Whether your own dog is pregnant or you’re just a potential buyer interested in the process, waiting for puppies can be a very exciting time.
If you’re looking for a puppy, make sure you ask your breeder these questions.
The same applies to you if you’re a breeder. Make sure to pair any dog with the right buyer and provide transparency.
Let’s jump right in and find out what it looks like to follow a dog pregnancy week by week and also get more info on the dog gestation periods and pregnancy stages.
You will also learn how to spot the symptoms of a dog pregnancy.
How long are dogs pregnant?
Dogs are pregnant for about 63 days, although this can vary by several days. The day that they ovulate cannot be measured precisely because eggs can remain fertile for 48 hours and sperm for several days.
Before the Dog Pregnancy Stages
There are four different stages of the heat cycle which lasts about 18 to 21 days. Breeders utilize different tests during this time to determine the perfect time to breed.
Proestrus (9 days)
This is the first stage, where the vulva starts to swell up and blood drips out. Male dogs will be attracted by this smell but the female will reject any attempts.
Estrus (3-4 or 7-11 days)
Your female dog will be receptive to males. The vulva softens and this is the time where the bitch will be most fertile.
Diestrus (from day 14)
Diestrus describes the last stage where hormone levels are going down and the vulva gets back to normal.
It happens around day 14 where the female dog will no longer take part in mating. When blood discharge ends, the cycle will be complete.
Anestrus (6 months)
Anestrus describes the time between two cycles and it lasts around 6 months depending on your dog’s size and breed.
Often dog gestation symptoms are mistaken for medical issues. It is not easy to tell if your bitch is pregnant and you will probably not notice it until the third or fourth week.
Symptoms of Dog Pregnancy
Early signs could be that your dog is gaining weight or changing her behavior but to really identify symptoms, you will need to visit your veterinarian.
A vet has various tools to test for pregnancy, among them the hormone test, ultrasound, x-ray, or palpation.
Possible symptoms include:
- Hormone changes causing morning sickness around the 4th week
- Loss of appetite and less energy
- Nipples are swollen and red due to milk production for puppies
- Nesting behavior with toys, food etc. (check out my article on food aggression and make sure to spot the difference)
- Especially with larger breeds, you may not notice any difference in abdomen size until three weeks before labor.
Dog Pregnancy Week by Week
Like I said before, the period of a dog’s pregnancy can vary and can only be accurately predicted with hormone measurements, like blood tests.
- 56-58 days from
- 64-66 days from
in progesterone rise
- 58-72 days from mating
The first week begins with the mating between two dogs.
Make sure you’ve chosen the right male partner and that they each match in terms of temperament since part of a puppy’s temperament is determined by genetics.
Penetration can occur very quickly within a minute. The vaginal reflex of the bitch locks the male inside until the mating act has completed.
It is very important to not try to separate them as this will cause pain and harm to both of them. Mating can last from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
Our canine friends are similar in the aspect that mating doesn’t necessarily mean that the bitch will be pregnant now.
But if she has been fertile during that time, the eggs will be fertilized and wander towards the uterine horns at the end of the first week.
Your female dog will now slowly get out of heat and you can continue on feeding, walking, and grooming her as usual.
You should start monitoring your dog’s weight as early weight gain makes her prone to complications. Talk to your vet regarding nutrition.
But if you are already feeding a well-balanced diet, probably no supplements need to be added. Make sure to check out my raw feeding guide for more information.
At this time, the embryos won’t account for a visible change in size and the energy level of your dog should remain the same.
The embryos embed in the lining of the uterus. Your dog will experience “morning sickness” which only lasts a few days. After that, her appetite should increase.
You can continue on treating your dog normally.
In the 4th week, you should visit your vet to confirm the pregnancy.
He can perform an ultrasound or run blood tests to confirm the gestation and he can give you the approximate number of the puppies and if they seem to be healthy.
The embryos begin to form legs and arms at that stage and you will probably want to add more nutritious food to her diet.
The embryos are developing further and building organs. They are now referred to as fetuses and experience a weight increase by 75%.
This marks the end of the first stage of gestation and the female dog might change her behavior. She usually will become more clingy and affectionate.
In the third and final stage of gestation, the dog’s belly visual increases in size, and the teats begin to darken.
The fetus takes shape and develops a solid skeleton and claws. Your dog will begin to rest more and may appear fatigued as the process speeds up now. She will also require more nutritional food now.
Consult your vet and choose the right food for her diet. You may also want to split up her two large meals into several small ones as her appetite will drop.
The last few weeks are vital for the health of the fetus. Hair begins to grow and the skeleton becomes stronger.
You will want to get your bitch checked by the vet and to deworm her in order to avoid that the puppies will be infected with parasites at birth (learn how I prevent fleas and ticks with coconut oil for regular situations).
Your dog will start to search for a quite nesting place to deliver her litter. Provide her with a “whelping box” at this time. You can read below about how you can build a whelping box yourself.
By day 50, the fetus has now fully developed and your vet can perform an x-ray to confirm the number of puppies, so you know what you can expect at birth.
The milk flows from the teats of the bitch (lactating) which will happen about a week before birth.
The whelping box should now be completely built and set up in a quiet place of the house that is easy to reach for the bitch.
The average gestation period lasts for 63 days but everything from 56-66 days is considered normal. Your dog will start experiencing the first signs of labor 48 hours before birth.
How to Build a Whelping Box
You cannot explain this better than the article on this si
Signs of Labor
Your dog will lose appetite around 2 days before labor and she will be wandering around, digging, and panting. 12 to 24 hours before labor, her body temperature will drop and she will start to shiver.
Constantly check her temperature if she is calm enough. A drop of 1°C/1,8°F on average means that the bitch is about to go into labor.
She will start to get more restless and anxious and her panting will get stronger.
What to Get Before Birth
- The whelping box should be covered with newspaper and a second thick layer of linen
- You will need lots of linen, clean towels, and sheets as you will have to constantly change them during birth to make sure everything is clean
- Get yourself some disposable gloves
- Make sure that the room is very warm (temperature should be about 26°C o 30°C degrees). A heat lamp with a socket would be great to provide that warmth
- Phone number of your vet in case of an emergency
- Something to clean up in between like paper towels
Provide your dog with comfort during birth. She will probably do most of the things herself but you must be there to help in an emergency.
You should also be ready to help if a puppy doesn’t start breathing after birth. Here is a video what you can do in such a moment:
Generally, it can really help to watch a few videos to get more familiar with what really happens during birth.
When abdominal contractions commence, the first puppy should be delivered within the next 1 to 2 hours. The water sack will break (you can break it yourself if it doesn’t) and the membranes should be separated from the puppies.
Around 40% of puppies are born tail first and one puppy should be born every 30 to 60 minutes.
Your dog will probably eat the placenta after it has expelled. This is completely normal.
The bitch will mostly clean the puppies herself. If you want to help, you can gently rub them with a clean and soft towel. Do not use a hairdryer and do not put the puppies in water.
You should also avoid pulling the puppies out because it will really harm both the mother and the puppy.
Feel free to share your experiences or questions in the comments below!