Dog Pregnancy – What To Expect

Claire Dunling

So you’ve just found out your dog is pregnant – many congratulations. Now is the time to start preparing – at least you won’t have to paint the nursery this time!

How long is a dog’s pregnancy?

Dog pregnancy, more formally called the dog gestation period, ranges from 60 to 67 days as normal, with the average being 63 days. Most dogs deliver (whelp) between days 63 and 65. The only way to accurately determine the stage of dog gestation is to count days from the time of mating. With all planned mating’s the date should be recorded and the bitch then examined approximately 3 weeks from the date of mating to detect the signs of pregnancy in dogs. An ultrasound scan can be carried out at around the 28th day. If it is an unplanned pregnancy your vert will have to estimate – and you’ll need to help them by thinking of all the ‘whens’ it could have happened.

Feeding during the various stages of dog pregnancy

It is important that a bitch is in good condition before she is mated (if it is by choice), neither too fat nor too thin. Her food intake should not be altered during the first two-thirds of the dog pregnancy, until approximately 6 weeks. If you’re using a complete formula recommended by your vet there will be no need to use additional vitamin or mineral supplements. If you’re feeding standard food, you may want to supplement their diet with a few little extras. After the 6th week, food intake should be gradually increased. High energy, low bulk foods are useful in order that she is adequately nourished – but without exceeding her capacity.

As abdominal pressure increases with the size of the fetuses, smaller meals fed more often is helpful, as she will not be able to take on the bulk in one single meal. During the last three weeks, food intake will often increase by up to one and a half times the normal level and at the height of lactation, approximately three weeks after the dog giving birth, food intake is often two and a half to three times normal, particularly if she is feeding a large litter.

What should I do to prepare for my dog giving birth?

From the time of mating, many dogs show behavioural changes. Most develop an unusually sweet and loving disposition and demand more affection and attention – indulge them there are tiring times ahead. However, some may become uncharacteristically irritable. Some experience a few days of vomiting (they get “morning sickness” too), followed by the development of a ravenous appetite which persists.

It can be confusing

During the last week or so of pregnancy in dogs, the bitch often starts to look for a secure place for the birth. Pet bitches often become confused, wanting to be with their owners and at the same time wanting to prepare for the forthcoming event. It is therefore a good idea to get the bitch used to the place where you want her to have her puppies well in advance of the birth but even then, some bitches insist on having their pups in close proximity to the owner and this is often in the middle of the night.

Let her have her way

Under these circumstances it is better to let the bitch have her way and when she has finished, gently try moving her to the place that she should have already been introduced to some days or weeks previously. Some bitches are very determined regarding the place where they want to nurse their puppies and this is npt always the most logical. Under these circumstances the less stress caused if, within reason, her demands are met or a compromise found. For example id the bitch wants to nurse the puppies on your bed is quietly moved to a whelping box in a corner of the bedroom.

The big event

Ideally you may prefer her to use the whelping box you had prepared for her in a quiet corner of the kitchen – as it can get messy and you may not want the disturbance. Similarly, some bitches need the owner to be present throughout the whole delivery, sometimes if they are left alone they are likely to endeavour to delay delivery of the puppies which can create subsequent problems – compromise is the name of the game!

Be prepared for some tough times. The puppies will be lovely but there will be some seriously mess to follow. Human babies wear nappies but pups are not so accommodating
John Campbell, Head Vet of Pet Drugs Online

Prior to the time of delivery, a whelping box should be selected and placed in a secluded place, such as a closet or a dark corner. The box should be large enough for the dog to move around freely, but have low enough sides so that she can see out and you can reach inside to give assistance, if needed. The bottom of the box should be lined with several layers of newspapers or similar absorbent but disposable sheets.

These provide bedding that the bitch can tear up and reorganise according to her own requirements. At the same time, they will absorb the fluids which are always more copious than you would ever expect. If sufficient thickness of newspaper is laid at the outset, the upper, soiled layers may be removed with minimal interruption to the mother and her newborn.

This Dog Pregnancy post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!