How Long Is a Dog’s Pregnancy?
If you were to ask someone what their favorite breed of dog is, the answer will most often be, “My dog!” If that is the case, it’s not surprising that when people look for a companion for their beloved canine, they often decide to breed their own dog in the hopes of getting a “mini me” version of their original pet. But how long are dogs pregnant for?
So, how long are dogs pregnant? The answer varies depending on several factors, but the average length of gestation, aka pregnancy, lasts between 58 to 67 days, with 63 days being the average delivery date.
Why can there be such a wide time range? Size is definitely a factor.
On average, a dog that is having a small litter has the potential to remain pregnant a little longer since fewer puppies ultimately mean more room in the uterus. On the other hand, a dog that is having a large litter is likely to deliver a little earlier since the pups run out of room quicker and trigger labor sooner.
The size of the pregnant dog can also be a factor. Small breed females usually carry their pups slightly longer than larger breed dogs, although there are always exceptions to this general rule of thumb. Both the size of the mother and the number of pups in the litter play a pivotal role in how long the pregnancy lasts.
Family Line Average
The length of a dog’s pregnancy often runs true within family lines. If you wonder how long your own female’s pregnancy might last, try to find out how long her mother and grandmother’s pregnancies lasted. While this isn’t always possible to track down, some professional breeders keep meticulous birth records for each litter they produce.
Dog Pregnancy Week by Week
Week 1: It Starts
Believe it or not, this is a busy week for your dog! Day 0, the date you use to calculate the dog’s gestation period, is actually the day she begins ovulating, what some people refer to as when she goes “into heat”. A female dog will not accept a male until she is definitely ovulating. After mating, it can take several days for the sperm to reach the ovum and the fertilization to occur. Don’t use any flea treatments during this time.
Week 2: Drifting South
During the second week of gestation, the newly fertilized little cells, which were formed very high up in the uterus, begin to grow and separate, forming into little embryos that will eventually develop into your puppies. These embryos will then slowly begin to drift down to the uterine horns, where they will float merrily in the uterine fluid well protected from the outside world.
Week 3: Snuggling In
In the third week of pregnancy, the little embryos give up their free-floating lifestyle and begin to attach themselves to the uterine walls. They do this so that they can be progressively wrapped up in a membrane, which will protect the little embryos, as well as be supplying them with the nutrients they need to continue growing and developing. At this stage, the tiny embryos are less than 1 centimeter long.
Week 4: I See A Face!
Week four is a very special week. It’s at this stage that a vet should be able to confirm that your dog is definitely pregnant by gently palpitating the mothers’ abdomen. But this is also when the future puppies are at their most vulnerable – for this reason, it may be wise to begin limiting rough play or strenuous exercise. The exciting news is the embryos now have a face, eyes, ears and a spine, although they are still only around 1.5 centimeters long.
Week 5: It’s A Boy!…Or A Girl!
So many exciting things are going to happen in week five! For one thing, your future puppies are no longer embryos, they are now officially fetuses. Their growth will also begin to speed up, so you may need to start feeding the mother nutritional supplements at this point. The fetuses will grow toes, claws, whiskers and perhaps most importantly, they will develop into either males or females. You can also choose to have an ultrasound performed at this stage to check how many puppies to expect.
Week 6: She Ain’t Heavy, She’s A Mother!
Week six is when the mother dog will suddenly start to look pregnant. Up until this point, the changes have been subtle and internal, but now, her stomach will bulge out and people will begin to ask you if your dog is pregnant. You can now start to feed your dog as much as she wants, as she needs the extra fuel to feed numerous growing fetuses. You should also start to prepare a comfortable bed or a box that can be used when the time comes to deliver.
Week 7: Hair Loss & Hair Growth
A transition occurs during the seventh week. You may notice that the mother dog will begin to shed the hair on her stomach in preparation for the birth – this is normal, so don’t panic! At the same time that the mother is losing hair, the future puppies are finally growing theirs! This is one of the last things that they develop, so from this point they will actually look like tiny puppies. Week seven is also the time to make sure the mother dog has been properly wormed as parasites could cause issues at birth.
Week 8: Flowing with Milk, But Not Honey!
She’s so close! By the eighth week your mother dog will know she is getting close, so she may start “nesting”, which basically means getting comfortable in the place she plans to give birth, hopefully the bed/box you prepared back in week six. She will also begin to produce milk, which can begin flowing from the tests up to a week prior to the birth. Try and keep the mother calm and prevent any rough running or jumping, which could start a premature labor.
Week 9: Puppies!
The “future puppies” have now just become puppies, and they could emerge at any moment! Keep feeding the mother as much as she wants, but don’t be alarmed if her appetite isn’t as robust as it was over the previous few weeks. If possible, give your dog a bath and a trim to get her nice and tidy for the birth. You can also start to take her temperature at regular intervals; once you notice a drop of one degree below average, you can expect to welcome puppies in the following 24 to 48 hours.