Dogs are pregnant for around 60-65 days, which is about nine weeks. That time is known as the gestation period.
The pregnancy can last up to 70 days depending on when the female mated and whether her egg was ready to be fertilised.
You probably won't be able to tell your dog's pregnant for the first three weeks.
We know that the bitch is the one that is pregnant but because many people use the term 'dog' when looking for information about pet pregnancy we're using it in this article to refer to the species in general.
You may be interested to know the father of a litter is called the sire and the mother is called the dam.
How soon can you tell if a dog is pregnant?
Vets can carry out a pregnancy test after 21 days. It measures hormone levels that might indicate your dog is pregnant.
An ultrasound can confirm pregnancy sometime after the 25th day.
Your vet might be able to feel the litter around day 30.
The skeletons of the puppies start forming around week six and may be visible in x-rays from that time.
What happens after my pregnant dog’s stomach drops?
Her belly should begin to swell visibly around day 40. Puppies develop rapidly after this point.
Some common physical signs are:
Nipples become more prominent and pinker
Appetite might change, especially towards the end of the pregnancy. The unborn puppies will be pressing against mum’s stomach so she may prefer small frequent snacks to large meals
Some dogs become quieter and sleep more.
If you are concerned about any of the signs and symptoms, consult a vet.
How to tell when a dog is about to give birth?
Signs that your dog has gone into the first stage of labour are likely to include:
Lower body temperature (under 37°C)
When contractions start your dog will begin straining. This stage can last a few hours. The release of a clear fluid – water breaking – will signal that puppies are on the way. You can expect the first one around 20 to 30 minutes after that.
Puppies should come out around 20 minutes apart. The mum might rest in between. If she rests for longer than two hours, contact your vet.
You should also contact your vet if she strains for longer than two hours without any puppies being delivered.
Preparing your home
Start preparing for the arrival of the new puppies begin at least two weeks before the due date.
Your dog may start nesting – she’s preparing a safe and warm place for the birth, which is also known as whelping.
Help her by offering a whelping box. A large cardboard box will do just fine. Cover the floor of the box with plenty of padding, blankets and clean towels. Your dog might drag soft things in to make the place inviting for the litter.
Don’t be surprised if you place the box somewhere in the house and your dog moves as she might find another spot more appealing. To avoid stressing her unnecessarily, let her have her way.
If you’ve gone past day 60 and are eager to keep track you can take her temperature every few hours as long as that doesn’t stress her out.
If her temperature drops down to 37°C it's a sign she is likely to be going into labour.
What to do while your dog is giving birth
Your dog should be able to go through labour on her own but stay close to keep an eye on her.
Help her stay calm by comforting her and speaking to her in a soft, soothing tone.
Have your vet’s number at hand and contact them if you think something’s wrong.
You might have to call a vet if your dog begins straining but has not produced a puppy in over an hour.
When and how can dogs get pregnant?
Dogs need to be in season to get pregnant.
Most dogs go into heat twice a year. Their mating period has four stages and it is in the second stage, which lasts around two to three weeks on average when dogs can become pregnant.
Domestic dogs reach sexual maturity between six to 12 months and up to two years for larger breeds.
Dogs stay fertile till late in life so can get pregnant even when older.
Does pet insurance cover pregnancy?
Very few pet insurers will cover pregnancy.
At ManyPets we offer a range of pet insurance policies that will cover complications arising from your dog's first pregnancy, as long as your pet has been insured with us for 6 months or more.
If you're a breeder, insurance that covers dog pregnancy is available through the Kennel Club. You'll need to add it on during the quote process.
Does pet insurance cover a C-section?
Almost all insurers won't cover C-sections, but ManyPets will cover a C-section for your dog, as long as it's deemed necessary, having arisen from a pregnancy complication.
Phantom pregnancy in dogs
A large number of female dogs, around 50% to 60% experience phantom or false pregnancy (a.k.a pseudo-pregnancy). It's usually a hormonal imbalance that fools your dog’s body and mind into believing she is expecting.
The condition doesn’t normally last longer than three weeks and often doesn't need treatment. But if you don't intend to breed from your dog you might choose to spay her – this will prevent false pregnancy. If your dog is experiencing a false pregnancy, it is best to wait until it passes before spaying.
Phantom pregnancies can cause other health problems like pyometra – a potentially life-threatening womb infection and a medical emergency.
My pregnant dog is losing jelly – is that normal?
You may see a stringy white discharge of egg-white-like texture about a week prior to whelping. This is your dog losing its mucosa plug. The mucosa plug forms at the entrance of the cervix, shortly after the dog has conceived.
Its function is to protect the litter from bacteria and infection.
Many dog owners do not spot the discharge as dogs tend to clean it up.
It is not uncommon for there to appear to be a little of bit of blood in the discharge.
Are worming and vaccination safe for pregnant dogs?
Deworming during pregnancy is recommended. Consult your veterinarian about the type of dewormer you need to use in order to ensure your dog does not pass worms to her puppies.
It is best to make sure your dog is up to date on her boosters before she gets pregnant in order to ensure optimal protection for the puppies.
Vaccinating during pregnancy is not usually recommended.
Can a dog get pregnant when she is not in season?
A female dog can only get pregnant when she is in season. Most female dogs are unlikely to even accept a male unless they’re in heat.