How Long Are Dogs Pregnant? Week-By-Week Dog Gestation Period
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How Long Are Dogs Pregnant? Week-By-Week Dog Gestation Period

by Wes Chang

Written By: Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA | Professional Services Veterinarian, Wild Earth

We share many similarities with our canine companions — we enjoy a lot of the same foods, we experience many of the same emotions, and we’re both highly social species. One area in which dogs are rather different than humans, though, is pregnancy.

For one thing, dogs almost always give birth to more than one offspring at a time, known as a litter of puppies. And dogs don’t stay pregnant for nearly as long as humans do.

So, how long are dogs pregnant?

If your female dog is spayed, she can’t get pregnant and you’ll never have to worry about your dog’s gestation period. But if your dog isn’t spayed, or if you’re simply curious, you might want to learn more about pregnancy in dogs.

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Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about canine pregnancy, and finally answer the biggest question of all: How long do dogs stay pregnant?

In this article you will learn about the different stages of pregnancy, how to take care of a pregnant dog, and ultimately, how to prepare for your dog’s pregnancy.

Five golden retriever puppies

How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

On average, a dog’s gestation period is about 63 days, or nine weeks, with dogs generally giving birth sometime between days 57 and 65 after breeding.

Weeks 1-3 of Pregnancy

Once sperm has fertilized the eggs, the embryos begin to divide and will become embedded in the female’s uterine lining around day 16.

During the first few weeks of pregnancy, you may not notice any changes in your dog. Possible changes include increased lethargy, decreased appetite, nausea and/or vomiting. If you are wondering whether your dog may be pregnant, pregnancy can be confirmed via ultrasound around day 20 or a hormone level around day 21-25. It is important to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian if you suspect she is pregnant. Speak with your vet about the food you are feeding, and any concerns you may have.

Weeks 4-6 of Pregnancy

By week four, the fetuses are growing quickly. As they continue to increase in size, and abdominal pressure increases, it is advised to feed small, frequent meals to the pregnant female. Beginning at week 6, you may notice her food intake beginning to increase, and it will continue to increase throughout the remainder of her pregnancy.

During this stage, a pregnant female may be showing signs of pregnancy such as:

  • Swollen, red nipples, since your dog’s body is preparing to produce milk for the litter of puppies she’ll be birthing.
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Increased urination
  • An enlarged abdomen
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Changes in behavior, like an increase in affection or withdrawing from contact
  • She may also begin looking for a nesting spot in which to deliver her puppies

Weeks 7-9 of Pregnancy

By the time the pregnancy reaches its 45th to 50th day, the puppies will have skeletons and claws, as well as a coat. The puppies are almost fully developed by the 58th day of pregnancy. Around the last two weeks of pregnancy, your veterinarian should perform an abdominal x-ray so that you know how many puppies to expect to know when your dog is done giving birth.

During the last three weeks of pregnancy, food intake should increase by up to one and a half times the normal level. Remember, by this time it is important to feed small, frequent meals. As the time for labor approaches, she may become restless, perhaps panting and pacing about, and may experience a loss of appetite. Body temperature drops about 12 to 24 hours before labor begins.

It’s a good idea to prepare a whelping box for your dog to deliver her puppies in. Line a comfortable box or bed with quilts, blankets, or towels to give your pregnant dog a place to nest. She’ll go to this area when birthing is imminent to prepare for labor.

Once labor begins, your pregnant dog will likely continue to behave restlessly and refuse to eat. Labor itself can last anywhere from a few hours to a full day. It should not last longer than 24 hours, though. Puppies will appear one at a time, every half hour or so, but should not appear in increments longer than two hours. Speak with your vet about what typical labor should look like, and when there may be cause for concern.

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What should you feed your Pregnant dog?

Your pregnant dog should be eating a high-quality dog food specifically formulated for puppies and/or pregnant dogs throughout her pregnancy and lactation. It is important that the food contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA specifically to support the puppies’ brain development. Feeding amounts will change during her pregnancy to support her energy requirements.

Five puppies in a basket

Will Dogs Get Pregnant After The First Time Mating?

It is very possible that your dog could become pregnant after just the first time of mating. Female dogs have a chance up to as high as 40% of getting pregnant after the first time of mating. This is much higher than many other types of animals which is important to know if your dog hasn’t been spayed or if you are planning to get your dog pregnant.

Prepare Your Dog for Motherhood

As soon as you notice what could be the symptoms of pregnancy, you’ll want to work closely with your veterinarian to make sure your dog and her litter stay healthy throughout the pregnancy. Your vet will also be able to give you a better idea of a due date and the size of the litter.

Being prepared and educated ahead of time is the best way to ensure your dog safely gives birth to a beautiful litter of adorable newborn puppies.

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