What to Expect When Your Pregnant Dog Is Expecting Puppies

Updated on August 22, 2019
Tonya Mickelson profile image

When Tonya's dog became pregnant, she researched puppy development and birth thoroughly so that she could be as prepared as possible.

If your dog is pregnant or trying to conceive, learn about the puppy development and birthing process so you know how to prepare and what to expect.
If your dog is pregnant or trying to conceive, learn about the puppy development and birthing process so you know how to prepare and what to expect. | Source

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

Once a dog six or seven weeks into pregnancy, her abdomen will be noticeably swollen and her nipples will be darkened and enlarged.
Once a dog six or seven weeks into pregnancy, her abdomen will be noticeably swollen and her nipples will be darkened and enlarged. | Source

Dog Pregnancy Timeline

Early Pregnancy
Mid-Pregnancy
Late Pregnancy
Prior to Delivery
Decreased appetite
Increased appetite
Obviously enlarged abdomen
Nesting behaviors
Decreased activity
Weight gain
Movement of puppies can be felt
Signs of distress
Behavioral changes
Milk production begins
Drop in body temperature
Nipple growth

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.

This small whelping box is outfitted with fabric and a cushion so that the dog and her pups can be as comfortable as possible during and after the birthing process.
This small whelping box is outfitted with fabric and a cushion so that the dog and her pups can be as comfortable as possible during and after the birthing process. | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My dog's newborn puppiesMy dog with her newborn puppiesTwo of my dog's newborn puppies
My dog's newborn puppies
My dog's newborn puppies
My dog with her newborn puppies
My dog with her newborn puppies
Two of my dog's newborn puppies
Two of my dog's newborn puppies

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.

Questions & Answers

    Is Your Dog Expecting Puppies? Leave Your Questions and Comments Here.

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      • profile image

        Mukul baliyan 

        8 months ago

        I have american bully female.she breed on 3feb nd5 feb,it was 7th nd 9th day of heat cycle,she want to breed.she has bleed yet.is it not conceived? Or breed required.

      • profile image

        sher'von 

        22 months ago

        i have a pitbull that’s about to give birth at anytime and i am so nervous. i have a pug thats had puppies but she had a c-section. my pitbull does have a big head and the father of the pups also has a big head. with her being so far along,will a vet still be able to get her in ?

      • profile image

        rose queen cichlid 

        4 years ago

        Have a female daschund that a neighbors male chi sliped through my gate and tied to how manny pup should i expect

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        6 years ago

        @anonymous: We had a staff and we took her for a scan to make sure everything was ok and to see how many to expect. The vet told us there were 4....she had 13!!

        On average they have between 6 and 8

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        6 years ago

        hi can you tell me how many pups a staff can have 1st litter she had a scan and they said 4 but shes 45 days and very big could there be more or just big pups

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        how many pups can a staff have she only tied once scan says 4 but shes big now and only 35days

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        what should i do with the male while the puppies are in the house?

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        what would i personally need to do to help my little one out when shes giving birth? and shes only 8 months old and not fully grown yet,,will having puppies on her first heat give her any health risks?

      • profile image

        anonymous 

        7 years ago

        my poodle was bred about 51 days ago, this was a planed litter, she isn't showing like she is going to have puppies, is this normal for some dogs

      • profile image

        Archie_Right 

        9 years ago

        Talking about the late stages of pregnancy it is important to isolate the mum from other dogs and potentially harmful activities otherwise puppies may be knocked of the wall inside the uterus resulting in stillborn puppies.

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