Dog Gestation Period: How Long Is a Dog Pregnant? Signs & Test

Are you going to be a first-time grandparent to your dog’s first litter? Are you excited? Nervous? Anxious? or Panicking?

Keep calm and continue reading. Here’s a guide to what to expect when your dog is looking forward to a baby. We will begin with the heat cycle and then move on to indications of pregnancy, pregnancy phases, and tips on how to take care of your dog during this time.

Dog heat cycle

Before we talk about pregnancy, we have to know more about the heat cycle of female dogs.

Female dogs who have not been neutered usually go into heat about twice a year or every six months. Some dogs’ heat cycles could change depending on the breed.

The dog heat cycle has four stages:

1. Proestrus (lasts about 9 days)

Females will emit male-attracting pheromones. But during this phase, they will reject the advancement of the males. Their vulva will grow bigger, having a bloody discharge comparable to the menstruation of a female human.

2. Estrus (lasts for 3-11 days)

Females allow males to be near or mate with them. Their discharge will lighten in color, but they will still have an enlarged vulva.

3. Diestrus (lasts for 2-6 days)

The females’ discharge will again become red before it thins out and stops completely. The vulva will slowly return to its normal size.

4. Anestrus (usually lasts for 6 months)

This stage is the period between the end of one heat cycle and the start of the next one.

Signs that a dog is pregnant

Monitor the heat cycle of your dog. It is crucial to know the date when she mates. Your observations will be essential when you and the veterinarian need to determine how long your dog’s pregnancy will last.

Take your dog to the vet three to four weeks after matting if you suspect she’s pregnant. Your veterinarian can test your suspicions for confirmation. You have to wait a couple of weeks because a dog pregnancy test is not like human pregnancy test. Testing for dog pregnancy is not easy or straightforward.

Dog pregnancy test

Veterinarians use these methods:

1. Hormone tests

Vets will do a blood test to see if a lot of hormone relaxin is produced by your dog’s body. However, when the dog is already 30 days into her pregnancy, this hormone is usually published. If performed too soon, the test could yield a negative result.

2. Palpation

Vets will feel if sacs filled with fluid form inside the stomach of the dog. But palpitation can only be performed if your dog is already in her pregnancy for 21-35 days or 4 weeks. The sacs imply that the fetus is forming, which at this point would be the size of walnuts.

If you are not trained, don’t attempt to do the palpitation. Your touch might be too harsh or tough. You might end up harming the fetus or causing your dog to have a miscarriage.

3. X-ray

This can be achieved when your dog is already 42-45 days old because the skulls and spines of the puppies will only be noticeable after approximately two months of pregnancy.

By day 50-55, vets can determine how many puppies will be in the litter through an x-ray test.

4. Ultrasound

This test can be performed in your dog’s pregnancy as early as day 25 or three weeks. The ultrasound can record heartbeats, calculate when the whelping will occur, and determine if there are defects in the puppies. This is the most reliable and safe test.

If the pregnancy tests are positive, consult your veterinarian about medications, vaccinations, or treatments such as anti-flea medications that your dog may use and how they may influence her pregnancy. Generally speaking, vets do not recommend vaccination for a pregnant dog. Deworming may be advised, however, to ensure that the puppies do not inherit anything from their mothers.

How long is a dog pregnant for? length of pregnancy

A dog’s gestation period or pregnancy normally lasts for about 63 days. This period covers from inception (when the eggs are fertilized) to whelping (when puppies are born).

Like humans, dogs go through three stages of pregnancy. Unlike humans, each stage lasts for only about 21 days.

1. First trimester

The fertilized eggs will travel to the uterus. These will become embryos then fetuses. By the third week, the fetuses will be encased in sacs that will attach to the uterus through umbilical cords.

When the fetuses attach to the uterus, your dog could have an increased appetite because the puppies start to get their nutrients from the mom. Also, your dog will become more affectionate, discharge a clear fluid, or get sick in the morning.

Some dogs get the canine equivalent of morning sickness because of hormonal modifications. This could happen from the 3rd to 4th week of pregnancy. Morning sickness signs are lethargy, loss, or decline In appetite and vomiting. If your dog is sick in the morning, it’s better to offer her little meals throughout the day rather than her usual big meals.

You don’t have to make any changes to the regular feeding and exercise schedules of your dog for the first three weeks of her pregnancy. You can decrease her practice during the fourth week to make sure the fetuses can grow safely. You can still take her out for a walk but don’t make her run or jump.

Consult your vet about the morning sickness of your dog, what supplements she would need, and what dog food during her pregnancy would be best for her. Do not offer any supplement to your dog without the consent of your vet.

2. Second trimester

The fetuses will develop quickly during the second trimester.

Your dog will continue to have an increased appetite to gain nearly twice its weight. She will also urinate more and continue to discharge a clear and odorless liquid. Her nipples are going to start darkening and grow bigger by day 40.

You will need to slowly transition your dog into a diet that is appropriate for expecting mothers. Make the transition slow so that her digestive system will get used to the new food.

She’s likely going to get a lot tired so let her rest as much as she likes. You can still walk with her regularly, but no longer attempt to make her jog or run. You may want to take a quiet and calming path away from other pets or animals to avoid stress.

3. Third trimester

Your dog’s abdomen will grow bigger and bigger as her puppies develop. By day 50, you will see the puppies moving in your dog’s abdomen. Milk will trickle out of her nipples. She will start to look for a place to nest by day 58.

Your vet will need to take an x-ray or ultrasound to check on the puppies. The vet will check how many puppies there will be and if all of them are well. The vet will also determine if the puppies can fit the birth canal. If they are too big, a C-section will be needed.

Make sure you get your vet’s number or the number of a vet clinic in case of emergency.

At this stage, you can help your dog by preparing a nesting area for her. Use an old mattress or big box padded with linen. The walls must be high enough to prevent the puppies from climbing out. It must be large enough for your dog to be able to stretch comfortably in it, and the puppies can fit in. Put the nest in a quiet and warm part of the house. Encourage your dog to sleep in the nesting area so that she can embrace it as a safe place to deliver her puppies.

Also, limit your dog’s physical activity. Straining herself could lead to premature whelping or a miscarriage.

4. Whelping

About 12-24 hours before labor, your dog’s temperature will drop to around 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Her waist will become smaller because the puppies will move towards the birth canal. Your dog will become restless. She might also lose her appetite, pant, shiver, or vomit.

Each whelping can last from a few minutes to about 1-2 hours, with 30-60 minutes of intervals. Your dog will instinctively know what to do but monitor her progress anyway.

You should know how many puppies your dog is expecting because if the interval between whelping takes more than two hours, you should call the vet.

Generally, a long interval implies a complication that could jeopardize the life of your dog and the unborn puppies. Your veterinarian will determine if your dog needs a C-section or requires birth support. In both cases, your vet will be able to perform the necessary maneuver to help your dog.

If the whelping goes smoothly, each puppy will come out of the birth canal in its amniotic sac with the umbilical cord trailing from it.

Your dog should tear the membrane and cut the umbilical cord herself. If she does not, then you can help her by removing the sac and cutting the umbilical cord so the puppy can breathe.

Your dog should clean her newborn pup by licking it. If she does not, gently clean the puppy with a towel.

The puppy should start suckling from the mother within 24 hours of birth.

Finally, take your dog and her puppies to the vet for a check-up a few hours after the whelping so that you can be sure that all of them are in good health.

Also, make sure that you change the linen of the nest after whelping since these will be quite dirty and blood-stained.

Summary

To summarize, here is a table to guide you through your dog’s pregnancy:

Stage/Week Physical and Behavioral Changes Action Caring tips
0 dayThe dog will go into heat and mate    
First trimester 0-4 weeks1. Increased appetite and weight gain
2. More affectionate
3. Clear fluid discharge
4. Morning sickness
Bring the dog to the vetReduce exercise
Second trimester
5-8 weeks
1. Increased appetite and weight gain
2. Urinate more
3. Clear fluid discharge
4. Changes in nipples
 Transition into an appropriate diet
Third trimester
8-9 weeks
1. Big belly
2. Milk production
3. Nesting
Check-up with vet1. Prepare a nesting area
2. Monitor and assist in whelping
3. Call the vet if an emergency occurs

Related tips:
1. Dog Pregnancy Calendar Guide: Symptoms And What To Do at Every Stage Week by Week
2. Do Dogs Have Periods? What Does a Female Dog Behave Like During The Heat Cycle?

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