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Meta: How long are dogs pregnant? How can I prepare for my pregnant dog’s birth? How can I tell if my dog is pregnant? If you even suspect your dog might be pregnant, these are important questions to know. We answer these and other questions on nutrition, veterinarian care, and more!
One of the first things the owner of a pregnant dog wants to know is: how long are dogs pregnant? You’re in luck! We’ve got answers for you below, plus a step-by-step guide for taking care of your newly pregnant dog.
First Things First
Before we start explaining how to help you pregnant dog, let’s go ahead and answer your question. How long are dogs pregnant? The gestation period for most dogs is 58-68 days. That’s roughly nine weeks, which is a lot less than the human gestation period (nine months).
Dogs may get pregnant with one puppy or as many as ten (it depends on the dog and the breed), but those early symptoms of pregnancy might not be obvious. In fact, you’ll likely need a veterinarian to confirm pregnancy.
Let’s Get Ready!
Whether you’ve intentionally bred your dog, or this pregnancy was unplanned, if your dog is pregnant, now is the time to prepare. The first step is to get things ready for your dog. You should start with researching as much as you can about your dog (including her breed and any past litters) as well as the daddy dog if you know who he is.
Some breeds (such as English Bulldogs) cannot give birth on their own and must be scheduled for c-sections, while other breeds handle new births with few (if any) complications.
Before She’s Pregnant
If your dog hasn’t yet gotten pregnant and you want to breed her, you should do your research here, also, to make sure your vet is aware of your plans to breed your dog and to make that both the mother and father are healthy (and have a history of healthy litters).
Every breed is different, but–especially if you’re planning on selling the pups–the pedigree and health of both parties are important. You’ll also want to make sure your dog is up to date on shots and is fit and healthy.
Costs Can Add Up
Plus, keep in mind that this process can be very expensive! If your dog experiences complications (or her new puppies experience problems), care costs can add up very quickly, especially if surgery is involved.
You’ll also want to have a plan for caring for the puppies, as well as raising them. Will you raise the puppies or give them away? You don’t have to wait to start finding homes for the new puppies–you can start doing that now.
Now That’s She’s Pregnant (the First Few Weeks)
Remember how you wanted to know how long are dogs pregnant? Well, those nine weeks can go really fast. The first one to three weeks are easy to miss, as we’ve already mentioned, so if you’re planning on your dog being pregnant or even suspect she might be, get her in for a vet visit.
Checking for Pregnancy
Please keep in mind that you should never try to palpate her stomach to check for pregnancy yourself–you can hurt her or even cause miscarriage! In addition to palpation, your vet may use x-rays, ultrasounds, or hormone tests to determine the number of puppies your dog is gestating.
This information is helpful when it comes to whelping, as you’ll need to know how many puppies to expect (this will also help you to know if your dog is in distress during labor or having a problem delivering). Each test varies in cost and feasibility; your vet can help walk you through this process.
You’ll also want to change her food to something designed to for gestating dogs. Nutrition, especially during early pregnancy, is extremely important. She is, after all, building new little lives inside of her! Most regular foods don’t account for the extra calories or nutrients needed during this time.
You should also remember to keep her stress low during this time. She’s designed to run around like usual, but you probably don’t want to stress her out with lots of exercises she’s not used to or excess heat. Keep the new mama cool and comfortable!
The Second Trimester
Dogs have trimesters just like humans, and weeks four, five, and six, are roughly her second trimester. Unless you’re actively looking for pregnancy, this is the stage most people notice pregnancy, because this is when your dog will start gaining weight. You might even start to see her nipples enlarge and prepare for nursing.
During this trimester, your dog will need her food increased; by the third trimester, she’ll probably need to be eating as much as twice of her normal food intake. You should consult your vet for specific guidelines, but if she’s hungry, feed her. You might also consider supplementing at this time.
The Third (and Final) Trimester
Weeks seven, eight, and nine constitute your mama dog’s third trimester. You must prepare a whelping box for her well before nine weeks, especially if due to her breed or history you suspect she might deliver early.
Depending on how large she is and how many puppies she’s having, you might notice the puppies moving inside of her. You might also notice that she is starting to produce milk; these are good signs!
She will probably be exceptionally hungry, and you should work closely with your vet during this time to make sure you’re meeting her needs, but not overfeeding her. She also might turn up her nose at some food options, so be prepared for this, as well.
Preparing the Whelping Box
A whelping box is where your dog will deliver her puppies and live with them until they’re about six weeks old. You might also hear it called a nesting box. There are many ways to go about preparing a whelping box, and most depend on the size of your dog, how much you want to spend, and whether or not you’ll be reusing the box for future.
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If you’re a breeder, you might consider purchasing a commercial whelping box. While these can be too expensive to use for just one litter, they can be a smart investment if you’ll be delivering multiple litters.
You can also make a box yourself out of cardboard. Most boxes should have sides about 12-18 inches tall. Again, it depends on the size of your dog and her puppies, but the sides should be high enough that the puppies can’t scoot out until they’re able to walk and run fairly proficiently. It should also have a place where the mama dog can get in and out without hurting a puppy.
Your whelping box should also have some kind of padding on the floor that is removable or wipeable.
In addition to a whelping box, here are some other supplies to keep on hand:
- Scissors and thread.
- A whelping pad is a heating pad covered in vinyl and fleece that can help keep your new puppies warm.
- A heat lamp, especially during cold weather, can be helpful, though it should not be so close that it burns the puppies. The cord should also not be available for chewing!
- Removable liners can be used in place of supplies such as newspaper for a cleaner experience.
Dogs’ temperatures drop to about 98 degrees when they’re ready to give birth (normal temperatures for dogs are closer to 100 or 101 degrees). Your mama might also start refusing to eat, check her hindquarters frequently, need to urinate or poop frequently or vomit. These are all signs that birth is at hand.
Keep a close eye on her! Some dogs handle the whole process without breaking a sweat, but some can be quite confused and distressed, especially new mothers. Be available to help her through the process, especially if she’s got a large litter and can’t get to all of them right away to cut the cords.
The entire whelping stage can last up to 24 hours, as dogs deliver only one puppy at a time. Each puppy’s delivery, however, should take approximately 1-2 hours, and each delivery should occur approximately every half hour to hour.
Does She Need Veterinarian Help?
If she has gone for an extended amount of time in labor without delivering, you should check with your veterinarian, as she might need professional help or a c-section.
You can help your mother clean the pups by drying them with a warm towel, but normally that’s something the mother will take care of. What you should do is keep careful track of the puppies, including their birth weights, so that you can weight them every few days and make sure they’re gaining enough weight.
You should also keep formula and syringes on hand in case a puppy refuses to nurse, or a mother has trouble acknowledging her puppies. Puppies should also be dewormed frequently.
Happy Birthday, Puppies!
Pregnancy and giving birth can be an exciting time for both you and your dog. Now that you’re able to answer that all-important question (how long are dogs pregnant?), you’re on your way to helping your dog have a successful litter!