What to Expect When Your Dog is Expecting Puppies
From Conception to the Birth of Puppies
Dogs may give birth to just one puppy or up to 15 pups. On average, however, depending on the breed, they will generally have five to seven in a litter. Even if you don't know how many puppies you will end up with, unless you are planning on keeping all of them, you will want to begin lining up homes for them before they are born. Make sure candidates are family, friends, or people your family and friends trust. Don't promise to give any free to strangers; sometimes people will take free puppies and either sell them for a profit or use them for dog fighting. Every puppy deserves a safe home and 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 using ultrasound.
- Decreased appetite
- Sudden decrease in activity
- Behavioral changes
- Nipple growth
- Increase in appetite
- Weight gain
- Obvious increase in abdomen size
- Puppy movement
- Milk production
When Delivery Is Near:
- Signs of nesting
- Signs of distress
- Sudden drop in temperature
Pregnancy Timeline: Growth and Development of Pups
Dogs are pregnant for approximately two months. Here is what to expect during the development of the growing fetuses:
Week 1 (Days 1-7): Fertilization occurs. The two-cell embryos are in the oviduct. There will be possible morning sickness.
Week 2 (Days 8-14): The embryo will go from four-cell to 64-cell by the end of the week. Then the embryo will enter the uterus. Morning sickness is still possible.
Week 3 (Days 15-21): The embryo implants in the uterus on Day 19.
Week 4 (Days 22-28): The puppies begin to develop. The eyes and spinal cords develop and the faces begin to take shape. There may be a clear vaginal discharge and the mother's mammary glands will begin to develop.
Week 5 (Days 29-35): The fetus begins to look like a puppy. The eyes (previously open) now close; toes, whisker buds, and claws develop. The gender may be determined at this stage. Weight increase and swelling may be noticeable now in the mother.
Week 6 (Days 36-42): Puppies will begin to develop skin pigment. Their heartbeats may even be heard with a stethoscope. As the puppies grow, the abdomen will continue to enlarge and nipples will darken.
Week 7 (Days 43-49): Pregnancy will be noticeable at this point as the puppies continue to develop.
Week 8 (Days 50-57): Puppies are developed enough now 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, as well as signs of distress such as panting or pacing.
Birth of the Pups
The whelping date, or the day the mother gives birth, is about 63 days after ovulation. As the time draws near for her to begin whelping, 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 weeks ahead of time, so she gets used to it and doesn't give birth in your closet or on your bed.
You will probably notice that she seems distressed or uncomfortable. This is because her body is in labor, preparing to give birth to the litter.
Most dogs whelp vaginally (through the birth canal) without any complications. Some, however, may need a caesarean section (surgery). Such dogs may include those with large heads or long snouts.
Labor begins with contractions of the uterus, which you will not be able to see. However, you will probably notice panting and restlessness. There is little you can do at this stage but to keep the environment calm and quiet.
The second stage ends with the delivery of a pup, and 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, the mother will clean the mucus from its nose with her tongue and vigorously lick the puppy 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 that the puppies can breathe and nurse from the mother.