By DogLovely Team

The topic of mating and pregnancy for dogs is useful for all dog owners. Whether it’s to promote or prevent reproduction, or maybe even answer candid questions from kids!

Most dog owners don’t take the deliberate decision to breed from their bitch, but the recurring periods of heat or being in season do pose questions about management, control, neutering and mating.

So if you’re interested in breeding or potentially have a pregnant dog – one question you’ll be asking is: how long does it take for dog to have puppies?

Interestingly, the answer isn’t as straightforward as we would like it to be.

Depending on the dog breed, gestation periods can vary quite a bit. In this post, we’ll look at some factors that affect a dog’s gestation period. In the end, you should understand better what to expect when your furry friend has a litter of her own.

Let’s do this!

How to Recognize a Pregnant Dog

So, first things first, which might be obvious: If you want to know if your mother dog is pregnant, you should probably go to the vet.

All canine pregnancy testing procedures are time-sensitive, so if at all feasible, be sure to give your veterinarian the precise date of conception of your dog or your best guess as to the time range.

Veterinarians can determine a dog gestation period using one of four methods:

1. Palpation:

The simplest and most affordable method of determining pregnancy is by palpation. The membranes surrounding each fetus expand to form fluid-filled sacs as it grows. These sacs can be felt in roughly 3 to 4 weeks or between days 21 and 35 of gestation. They can grow to the size of a table tennis ball in a dog that weighs 45 pounds After a month, the sacs lose their characteristic shape, and the uterus starts to feel floppy and could be misinterpreted for being overweight or having a pyometra.

2.Test For Hormones

To detect a pregnant bitch, veterinarians can test for the hormone relaxin. Relaxing is a fairly accurate diagnostic blood test because it is only secreted from placental tissue during pregnancy.

The bitch must be at least 30 days into her pregnancy for accurate test results. This is because prior tests might have returned a false negative.

3. Ultrasound

An ultrasound is the best method for determining whether a dog is pregnant early in the gestation stage. Veterinary professionals advise ultrasounds between days 25 and 35 of pregnancy. Ultrasounds determine the presence of pregnancy and the fetus’s life status by detecting fetal heartbeats.

Additionally, ultrasounds can establish the fetus’s gestational age and exclude other uterine enlargements such as pyometra.

4. X-ray

Breeders can estimate how many puppies their heifer will produce by using an x-ray. It is especially beneficial to take X-rays after 42-45 days into pregnancy, as the skull and spine of the fetus are not visible until then.

Veterinarians can properly predict the expected puppies by deferring until after day 55 and assisting pet parents in determining the optimal timing for elective cesarean surgery.

What Pregnancy in Dogs Physically Looks Like

Pregnancy is rarely visually apparent in the first half of the gestation period, though changes may occur in temperament and appetite, with a decreasing interest in exercise and need for affection.

By the fifth or sixth week, physical signs of pregnancy are generally obvious: mammary glands begin to swell and the abdomen is enlarged, especially when viewed from behind.

Heads up: Large breeds carrying only small litters may display no clear signs of pregnancy until shortly before delivery!

As the birth date approaches, the mammary glands become swollen and turgid, sometimes secreting milk.

dogs pregnant
Dog during the gestation period

At the this point, and very evident from looking from the rear, abdominal swelling takes on a pear shape, as ligaments round the pelvis loose in preparation for birth.

Signs of imminent whelping include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Drop in temperature
  • Increased restlessness
  • Frenzied nest preparation (watch out for your sofa cushions!)

Slight muscle tremors gives to way contractions, which vary in frequency and intensity.

We go into more details about these stages below.

The Reproductive Cycle of Dogs

Although the time between cycles might vary across breeds and dogs, most dogs go into heat twice a year or roughly once every six months. Large adult dogs only have one cycle per year. However, small-breed dogs might cycle up to three times annually.

When young dogs start reproducing, their cycles are frequently unpredictable. Developing regular cycles in a female dog can take up to two years. Except for Basenjis and Tibetan Mastiffs, who frequently cycle in the spring, (domesticated) dogs do not have a certain period of the year when they reproduce.

What Is the Duration of Estrus?

A dog can give birth while she is in the estrous cycle. The average duration of a dog’s heat cycle is one and a half to two weeks, though it can be shorter or longer depending on the individual dog.

What Symptoms Indicate Estrus?

The vulva will expand or engorge, but this swelling won’t always be evident. This is the first sign of estrus. When a dog goes into heat, the first indicator that a pet owner would typically notice is a bloody vaginal discharge.

Sometimes it takes a few days after estrus has started for the discharge to become noticeable. This is because each dog excretes differently in terms of volume. The first indicator of a dog going into heat for a pet owner is sometimes a bloody vaginal discharge.

As the cycle goes on, the color and appearance of the vaginal discharge will alter. The discharge first appears scarlet, but as time passes, it becomes thinner, more watery, and pinkish-red in color.

She may urinate more often than normal or display marking behavior by urinating in small amounts on various objects inside and outside while on walks due to being in her heat cycle.

Her urine at this cycle time contains pheromones and hormones that let other dogs know she is in a reproductive state. For this reason, male dogs, in particular, will be drawn to female dogs that are in heat.

Male dogs may spray pee on your property to indicate their territory after spotting a female in heat from a considerable distance.

When Is the Dog Able to Become Pregnant During the Estrus Cycle?

When the vaginal discharge turns watery, the female dog usually ovulates. At this time, she is fertile and ready for mating.

As long as sperm remain in the reproductive system for up to a week, she can conceive at any moment while in estrus.

Contrary to common perception, getting pregnant does not require the female dog to tie with the male dog.

Pregnancy in Dogs: Stages

Pregnancy in dogs progresses swiftly through each stage. The pups develop quickly within the womb over two to three months because dog gestation periods are brief.

First Month

Around day 7, the embryos start their journey to the uterine horns and spend the first month there until settling in the uterine lining at day 16. By day 28 or 30, a veterinarian should be able to utilize ultrasound to find the fetus’ heartbeats when it starts to mature on day 22.

Many female dogs don’t exhibit any signs during the first three weeks of their pregnancy. The following are some of the signs to look out for in the first month:

  • A little bit bigger nipples
  • Higher appetite
  • Less physical activity and increased affection
  • “Morning sickness” with clear vaginal discharge (about week four)

Second Month

Fetal development quickly accelerates in the 2nd month. By day 32 eyes can be seen, while by day 35 toes can be. The skeleton and coat are completed on day 40, a couple of days after the development of the claws. (day 45). Around day 50, an x-ray will show how many puppies are in the litter, and around day 58, the buck will start hunting for a spot to build a nest.

The second month of the bitch’s cycle is when pregnancy symptoms become significantly more pronounced:

  • Growth of 20?50% in weight gain
  • Increased appetite clearly
  • Higher urination
  • Unscented, clear vaginal discharge
  • Changes in behavior
  • An expanded, firm abdomen (days 45 to 50)
  • Abdominal movement resembling a puppy (day 50)
  • Reduced appetite (day 45)

Third Month

By the beginning of the third month, the bitch is ready to give birth. Puppies begin to shift into whelping position during the next three days since development is about finished around day 58.

Dog pregnancy symptoms in the final few days:

  • As puppies travel through the birth canal, the waist will be trimmed.
  • Loss of appetite around days 61 or 62
  • 12- to 24-hour drop in body temperature before labor
  • Unstable behavior
  • Panting, shivering, digging, or pacing

What Are the Signs of Labor in Your Dog?

It’s not uncommon to see a dog in labor. Some dogs give birth to puppies independently, while others need help.

When labor begins:

You may notice your dog pacing and pant more often or have been especially protective of you lately. You might also notice a change in her behavior: She may become more aggressive, bark more frequently or have an increased interest in food and water.

The first signs of labor can be subtle, so it’s important to pay close attention to your pet’s behavior and note any physical changes she exhibits. If your pet has contractions (sudden, painful attacks of the womb muscles), contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for advice to care for her during this period.

Preparation For Delivery

As the due date approaches, you might want to build a whelping box to give your dog a clean, secure location to give birth. Whelping boxes are designed to be accessible for the nursing dog but impenetrable to the newborns.

You can build with wood, Formica, or any other hygienic material. Make the box big enough for the bitch to spread out comfortably. Ensure the box’s edges are just low enough for the mother to step over them while you place it somewhere warm, dry, and draft-free.

Try, if at all feasible, to pick a peaceful, isolated location. To make cleanup easier, first put newspapers on the box’s base.

Place blankets or towels to support the puppies once they are delivered. Be mindful that before the delivery, you must accustom the bitch to the whelping box.

If not, she might decide on her own where to give birth to the puppies; this could be on your bed, in the middle of a pile of just-washed clothing, or even inside a closet!

Another recommendation is to have your dog’s pregnancy checked out by a vet near the end. A comprehensive physical examination, ultrasound, or X-rays determine how many puppies you can expect.

You can tell when she has finished giving birth rather than just being in a resting stage between pups.

Labor And Delivery

To assist you in determining when labor is yet to begin, take the bitch’s temperature twice a day. The body often experiences a slight dip in temperature 24 hours before labor begins. It’s usual to be between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature might drop to 98?99 F twenty-four hours before labor.

Stage 1

During the first stage of labor, the bitch’s cervix dilates and effaces (thins out). This can take many hours, even a full day. The pregnant female may experience some nesting behavior during this time. She will become restless and may pace or dig at her bedding. Her temperature will continue to drop as she approaches active labor.

Stage 2

The bitch gives birth at this stage. It can take a few minutes or several hours. The first puppy will usually appear within 60 minutes of active labor. Each subsequent puppy should be born within 30 minutes to an hour from the first. If there is more than an hour between puppies, you should contact your veterinarian.

Stage 3

This is when the bitch delivers the afterbirth (placenta). This usually occurs 10 minutes to an hour after the last puppy is born. You should contact your veterinarian if the placenta is not delivered within this time frame.


After the final puppy and placenta delivery, the bitch will enter the post-partum period. This is when her body temperature will start to rise back to normal. She will also expel any residual blood and fluid from her uterus. This can appear as a brownish or reddish discharge for the first few days post-partum.

The discharge will gradually become lighter in color and less abundant as the bitch’s body heals. During the post-partum period, monitoring the bitch for signs of infection, such as fever, excessive bleeding, or a foul-smelling vaginal discharge, is important. Never hesitate to call your veterinarian whenever you notice any of these symptoms.

The post-partum period can last up to six weeks. During this time, the bitch will be susceptible to several problems, including mastitis (infection of the mammary glands), metritis (infection of the uterus), and Puppy Pyometra (infection of the uterus with pus). These conditions can be life-threatening and should be treated immediately by a veterinarian.

After six weeks, the bitch will be fully recovered from her delivery and ready to resume normal activities.

mother dog
Dog looking after new born puppy

What Is the Best Food for a Pregnant Dog?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as every dog is different and will have different nutritional needs during pregnancy. However, it is generally recommended that pregnant dogs be fed a diet high in protein and fat to help support the growing puppies.

Additionally, ensure that the diet contains all the essential nutrients a pregnant dog needs, such as calcium and phosphorus.

Some dog owners prefer to feed their pregnant dogs a commercially prepared diet specifically designed for pregnancy. In contrast, others feed them a more general-purpose diet that can be supplemented with additional nutrients.

Whatever diet you choose for your pregnant dog, it is important to talk to your veterinarian to ensure that it meets all your dog’s nutritional needs.

So, there you have it. Now you are aware of the duration of a dog’s pregnancy! As always, contact your veterinarian if you have any queries or worries as it is a very delicate and important time for momma dog and pups!

Categorized in:

Dog Behaviour & Training,

Last Update: April 2, 2024