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Pregnancy in Dogs: Gestation Period & Care during Pregnancy

Are you very excited about welcoming your dog’s little puppy? If you are a new breeder, gathering ideas about your dog’s pregnancy will surprise you greatly. The first question that strikes your mind is – how long are dogs pregnant? Once every eight months, your dog can be able to get pregnant, and this fertility period is called “being in heat,” whereas it often extends to nearly three weeks. In general, the dog’s pregnancy time will be shorter when compared to humans. So, it is necessary to understand the reproductive cycle of dogs first.  

All About the Reproductive Cycle In Dogs

To determine the dog pregnancy length, you must understand the reproductive cycle in dogs. The heat cycle of a female dog can last for 18 to 21 days, and it can be divided into four phases. Depending on these phases, deciding the best time for your dog to breed is recommended. Dogs have a gestation period of approximately nine weeks, which is the time it takes for a female dog to give birth to her puppies. During this time, the mother dog will gain weight and experience changes in her behavior as she prepares for labor. Knowing how long are dogs pregnant is important for pet owners so they can prepare for the arrival of puppies and plan ahead for their care.

#1 Proestrus in Dogs

The first phase of the reproductive cycle in female dogs is Proestrus. The female dogs try to attract the male dogs in this phase. The signs of the first phase will be the discharge of blood and vulva swelling. Proestrus in dogs lasts for about 9 days.

#2 Estrus cycle in Dogs 

Estrus cycle in dogs from 3 to 4 days or 7 to 11 days. This is the receptive stage of a female. The signs include the lightened discharging that gradually decreases, and the vulva enlarges and becomes soft over this time. 

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Taking advice from your dog’s vet is necessary for determining the optimal time for the breed owner to breed their dogs. Taking blood tests and analyzing vaginal smears can determine this. 

#3 Diestrus

The final phase of the reproductive cycle in a female dog is Diestrus. It occurs on and around the 14th day of this time. The signs in this phase are pregnant dog discharge becomes redder and the vulva comes back to its normal position. 

#4 Anestrus 

The time gap between the first and next heat cycles is called anestrus. It lasts for nearly 6 months. 

The conception dates must be calculated by considering the heat cycle in dogs and the breed period, which makes your dog’s vet test the pregnancy accurately. It is to be known that the discharges and the swelling signs when they disappear imply the completion of the heat cycle. 

Dog Pregnancy Signs

Many symptoms might occur during your dog’s pregnancy; some can be identified easily, but some dog pregnancy signs are not. You must know about earlier and later symptoms of dog pregnancy to have a safe pregnancy. 

#1 Early Signs of Dog Pregnancy

During the first few weeks of pregnancy, your dog seems normal by gaining some weight. However, by careful examination, you can spot the differences. What are the early signs of dog pregnancy?

A Sudden Change in their Appetite

Lack of appetite is one kind, whereas increased appetite is another symptom. Like humans, morning sickness might occur in dogs during the first few weeks. 

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Decreased Energy Levels –

Pregnancy seems to be a tiring process, and due to hormonal changes within the body, the energy levels might decrease. Your dog might run out of energy, and it is very common at the time of pregnancy.

Swollen Nipples 

This symptom can be visibly seen, whereas the nipples can be seen swollen and become darker, mainly the one present at the hind legs. 

Sudden Behavior Change 

Some dogs need your affection more by keeping you near their sides. In comparison, others don’t allow anyone to come closer to them. They have a bad temper is one of the signs your dog is pregnant. The behavior change can be easily noted during the early stages of dog pregnancy. 

Get an Appointment with your Vet

Two to three weeks after the dogs’ mate, they must undergo a prenatal checkup. Your vet will check for hormone levels during this period via blood tests. Usually, at the time of pregnancy, a higher amount of relaxin (hormone component) is produced. Your dog’s vet can assist you regarding the food diets at the time of pregnancy, the tests that must be taken, and an ultrasound scan to check the growth of the puppies. The puppies in your dog’s womb will be the size of walnuts. Each of them will be evenly distributed in the uterus of the dog. 

#2 Later Symptoms of Dog Pregnancy

The belly of the mother dog will get bigger at the end of the second trimester. Around the 45th day, the mother’s nipples will also become larger. This happens because milky fluid can discharge as the due date of the mother dog gets closer. Instead of an ultrasound check, your vet may ask you to take an X-ray (around the 45th day) of your dog to check the puppy’s bone structure. In this way, you can identify how many puppies will be there inside the litter of your dog.

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During the nearer delivery stage, your dog’s belly becomes larger, and it starts to sway when your dog walks. The puppies’ movements can be seen around two weeks before the delivery inside the belly of the mother. In preparation for delivery, your veterinarian will advise you to take an x-ray of your dog to confirm how many puppies are on the way and that they will be able to pass through the birth canal. If it seems bog, your vet will arrange for a c-section at the delivery time.  

How to Know if your Dog is Pregnant?

So, how to know if your dog is pregnant? Some methods can determine whether your dog is pregnant or not. It is an accurate way of testing your dog to see whether she is pregnant. 

#1 Ultrasound 

Dog pregnancy test can be done between 25 and 35 days of gestation. Ultrasound test has to be taken to check the fetal heartbeat rates; the heartbeat rate of puppies will generally be two to three times faster than that of the mother. 

#2 X-ray 

This method is one of the most accurate ways to determine whether your dog is pregnant. But an x-ray must be taken after 55 days or more because the puppies’ skeletal systems can be visible at this stage. This also shows the accurate answer for the total number of expected puppies at the time of deliverance. 

#3 Hormones 

Your vet will take a blood test for the mother to check whether the relaxin (a hormone component) is produced. The hormone test can be done at about 25 to 35 days of gestation, and relaxation is produced only when your dog is pregnant. 

#4 Abdominal Palpation 

It is important to palpate the dog’s abdomen approximately 28 to 30 days after breeding. Abdominal palpation has to be done by a veterinarian as it might cause damage to the puppies if anything goes wrong. 

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How Long are Dogs Pregnant?

How long are dogs stay pregnant? It is said that the Dog gestation period will be approximately 63 days from the day of conception. It is not easy to determine conception in a dog because, in female dogs, sperm can live for more days. The fertility of eggs can remain for up to 48 hours in dogs, so the exact gestation period cannot be determined easily. So, you need your veterinarian’s support to predict pregnancy length in dogs. However, the length of the gestation period can be determined with accurate hormone measurements. Pregnancy can last for dogs for about 9 weeks, and every day matters a lot. 

How Long are Dogs In Labor?

How long are dogs in labor? There are usually three stages of dog labor, and labor starts when the gestation period is completed. 

#1 First Stage

During the first stage, contractions get increased in the muscular walls of the uterus. But this cannot be visibly seen. The first stage can last for 6 to 12 hours, or 12 to 24 hours, and is known as the cervix relaxation stage. However, no visible contractions are seen at this stage, but you can guess some symptoms that a dog in labor faces during this stage. 

  • They will be restless.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Change in behavior
  • Traveling both in and out of the nesting box.
  • Panting
  • Digging
  • The vaginal discharge will be clear.

#2 Second Stage

The second stage will be the delivery stage, which lasts about 1 to 24 hours. Only one puppy can be delivered at a time, and the time gap between the delivery of the puppies will be for every 45 to 60 minutes, but it shouldn’t last more than one to two hours. In this way, you will be able to know the total expected number of puppies. During whelping, mother dogs take breaks, and she doesn’t strain much for up to 4 hours between the puppies’ deliverance. 

You must take your dog to the vet if she takes more than 4 hours break or doesn’t strain much for more than 60 minutes between each puppy. Also, if the delivery takes more than 24 hours, it is a sign of some serious complications and could even risk the life of both the mother and the puppies. So, consulting a vet could save a life. 

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Caring For A Pregnant Dog – Postpartum Care

Postpartum care is very important to keep both the mother and puppies safe. Some of the postpartum care tips that have to be followed for a pregnant dog are:

  • Make sure to remove all the soiled materials after whelping and try to clean the mother with a warm and soft wet cloth by not disturbing her too much. 
  • After whelping, the mother should rest for at least a few hours, and once she awakes, she must be ready to take care of her puppies. 
  • Feed her meals and fresh water. Starting by feeding relatively, a lower quantity of food and frequent meals must be given to the mother. 
  • For the first week, monitoring the mother dog is mandatory. Check the teats for any swelling, pain, or redness, and if you find any differences, take your dog to the vet immediately. 

What Should I Feed my Pregnant Dog?

Wondering what should i feed my pregnant dog? If your dog is pregnant, she should be fed high-quality dietetic foods and a well-balanced dog diet throughout the gestation period. 

  • The food given to a pregnant dog must have 29% protein and 17% fat. 
  • To avoid low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), ensure to feed high-level carbohydrate-rich food and lower-level fiber content during late pregnancies. 
  • For better milk production, 1 to 1.8 % of calcium and .8 to 1.6% of phosphorus-rich food have to be given, respectively. 
  • Feeding more amounts of vitamin D or calcium-rich foods can cause birth defects.
  • Your dog should be fed at least twice daily for balanced health. 

How Many Months is a Dog Pregnant?

How many months is a dog pregnant? This is the gestation period, which ranges from 57 to 65 days (approximately 63 days). If you plan to breed, you should save the exact mating date. Because from the date of mating, delivery can generally take between 63 and 65 days to deliver the puppies. When noting the date of mating, you can calculate your female dog’s total number of pregnant days. 

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How Many Puppies Can A Dog Have?

Depending upon the breed, this may vary. High-breed dogs can have a large litter size, and they can be able to carry 6 to 8 puppies in them. On the other hand, small breed dogs can carry only 5 puppies in their litter. Some other larger breeds can deliver even 15 puppies. After 55 days of gestation, you can get help from a veterinarian to know the exact number of puppies the mother will deliver. By taking an x-ray, it is possible to know the exact details.


Taking care of your pets during their pregnancy is a wonderful experience you can have. Just like humans, dogs will experience hormone changes, changes in weight, lack of appetite or increased appetite, and behavior changes as time passes in the pregnancy period. Many dog pregnancy symptoms will not be visible and show proper affection and attention to your pets during this time. Make sure to consult a veterinarian about the diets that must be followed or medications for safe delivery. Most of all, your dog trusts you, and you must take care of her throughout the entire period.