Dogs are pregnant for 58 to 68 days, or about 2 months before giving birth. If you find your dog is pregnant, it’s essential to make the process easy for her and keep in close touch with your veterinarian.
While few things are as exciting for dog owners as finding out their dog is pregnant, it can also be stressful, especially for individuals who have never cared for a pregnant dog before. Fortunately, with the proper knowledge, a great relationship with your veterinarian, patience and love, you can make sure your pregnant dog has everything she needs to give birth to a litter of healthy, playful puppies ready to embark on their exciting new life.
What to Feed Your Dog During Pregnancy
It should come as no surprise that giving your dog the proper nutrition while she’s pregnant is of the utmost importance. Making sure you’re providing your dog with the right nutrients in the right amount helps the fetal growth and development of the unborn puppies.
In the first five weeks, a slight increase in dog food intake is recommended to help keep up with your dog’s increased energy needs. Make sure the formula you choose is high-quality and highly digestible. After around week 5, gradual increases in their meals should begin until the time they give birth with food intake to be 25 to 50 percent more than what they regularly eat. The amount of increase will vary depending on factors like the expected size of the litter and your dog's size, breed and age. Your veterinarian will help you decide the right dog food and portion size for your expecting dog.
Dog Gestation Period: 1st Month
Detecting whether or not your dog is pregnant can be tricky early on. Because dogs don’t have significant hormone changes during pregnancy, a blood test is only effective if performed around the same time as other diagnostics.
At about 20 to 30 days, a veterinarian can detect pregnancy by palpating along a dog’s abdomen to test for swelling. Additionally, ultrasound can generally see a fetus at about 16 to 20 days after gestation.
Other indicators of pregnancy may arise around the one-month mark, including:
- Symptoms of morning sickness
- Poor appetite
- Vaginal discharge
Dog Gestation Period: 2nd Month
Around four weeks, more obvious signs of pregnancy, such as an enlarged abdomen, will become more noticeable. By day 35, mammary tissue development will give clear visual signals your dog is pregnant. At this point, your dog’s appetite will begin to increase, and they will start to put on extra weight.
Symptoms and behaviors in the second month of pregnancy will include:
- Vaginal discharge
- Increase in urination
- Abdominal enlargement
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
- Behavioral changes like seeking affection or avoiding social interaction
Dog Gestation Period: 3rd Month
As the second month of pregnancy concludes, the arrival of a new litter of puppies is imminent. By this time, the puppies' development within the womb will be almost complete and they’ll begin to shift in the birth canal and get into the birthing position.
Signs of Impending or Active Dog Labor
Around the 62-to-64-day milestone, your dog should be ready to give birth to an adorable litter of puppies. When your dog goes into labor, they will give birth to their puppies in three stages:
The Birthing Process Stage 1: Contractions
During the first stage of the birthing process (also known as whelping), your dog will experience uterine contractions and dilation of the cervix. This stage will last between 12 to 24 hours, during which your dog will likely exhibit signs that they’re ready to give birth, which may include:
- Excessive panting
- Loss of appetite
- A drop in body temperature of about three to four degrees
- Watery vaginal discharge
At this time, make sure your dog has a comfortable place where they can give birth to their puppies. Designate a whelping area with blankets or towels where she can go when they’re ready to give birth.
The Birthing Process Stage 2: Puppy Birth
At this stage, your dog’s abdominal contractions should be visible, and they should begin to give birth to their puppies. In most cases, puppies will be birthed at a rate of 1 every 1 to 2 hours, although the birthing process can take up to 24 hours in some cases.
Note there are warning signs to watch out for. Here are a few of them:
More than 24 hours have passed since the mother’s rectal temperature dropped and birthing hasn’t begun; the mother seems to be experiencing severe discomfort; more than 2 hours pass between birthing of puppies.
If any of these occur or if you have other concerns. contact your veterinarian right away.
The Birthing Process Stage 3: Puppy Birth
Stage 3 of puppy birth commences with the passage of the placenta, which typically happens immediately following the delivery of each puppy unless the immediate birth of another puppy delays it.
Upon completion of the three stages of birth, your dog’s journey to motherhood is complete. Meanwhile, for her new litter of puppies, with the proper care and puppy nutrition, their journey to a long and healthy life has just begun.