What to Expect When Your Pregnant Dog Is Expecting Puppies
Puppy Development, Birth, and Rehoming
Dogs may give birth to anywhere from 1 to 15 puppies. Depending on the breed, most dogs have an average of 5 to 7 puppies per litter. Whether or not you know how many puppies you will end up with, you will want to begin lining up homes for them before they are born (unless you are planning on keeping all of them). Make sure candidates are family, friends, or people your family and friends trust.
Don't give any puppies to strangers; sometimes people will take free puppies and either sell them for a profit or use them for dogfighting. Every puppy deserves a safe home and a loving family.
Signs Your Dog Is Pregnant
If you suspect your dog may be pregnant or you observe any of these signs, your veterinarian may be able to determine whether she is or not by palpating (feeling) the uterus around the 28th day, or by performing an ultrasound.
Signs of Early Pregnancy
- Decreased appetite
- Sudden decrease in activity
- Behavioral changes
- Nipple growth
Signs of Mid-Term Pregnancy
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
Signs of Late-Term Pregnancy
- Obvious increase in abdomen size
- Detectable puppy movement
- Milk production
Signs That Delivery Is Near
- Nesting behaviors
- Signs of distress
- Sudden drop in temperature
Dog Pregnancy Timeline
Prior to Delivery
Obviously enlarged abdomen
Movement of puppies can be felt
Signs of distress
Milk production begins
Drop in body temperature
Puppy Growth and Development in Utero
Dogs pregnancy lasts for approximately two months. Here is a week-by-week rundown of the development of your pregnant dog's puppies.
- Week 1 (Days 1–7): Fertilization has happened. The two-cell embryos are in the oviduct. Morning sickness may occur.
- Week 2 (Days 8–14): The embryos grow from 4 to 64 cells over the course of the week. The embryos then enter the uterus. Morning sickness is still possible.
- Week 3 (Days 15–21): The embryos implant in the uterus on day 19.
- Week 4 (Days 22–28): The puppies begin to develop. The eyes and spinal cords form, and the faces begin to take shape. The mother may experience clear vaginal discharge, and her mammary glands will begin to develop.
- Week 5 (Days 29–35): The fetuses begin to look like puppies. The eyes (previously open) now close. Toes, whisker buds, and claws develop. The puppies' sexes may be determined at this stage via ultrasound. Weight increase and swelling may now be noticeable in the mother.
- Week 6 (Days 36–42): The puppies begin to develop skin pigment. Their heartbeats may even be heard with a stethoscope. As the puppies grow, their mother's abdomen will continue to enlarge and her nipples will darken.
- Week 7 (Days 43–49): Pregnancy is very noticeable at this point. The puppies continue to develop.
- Week 8 (Days 50–57): Puppies are now developed enough that they can be safely delivered. Fetal movement may be detected, and milk may be squeezed from the nipples.
- Week 9 (Days 58–65): Nesting behaviors may be observed. Signs of distress such as panting or pacing are also common.
Whelping and the Birth of the Pups
The whelping date, or the day the mother gives birth, is usually about 63 days after ovulation. As the time for her to begin whelping draws near, your dog will begin nesting. This means she will prepare a comfortable place to give birth, most likely a quiet, dark place that is away from any commotion. If your dog lives indoors, you will want to prepare a birthing box a couple of weeks ahead of time so she gets used to it and doesn't choose to give birth in your closet or on your bed.
Stage 1: Labor
You will probably notice that your dog seems distressed or uncomfortable. This is because her body is in labor and is preparing to give birth to the litter. Signs of distress are totally normal.
Most dogs whelp vaginally (through the birth canal) without any complications. Some, however, may need a cesarean section (surgery). Dogs with large heads or long snouts are most likely to require this sort of procedure.
Labor begins with contractions of the uterus, which you will not be able to see. You will, however, probably notice panting and restlessness. There is little you can do at this stage aside from keeping the environment calm and quiet.
Stages 2 and 3: Birth and Placenta Delivery
The second stage of whelping ends with the delivery of a pup. The third stage is the expulsion of a placenta. Stages two and three will alternate until all of the puppies have been delivered. There may be several minutes or several hours between the delivery of each pup.
Immediately after a puppy is born, its mother will clean the mucus from its nose with her tongue and vigorously lick it until it is breathing on its own. She will then clean up and feed the puppy. Even if it is her first time whelping, she will instinctively know what to do. All you need to do is make sure everything is moving along smoothly and ensure the puppies are able to breathe and nurse from the mother.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.