortable to give birth. So it’s time for you to find a box or a bed for her. Also, don’t make your dog to get too much physical activity to avoid premature birth.
The puppies are now crowded in the uterus. They will start positioning themselves for the upcoming birth.
The puppies are ready for birth and your dog will give birth to them any time now. Your pooch may show signs of being restless, anxious, and uncomfortable. You can start taking your dog’s rectal temperature. Generally, as soon as her body temperature goes down one degree below average, she is most likely to deliver in 24 to 48 hours.
When are pups considered premature?
Generally, day 58 is the time when puppies can be born safely. They will have mature lungs and will survive without complications. However, when puppies are born before the day 58, they are considered premature. These puppies may not survive and may last only 1-2 days.
What should the mommy dog eat? Should she exercise?
Feed your dog additional high protein meals during the first month, including eggs, liver, chicken and beef. In the second month, you need to give it additional food, up to double her usual meals.
If you take your dog for a walk daily, continue doing so during the pregnancy, too. You will observe a change in her energy levels as the delivery date gets closer, as she will become tired sooner. At this point, you must use your instinct and slow down on the speed and distance. Go for a slow walk and do some gentle playing.
Does your dog need your help in birthing?
Although you may want to be there, it is not really necessary as the birthing process is quite smooth for dogs. You should be prepared for how the birthing process works as it is slightly different from the human process.
You will see a green fluid sac come out which is the dog’s version of amniotic fluid. The puppies will then start emerging within this either butt first or head first, both being completely normal for a dog. The puppies will be inactive and silent for little while.
Stay away from the dog and her litter for a while as she is likely to need privacy. Acting purely on instinct, she will open the sac, cut their umbilical cords and lick them clean. You may help in the last part by using a clean cloth to rub each puppy very gently. This is when they will wake up, move a bit and cry.
It is time now to leave the mommy and babies alone to rest and recover from the very exhaustive process.
However, depending on the breed, some dogs can’t give birth naturally and require C-sections. Breeds known to need C-sections are French bulldogs, English bulldogs, and Pekingese. Generally, dogs with big heads and narrow pelvic regions need Cesarean sections.
Other possible causes of C-sections are past due date, labor over 12 hours, and wrongly positioned fetuses.
Post-pregnancy caring for your dog
Following the delivery, the key to handling your dog is gentleness. You should examine the nipples to check that there is no infection, wipe the nipples and surrounding area using a damp towel and clip the puppies’ nails if they appear to be sharp enough to hurt the mommy. Your dog may have soft poop for a few days in addition to vaginal discharge and residual blood clots.
Your dog does not require too much help with her babies as she will manage things instinctively. She may be rather territorial and possessive if you try to handle the puppies, but gradually, this aggressive attitude will cease.
Take the puppies for de-worming to the vet when they are three weeks old and this is also when the weaning process should start. Once they turn six to eight weeks old, they will be ready for adoption. Additionally, make sure to vaccinate the pups to avoid deadly viruses.
How to tell if a dog is in heat?
Your dog cannot get pregnant before being in heat. It’s also recommended not to breed a dog under the age of one year. Dogs that end up breeding under the age of one, will have their growth halted permanently.
When your dog is in heat, she is able to breed with other dogs.
Generally, a heat cycle lasts for three weeks and comes once every 6-9 months. Dog’s don’t skip a heat cycle.
When your dog goes into heat, she may show some common symptoms such as:
- She becomes much more interested in male dogs.
- She will experience bloody discharge and swollen vulva.
- She will show even more interest in male dogs after 6-11 days from the heat cycle. She will start dog flirting.
- Her discharge will change colors from bloody discharge to somewhat golden sand color.
- When her heat cycle is over, her interest in male dogs disappears and she will not be as welcoming having males around her.
We started off with the question about the length of a dog’s gestational period and have gone through the entire process from the start of the pregnancy to the time when the puppies may be ready to take their place in their new home. For a first time experience, managing a pregnant dog is likely to be stressful and exhausting, but it is truly magical and amazing!