Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Canine Gestation Week by Week
According to research, the time that a dog is pregnant after ovulation is 65 days. (1) I have seen puppies born as early as 58 days post breeding, however, and heard of dogs that have gone as long as 72 days before delivering puppies.
Each week is a little different, and it is a joy to see the changes in the dog and realize puppies are on the way.
Weeks 1 and 2
Early on, most dogs do not have symptoms. Not all dogs do so, but you may see the female acting oddly since she is sometimes nauseous and perhaps a little tired. Some people report that the dog is more affectionate too.
More dogs are more likely to have "morning sickness" this week than at other times. Some of them will not want to eat or become picky and only want treats or table scraps. If your dog vomits after eating, give a small meal after letting the stomach settle for a few hours.
At the end of this week or early the next, it is possible to test a hormone that will tell you if your dog is pregnant.
Unless your dog has a huge abdomen, an experienced veterinarian or breeder can usually palpate the puppies by about the end of this week. They are still small but they are surrounded by liquid and are kind of like big grapes.
It is not possible to tell how many puppies there will be since not all of the uterus can be palpated. (If you want to know that, you can have an ultrasound done about this time and see the puppies' hearts beat. If you count them, that will tell you how many puppies there are.)
This can happen sooner or later in some dogs, but about this time (day 30) you will see changes like swollen nipples.
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Some dogs also develop a hanging belly and look pregnant after around day 40. They usually start to put on weight about this time, and some dogs start to shed the hair on the belly in this week.
At the end of this week or early into the next week, the puppies' skeletons become ossified and will show up on an x-ray. Before ultrasounds were available, this was the only way to tell how many puppies were going to be born.
Most of the research is on x-rays as a threat to the veterinarians working with dogs (2) but I still would not want to put my puppies at any added risk by performing an x-ray just to count. (Some vets and breeders disagree since if the x-ray shows that the puppies are large, a c-section will probably be performed more rapidly.)
During the last week of pregnancy, a lot of changes happen that will tell you the puppies are ready to come out. The belly relaxes more, the vulva might become swollen, and some dogs have a clear discharge that means the puppies are about to come.
About 24 hours before giving birth, the temperature drops and she tries to find a nest.
When to Worry
If the pregnancy goes on longer than 65 days, I would recommend you contact your local veterinarian so that your dog can be examined. If more than 70 days, something is almost certainly wrong.
- Kim Y, Travis AJ, Meyers-Wallen VN. Parturition prediction and timing of canine pregnancy. Theriogenology. 2007 Nov;68(8):1177-82. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2099502/
- Scheftel JM, Elchos BL, Rubin CS, Decker JA. Review of hazards to female reproductive health in veterinary practice. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2017 Apr 15;250(8):862-872. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5678953/
This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Dr Mark