Dog Expecting Puppies? Here’s a Canine Pregnancy Calendar!
What could be more exciting than expecting a puppy… perhaps a litter of lots of puppies! As any breeder will tell you, this is an exciting time. But, as with any arrival, there’s much preparation ahead.
Unlike human pregnancies, a dog’s gestation period is much shorter, meaning that planning should start in earnest.
The gestation period is considered to be from the time the dog mates, until the time the puppies are born; typically, between 58 and 67 days. But there are a number of factors to consider, for instance smaller dogs have shorter lengths.
If you’re thinking about breeding your dog, there’s a few things to consider in the first place. Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. Your dog should be the right age too – not too young, or old. This usually falls between two and five years old, but where in doubt, speak to your veterinarian.
When you’re ready to embark on the journey, the following week-by-week guide should come in handy. It’s designed to help you through the journey and prepare you for the changes your dog is going through.
Canine Pregnancy Timeline
Mating to one week: Breeding takes place and the sperm fertilizes the egg. This can take as little as one minute for penetration.
Two weeks: The egg reaches the uterus for implantation. Slight behavior changes may be noted in your dog.
Three weeks: The embryos have implanted in the uterus, and begin development. The mother dog may, at this time, have some breast tissue development, one of the first physical signs of pregnancy.
Four weeks: Spinal cords begin to develop in the fetuses. At this point the puppies begin to have facial features. You can see these on the ultrasound. Around day 25 you can take your dog to the vet for a scan. Around this time, also don’t be surprised if the mother dog’s appetite increases. The American Kennel Club advise that around the last five weeks, you should increase her food intake, until she consumes “35 to 50 percent more” than before. Do this slowly, as large meals may cause some discomfort.
Five weeks: The puppies develop their sex organs, and their legs lengthen. The mother dog may be uncomfortable and may even vomit due to the increased pressure in her abdomen. From around day 40 onward, you may see an increase in weight, as the fetus’ weight go up considerably
Six weeks: Your dog has entered the final phase of pregnancy. Pigmentation develops in the puppies, and their eyelids form and seal until approximately ten days after birth. Ensure your dog’s diet is enriched with high energy, mineral and protein content to see them through.
Seven weeks: Puppies become approximately the size they will be when born. The mother’s breast tissue should become more fully developed, and she will begin to make colostrums, or breast milk. She will be noticeably tired. Parasites are problematic in pups, so it’s advisable around this period to meet with your vet and ensure they are wormed. This is a good time to prepare for whelping, making sure a quiet comfortable and warm environment is prepared for birth.
Eight weeks: The pups become crowded, and you’ll be able to feel and see the movement of the puppies by touching her stomach. The mother will start digging in her whelping box in preparation for the birth. Milk will now slowly start to flow from the mother’s teats; although this isn’t always a reliable indicator to determine the date of whelping.
Nine weeks: Don’t be alarmed, the puppies could become still before the birth, this is due to the growing size and limited space. You may also notice the mother is more restless, as she prepares for the inevitable. Keep an eye on her temperature, measured through the rectum, you may want to do this three times a day. When it drops to 97 degrees F, the birth should occur within 24 hours.
Preparing for birth
In the days ahead of the birth, there’s a few things to note. Naturally, the mother’s food will need to be increased, and the food content should be checked to be sure that she gets the proper vitamins, specifically calcium and zinc. She should continue with her regular exercise throughout pregnancy unless the heat is excessive. Make sure she doesn’t overdo it. Normally it’s best to isolate the mother from other animals during the last three weeks of pregnancy. Also, try and keep your dog’s rear clean and easy to access, so she can focus on birth and feeding her pups in the most hygienic conditions.
When it’s time for Mother Nature to do her thing, your dog will find a quiet place, and the whelping nest should provide the perfect spot. She may seem agitated – this is normal.
It’s not necessary for someone to be around during the birth of the puppies, as most mothers instinctively know to break open the birth sac and clean their little ones. However, sometimes it may be necessary to intervene and assist the mother if she appears to be struggling. The umbilical cords will need to be cut.
Witnessing your dog’s pregnancy and subsequent birth can be a rewarding experience. Birth is a natural process that many go through on their own in the wild. Anything you can do to enhance their comfort and safety is always reassuring for your pet.
For further reading, here’s some resources on pregnancy and birth in domesticated dogs: