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Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: August 22, 2018
Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week

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If you suspect your dog is pregnant or you are unsure and looking for helpful information, you have entered the correct site. In this AnimalWised article we are going to tell you all about dog pregnancy and the gestation process. It's important to know what your beloved pet needs during this special time and what the puppies will soon require.

Keep reading to find out all about dog pregnancy - week by week along with the symptoms and the length of the process. We will also provide you with useful information about food, walks, etc. Let's begin!

You may also be interested in: False Pregnancy in Cats

Symptoms of a pregnant dog

You may have doubts that your dog is pregnant, because matings are not always successful. For that reason, here are some signs that can help you identify if your dog is pregnant.

  • Changes in vaginal flow: The first thing you should know if you suspect your bitch may be pregnant is that the estrous cycle is not a reliable indicator. It is a common mistake to think that it resembles that of women, but its nothing further from reality. A bitch will have estrus twice a year approximately, so its absence is no clear indication of pregnancy. What you can observe that would indicate they may be pregnant is their vaginal discharge, which can change color and consistency, without blood.
  • Behavioral changes: There are also several behavioral signs that may make you think your dog is pregnant: Decreased appetite or change of desire in feeding. The vitality of the dog is usually reduced, they are more tired and remain lying down and may even show general discomfort.
    For the preparation of the nest of puppies the dog will find a suitable place and drag blankets to that corner. They could also start scratching the walls and not want to go for a walk. We can observe sobbing and a general sense of attitude.
  • Physical changes: The pregnancy of a bitch lasts from 63 to 67 days, more or less. Approximately one month pregnant, when you can start to notice that the belly of the dog swells and begins to lower.
    A key symptom of a pregnant dog are the changes that occur in her breasts. Looking at your bitch's breasts you will see that they are bigger and her nipples are more visible - they are already preparing for breastfeeding. You can even notice milk.

If you have detected these symptoms in your dog do not wait any longer and go to the vet. They will confirm the pregnancy through blood tests and ultrasound and will ensure that everything goes smoothly. In these moments, more than ever, you must meticulously care for your dog's health.

Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - Symptoms of a pregnant dog

Psychological pregnancy of a dog

Sometimes if a bitch is made to mate several times but fails to get pregnant, she may suffer a false pregnancy, phantom pregnancy or psychological pregnancy. However this can also happen for no reason at all.

When the dog undergoes a psychological pregnancy, their physical development is carried out like a normal pregnancy. We will notice several signs that can confuse us like the increase of the breasts for example. In these cases, your dog will act strangely, just like a pregnant bitch. After a few days she may steal stuffed animals to treat them like babies. We must be patient and empathetic with her because this stage usually lasts about three weeks at most.

The best way to tell if your dog is suffering a false pregnancy is to go to the vet when we suspect it. False pregnancy can worsen significantly if it is not treated properly and our dog can develop an infection in the breasts (by the milk production) as well as a mastitis. The specialist should review the health of the animal and provide treatment or not.

Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - Psychological pregnancy of a dog

Diagnosis of pregnancy in dogs

To check the gestation state you cannot give a pregnancy test to a dog, because they are designed to detect a hormone that is only present in humans.

To make sure, we must go to the veterinarian who will perform the following steps to diagnose the pregnancy of the dog:

  • Serological tests: By means of a urine analysis, the pregnancy can be confirmed but without providing data on the number of puppies or the viability of the process.
  • Abdominal palpation: It requires a certain ability to detect gestation, it is the most economical and traditional method. It is not 100% reliable and it will not reveal problems that can occur. It can be done after 23 and even 30 days after mating.
  • Ultrasound: It is sensitive, reliable and safe for the bitch and the operator to not transmit harmful waves. It certifies the pregnancy but may not correctly detail the size of the litter. It can be done after approximately 21 days of mating.
  • Radiography: It can only be done from day 44 of gestation because of the low visibility that the puppies will offer in addition to the radiation damage they can receive. The ideal time to do this is during the last third of pregnancy, when the risk for puppies is the same as the dog may suffer. It is the ideal method and most used to correctly estimate the number of puppies in the litter.
Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - Diagnosis of pregnancy in dogs

Feeding your pregnant dog

Follow the steps below so that your pregnant pup enjoys the best care and attention, remember to take her to the vet throughout the process to avoid complications:

  • In the first weeks of pregnancy it will be difficult to detect, so initially she will continue to eat food as usual. She will also continue to enjoy your walks and games every day. Symptoms of pregnancy will not take long to develop, you will notice she is feeling uneasy and even nausea may appear.
  • From the moment we know that our dog is pregnant and already from 5 weeks of gestation we must increase her daily dose of food by 5% each week that passes. Remember that you need to feed the puppies she carries inside. Consult your vet to know exactly the correct dose - it can vary depending on the number of puppies.
  • Extra food: If you notice abnormal changes in their stool you can switch to a softer, canned or digestive food. At six weeks, the pregnant bitch needs proteins and vitamins that favor the healthy development of her pups. For that reason, you can offer her specific food for puppies, which will help you in the process.
  • Hydration is vital. You should always have at their disposal a large bowl of fresh water.
  • There are people who recommend giving a specific glass of milk daily to the pregnant bitch. That will help you produce more milk. Ask your vet what products you have in your office.
  • In the final phase of pregnancy: At this critical point, the dog has increasingly less space in her body to house food. We recommend that you administer the food frequently but with small portions. It is usual for her to stop eating. Even if her bowl has a small amount, you must replenish it once it runs out.
  • At the time of the arrival of the puppies, the dog will need to continue on a special diet to favor the production of milk.

Other tips you should know:

  • Feeding the dog during the first two weeks of gestation should be the same, even if we are aware of the pregnancy.
  • In the case of the appearance of nausea we will have to administer food little by little divided in several mealtimes.
  • Nutritional supplements such as vitamins or proteins should not be given before 6 weeks of pregnancy, as it can lead to improper development of puppies.
  • Never administer medications in pregnancy.
  • Always go when you notice a behavior strange to the vet.
Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - Feeding your pregnant dog

Caring for your pregnant dog

During this very special process we must know that our dog is more sensitive and for that reason we should be aware of her and her needs. It is obvious that we must go to the vet regularly to perform the relevant tests and follow a check to verify that everything is developing correctly.

The most important care she will need is nutrition, detailed in the previous section. In addition, we must control her weight as it is useful to prevent obesity and provide a balanced, healthy and rich diet.

We also recommend that she has a comfortable bed in a separate room if necessary and that it is away from cold, drafts or stressful noise. We should provide her with a rather large room with blankets and cotton rags, which she will use to create her nest and then give birth there. It is also important that you do not force her to drink, eat or exercise. We must have patience and seek calmness and comfort.

Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - Caring for your pregnant dog

Dog pregnancy week by week

As we have mentioned before, it is important to go regularly to the vet to monitor the pregnancy and see its development, below you have a summary of it all week by week:

  • First week: Once the female ovulates, the copulation is performed and with it the fertilization. It can be repeated a couple of days later to achieve 100% pregnancy.
    Once fertilized, her heat cycle is over.
  • Third week: The sperm is implanted in the uterine lining and begins to develop. It is this week when we can perform a serological test, as the first metabolic changes appear.
  • Fourth week: The fetuses begin to develop very slowly, and the 25th is approaching, when we can go to the vet to perform our first ultrasound or abdominal palpation.
  • Fifth week: At 35 days she is immersed in the fetal phase, and the genetic needs of the dog change, that is when we will start to provide more food than usual, increasing the dose by 5% each week.
  • Seventh week: This is the key moment when the puppy's body is mineralizing, remember that at this point the dog may refuse to eat. Help with soft or appetizing food.
  • Eighth week: From day 50 the skeleton of the fetuses is already completely ossified. Schedule your appointment with the vet to perform the x-ray and to determine the number of fetuses. It is very important to perform this test so that at the time of delivery you can confirm that there is no puppy inside yet. We must begin to prepare the bed where the birth will occur. The temperature of the room should be around 30ºC without feeling dry. At this point the dog will begin to produce milk. Purchase one or two containers of milk at pet stores or specialized sites in case the production of the female is not enough for the entire litter. The puppies already have sensitivity to the touch, so to encourage their development even before birth, caress the belly of your pregnant bitch. We recommend bathing the dog at the end of this eighth week so that the delivery is as hygienic as possible, as long as it does not make her nervous. We can use dry shampoos to avoid disturbing her.
  • Ninth week: Delivery time! Be attentive 24 hours a day taking turns with your relatives if needed, she will need your help. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about the delivery of the dog.
Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - Dog pregnancy week by week

The birth of the pups

If your vet has not told you that there is a risk, your dog will give birth at home. Otherwise, when symptoms of labor appear, you should go to the vet clinic immediately.

If you have finally decided to keep your dog at home, remember that it is a very hard time for her and that she will probably need your assistance. Take turns watching with your partner or family so you can be by her side at this special time. And fundamentally, have an emergency vet number handy in case any complications arise.

You will start to notice some signs that the moment is approaching:

  • Dilation of the vulva and pelvic ligaments.
  • Your dog is looking for a quiet place.
  • She is irritated, nervous (it is normal, we should not worry).
  • Prepare the space for delivery in a secluded place.

My dog is about to give birth, what should I do?

The puppies themselves are the ones who trigger the birth. There are three phases of childbirth:

  1. Relaxation or dilation of the uterus: 4 to 24 hour duration. The female prepares to expel the puppies. It is a moment of restlessness and nervousness. The vulva is enlarged and can even secrete some fluids.
  2. Expulsion of the offspring: When the contractions begin to return intense and have a duration of at least 60 seconds we must be very relaxed and attentive. We will notice she starts licking her genital area. The contractions will become stronger until the first puppy is expelled from the body (it is attached by the umbilical cord to the placenta). The rest of the puppies will follow according to small intervals of time. Generally the delivery usually lasts about 2 hours but can be lengthened considerably if it is a very large litter (there are cases up to 24 hours). The female is going to lick the puppies to stimulate them while cutting the umbilical cord. There are very few cases in which she does not. If you notice that she does not have the strength to carry out this task, do it yourself. Remember that you must count the puppies to know that they are all out according to the results of the x-ray.
  3. Placenta expulsion: During delivery, each puppy is born wrapped in a placenta, on each of these occasions the dog breaks it to let the puppy breathe and later it is eaten, because the nutritional value is very high. If you notice that she does not break the placenta, do it yourself, as the puppies could die. In addition, we advise that if the placenta expelled is too large do not let your dog eat it all, as it can lead to digestive problems.
Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - The birth of the pups

Problems during childbirth

We can affirm that in most cases there are usually no risks in the birth of puppies. Even so, and for this reason we have been recommending that you periodically visit the veterinarian during pregnancy. A professional will be able to tell if your pregnant bitch can give birth at home without any problems or will require specialized care.

If you notice any of the birthing problems below, call the emergency vet without delay:

  • Absence of uterine contractions
  • Hemorrhage
  • Abortion
  • Abnormal birth (fetus jam)
  • Retention of the placenta (not expelled)
  • Fetal death
  • Mummification

Some tips for the three most common problems:

Puppy jam: If we watch a small puppy stuck in the birth canal we should never pull them, but should rotate them clockwise to encourage overture of the vagina.

The mother fails to cut the umbilical cord: We'll cut it with scissors ourselves, then we'll make a knot.

A puppy does not breathe: We will open their mouth and practice artificial respiration, in addition we will massage the region of the thorax vigorously and stimulate heat without harming them. Shake them a little while you hold their head carefully.

Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - Problems during childbirth

Postpartum

Your dog's puppies depend entirely on their mother, both for food and for regulating body temperature. Their milk is very important because it immunizes them from various diseases that may exist in their environment. As we have mentioned before, if you observe that your dog does not clean or feed them you must do it yourself. Check out our article on a diet for a prematurely weaned puppy.

Wrap them in cotton towels and place them all in the same small and warm environment. If your bitch does not offer to breastfeed them, bring the milk that you have acquired at the pet store, always in small doses and being very careful. Call your vet and ask for advice during this important process.

Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week - Postpartum

Any questions? Don't hesitate to leave a comment.

If you want to read similar articles to Dog Pregnancy - Week by Week, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.

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4 comments
Cecille
my baby is almost 4yrs old, 1st time to have litter. she showed everything that you mentioned about signs of being pregnant. her supposed to be due date is tomorrow. she undergo x-ray today and going back to the vet tomorrow. but looking at the x-ray i dont see and vertebrae. the vet said 2weeks ago it might be only 1 puppy, her belly isnt that big. she's a shih tzu. i'm getting worried about her condition. she got humped 3x but didnt locked.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Cecille,

You have taken your dog to the vet and this is the best course of action. You will have to trust they know what they're doing and listen to them. While worrying is perfectly understandable, it won't help them. It sounds like you are providing the comfort and assistance they need. Time may tell.
Stephanie
My girl is at 49 days and she has loved what we’ve been feeding thus far but in last cpl days she’s not that into food she just wants to lay around. I read above it says they can do that in week 7 I just want to make sure!! This is our first litter and I just looking for a little reassurance that we’re on the right path! Thank you in advance
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Stephanie,

49 days is a little early for your dog, but it is not unknown for it to happen at this stage. It is why many vets recommend a scan at around 45 days to check the progress. While nesting and loss of appetite are signs of a dog preparing for labor, they might also be signs of something else. We can't diagnose anything here, so if you are at all unsure, please seek veterinary advice. Even calling the clinic might be useful. Good luck and we hope all goes well!
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Nox
"As we have mentioned before, if you observe that your dog does not lick or feed them you must do it yourself."

Can I have dibs on NOT licking any newborn pups, even if the mother refuses?
Administrador AnimalWised
Fair enough Nox, we'll make it a little clearer for our readers.
Irene
How mane weeks do a dog get big wen they r pregnant
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Irene

The size of the dog and pregnancy depend on the breed of the dog

Regards
AnimalWised

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