You probably have a lot of questions regarding your pregnant dog. How long are dogs pregnant? What should I do to prepare for the puppies? Take a look at our guide to learn the answers to all of these questions and more.
Determining whether or not a dog is pregnant can be difficult. The signs are a bit subtle and easy to miss if you don’t know what to look for.
Ahead, we’ll take a look at the signs a dog is pregnant, the steps you can take to care for them and prepare for a litter of puppies, as well as answer the question: “how long are dogs pregnant?”
Going Into Heat
Before we can talk about pregnancy symptoms, caring for your dog, and answer the question “how long are dogs pregnant?” we have to talk about female dogs going into heat.
Female dogs who aren’t spayed will start to go into heat around six months old - depending on the breed of dog. Some dogs will begin to mature as early as four months old, while larger breeds won’t start going into heat until they’re around 18 to 24 months of age.
From there, the dog will go into heat about every six months or so. You may begin to notice that your dog is a bit more hyper and distracted than normal. They may urinate frequently, and their vulva will start to swell.
The most noticeable behavioral sign that a dog is in heat is their attraction to male dogs. They may initiate sex with male dogs throughout their heat cycle. This might not be evident in the beginning stages of heat, but you will probably notice the interaction if you bring your dog around male dogs while she is in heat.
The heat cycle lasts for around three weeks, and your dog might get pregnant any time throughout. They will accept a male dog’s interest for the most part, and may even initiate sex during the later stages.
These heat cycles last for the entirety of your dog’s life. They begin to get more sporadic as your dog ages, but you can still recognize the telltale signs that she is in heat. These are rather obvious to the trained eye, and you’ll start to become better at knowing when your dog is in heat after the first few times.
Now, it’s time to answer the question: “how long are dogs pregnant?”
It will take around 22 days from insemination for the puppy fetuses to begin to form in your dog’s uterus. Your vet will be able to diagnose the pregnancy about a week after that, and the puppies will begin development from there.
Their eyelids, toes, and claws will all develop by day 40 of pregnancy. Next are the coat and the skeleton on day 45, which is when your vet can x-ray your dog and tell you how many puppies you can expect.
Somewhere around the 60th day of pregnancy, your dog will start to look for a place to give birth. You should consider taking them to the vet at this point since pregnancy complications can risk the life of your dog and her puppies.
Dogs go into labor in stages, and the first stage usually takes around 14 hours to complete. She will start having contractions and may act a bit out of character - walking around aimlessly and possibly refusing food. You should be marking your calendar at this point, and bring them to a professional to protect against any complications.
Your dog will begin to give birth in the second stage of pregnancy. Each puppy will take an average of up to an hour to deliver, but shouldn’t be much longer than an hour and a half each. This is where the previous x-rays come into play, so you know how many puppies she is expecting.
The third stage is the placenta delivery, and this happens in tandem with stage two. The birth has finished when your dog delivers her final placenta.
Signs Your Dog Is Pregnant
It’s very easy to miss a dog’s pregnancy in the beginning stages. If you don’t recognize the last time, they went into heat, distinguishing the timeline of pregnancy can be difficult.
Your dog won’t show many signs that she’s pregnant in the beginning. She will start to gain weight, but it’s not uncommon for dogs to gain and lose weight when they aren’t pregnant, adding further ambiguity at the first stage of gestation.
The signs your dog will start to show are relatively hard to discern as well. She will start to get morning sickness around week three or four. At the same time, she may appear lethargic and reject food in some instances.
Again, these symptoms could be a sign of a lot of things. It can be tough to tell for sure that your dog is pregnant if you don’t recognize that your dog went into heat a few weeks ago.
You should probably take your dog for a checkup if she starts to develop these symptoms. She could be experiencing an illness even if she isn’t pregnant. At this time, your vet will feel your dog’s stomach and tell you whether or not she is pregnant.
Even if you skip all of these steps, you’ll almost certainly notice the belly expansion that starts around week six. Her nipples will begin to get darker and may discharge as well. This is a surefire sign that your dog is pregnant, even if you’ve missed all of the others.
Your dog’s belly will continue to grow until she finally gives birth. You may even notice the puppies moving and kicking when she lays down.
You should take your dog to the vet if you think she’s pregnant. They will be able to tell you for sure. In later stages, they will even be able to give your dog an x-ray that shows how many puppies you can expect.
The first stage of tests involves feeling your dog’s belly. You shouldn’t try to do this on your own, as an inexperienced person could cause harm to the puppies inside.
Next, your vet will perform an ultrasound and view the heartbeats within. They will guess at how many puppies are in the litter at this point but will confirm a few weeks later with an x-ray.
Caring For Your Pregnant Dog
Now that you’ve confirmed that your dog is pregnant, it’s time to care for her until the babies come. Your vet will likely guide you through the beginning of the process, which leads us to our first point.
As we’ve detailed above, vets will be equipped to tell whether your dog is pregnant or experiencing another condition. It can be difficult to tell during the early stages, so it’s best to let a professional step in and run tests.
Your vet will also be able to diagnose any complications that might take place during pregnancy. You should tell your vet about any medications you’re giving your dog, and he’ll advise you whether or not you should continue them. Some medicines can be harmful to growing puppies, and you’ll want to stop these immediately.
Keeping Her Healthy
The most important role you have as a dog owner is keeping your pregnant dog healthy. Choose only the highest-quality foods for the good girl, and begin to increase her food supply over the stages of her development.
Your vet will likely give you a food plan based on how far along your dog’s pregnancy is. Over time, you will increase the amount of food you give her to help nourish the growing puppies.
Preparing for Birth
While it’s often safest to have your dog give birth at the vet, it isn’t always ideal. Complications can happen, but they are more common if your dog is stressed during her pregnancy.
When it gets closer to the due date, your dog will begin to search for a place to give birth. You should provide her with a homemade or store-bought nest where she can comfortably birth her new puppies.
A simple way to create a nest is to use an appropriately sized box with some comfortable blankets and some newspaper to prevent any leaks. You’ll be throwing all of this away when your dog has given birth, so don’t use any of your nice blankets.
Make the area a bit secluded and allow your dog to get comfortable with it. You want them to feel right at home when they’re birthing their litter.
Humans are relatively helpless when we’re giving birth, but dogs are not. They should take care of everything themselves, but you might need to step in if she’s too tired or confused from a long labor period.
The puppies will be trapped in a placental membrane when they are first born. The dog should remove this herself, but you need to do it if she doesn’t. The babies can only breathe for a few minutes inside.
The same is the case with the umbilical cord. Your dog will probably take care of this on her own, but you need to keep some sharp, sterile scissors on hand just in case.
Finally, you are done with the process and have a happy, healthy litter of puppies.
Congratulations! Now, it’s probably time to contact some friends who are interested in getting a puppy or two. A litter of puppies is cute, but probably not practical for most people in the long-term.