Finding out your dog is expecting puppies can be an exciting time! As a pet parent, you want to ensure your puppy and her unborn pups stay happy and healthy throughout the pregnancy and birth. But before you start puppy-proofing the house, it’s essential to confirm if your dog is pregnant.
Some signs of canine pregnancy can be subtle, while others are more obvious. Changes typically start around three weeks into gestation, but symptoms may vary depending on the dog. By understanding the timeline of dog pregnancy and the early signs to look for, you can more easily determine if your furry friend has puppies on the way!
Timeline of Dog Pregnancy
Knowing what to expect during the typical canine gestation period can help determine whether your dog is expecting. Here are the stages a pregnant dog goes through:
Fertilization occurs a few days after mating. Tiny embryos travel to embed in the uterine lining, but there are no external signs of pregnancy this early.
The embryos rapidly develop into fetuses with heartbeats. As hormones fluctuate, your dog may act restless or sleepy during this time.
Morning sickness, appetite changes, and swelling teats may start appearing. Abdominal swelling is not apparent yet.
The dog’s belly swells as puppies proliferate. Fatigue, enlarged nipples, and personality changes emerge too.
Your dog may start nesting in preparation for birth. Their appetite fluctuates, and their vulva may discharge.
Puppies are fully formed, and your dog shows a huge abdomen. Pelvic ligaments begin relaxing for birth.
Birth happens around day 63. Momma dog experiences contractions and restlessness, then delivers puppies over several hours.
Now that you know the dog pregnancy timeline, look next for these common early signs of canine conception.
Early Signs Your Dog May Be Pregnant
Some clues are that your puppy could have a bun in the oven emerge long before her belly expands. Be on the lookout for these subtle hints in weeks 3-5 that signal puppies may come:
- Morning sickness – Some dogs experience nausea and vomiting for a few weeks, similar to human morning sickness. Look for vomiting and lack of appetite.
- Lethargy – The physical demands of pregnancy sap energy. Notice if your active dog starts napping more and acting tired.
- Swollen or enlarged nipples – Hormones make nipples plump up and red as they prepare to produce milk. The change can occur as early as week 3.
- Abdominal swelling – Slight swelling under the belly button arises between weeks 4 and 5 when the dog’s womb enlarges. It’s usually not obvious to owners yet.
- Moodiness – Your happy pup might suddenly seem irritable or clingy due to hormonal fluctuations.
- House soiling – Some pregnant dogs can’t “hold it” as long due to physical pressure. If the behavior is unusual, accidents inside could indicate pregnancy.
While these early clues are good indicators, your veterinarian can most accurately confirm pregnancy through physical exams, ultrasounds, x-rays, and blood tests once your dog is at least 3-4 weeks along. Don’t rely only on subtle symptoms. Schedule an appointment with your vet for an official diagnosis.
Obvious Mid-to-Late Pregnancy Signs
As your dog progresses through her pregnancy, the signs she’s expecting become undeniable! Here are the apparent clues in weeks six and beyond that puppies are on the way:
- Enlarged abdomen – As the puppies grow, her belly swells up noticeably by weeks 6-7. It may sway back and forth when she walks.
- Increased appetite – The growing pups demand more nutrition, so she’ll eat more starting around week 6.
- Weight gain – Expect your dog to pack 30-50% extra body weight during pregnancy. An average 25-pound dog may gain 10-15 pounds.
- Changed vulva – The vaginal opening and vulva get swollen and enlarged. You may see discharge.
- Nesting – She may tear up blankets or sheets and re-arrange her bedding to create a nest around week 9.
- Decreased energy – The heavyweight belly makes moving tiring. She’ll want to rest more.
- Milk production – Colostrum, or pre-milk, is secreted by those puffy nipples around week 7.
- Digging bed – She may try searching in her bed or chosen nesting spot as delivery approaches.
- Labor – Finally, visible contractions, straining, restlessness, whimpering, and water breaking signal the onset of labor around days 63-65. Delivering puppies soon follows!
Now that you know what changes indicate doggie pregnancy, you must prep for those tiny paws heading your way! Let’s go over proper care and how to get ready.
Caring for a Pregnant Dog
Congratulations, you’re going to be a pet grandparent! Ensuring your expecting canine gets the proper pregnancy care sets her puppies up for good health. Follow these tips:
- Switch dog foods – Look for a high-quality puppy formula or diet for pregnant or nursing dogs. The extra calories, protein, calcium, Omega-3s, and other nutrients support mom and pups.
- Feed more often – Splitting her food into 3-4 smaller meals daily makes mom feel comfortable as her stomach gets crowded.
- Exercise limits – Take short, gentle walks versus intense play to avoid overexertion. Be guided by your vet’s advice.
- Belly support – Help heavy mama dogs up/down stairs or couches. Don’t let her jump. Use ramps and memory foam beds.
- Stress reduction – Give soothing massages, play calming music at bedtime, or try anti-anxiety wraps to prevent stress.
- Regular vet visits – Your vet closely monitors mom and pups’ health, especially in late pregnancy. Bring any concerns to them.
- Whelping kit – Assemble blankets, heating pads, and sterile scissors/string by week 8. Your vet can recommend supplies.
- Puppy-prep – Get set up for feeding/housing/cleaning multiple puppies. Ask your vet for a new mom and puppy care crash course!
- Birth planning – Discuss with your vet about possible birthing complications and emergency protocols beforehand. Be proactive and prepared!
With proper pregnancy care, you’ll help your dog stay relaxed and comfortable until her due date arrives. Next, let’s go over the magic moment of delivery!
Dog Birth and Delivery
The big day has finally arrived after 63 long days – your puppy goes into labor! Here’s a quick rundown of the dog labor and birthing process so you know what to expect:
- Early labor lasts 6-12 hours as the cervix dilates and uterine contractions begin. She’ll seem restless.
- Active labor lasts 12-24 hours as more muscular contractions push puppies down the birth canal. Hard training starts.
- Transitional labor is the hardest pushing stage right before a puppy emerges. This stage is typically quick.
- A puppy should be born within 1 hour of the onset of the transitional stage. Pups come out encased in a sac that the mom will remove. She may eat the placenta.
- Puppies come out at intervals of 30-60 minutes. The litter is usually delivered within 5-24 hours.
- Mom will lick puppies to warm them, nip the cord, and prompt them to nurse once all pups are born.
Of course, each dog’s labor experience is unique. Constantly monitor your dog closely once contractions start, and call the vet immediately if you notice:
- Green/foul discharge instead of explicit/reddish
- Contractions lasting over 1 hour with no puppy born
- More than 4 hours between puppies
- Weak contractions or signs of distress like whining
- No progress within 24 hours of hard contractions starting
Let your dog handle delivery on her terms as long as labor is steadily progressing. Supervise patiently while she works her magic!
With healthy puppies nursing and filling your home with cuteness, you’ll instantly forget those long months of pregnancy in the blink of an eye.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do dogs act differently when pregnant?
- Yes, dogs often act noticeably different when pregnant. Aside from physical symptoms, you may notice personality changes like moodiness, neediness, change in appetite, and lower energy levels. This is due to hormonal fluctuations and the demands of pregnancy on the body.
Can you palpate a pregnant dog’s stomach?
- Gently palpating or feeling your dog’s abdomen should be done only by your veterinarian. They have the skills to palpate safely and determine if abnormalities in uterus size or puppy movement are present. Please don’t attempt to feel your dog’s abdomen yourself, as it could harm pups.
How can you tell how many puppies a dog will have?
- Determining litter size early is difficult, even for vets. Ultrasound may reveal visuals of embryos, but an accurate puppy count is hard until later pregnancy, when the fetuses are larger. The size of the abdomen and palpating puppies can give estimates later in gestation. The number born may still surprise!
Can dogs sense pregnancy before a test?
- Dogs likely can’t sense pregnancy in the first few weeks. Their advanced sense of smell picks up on hormonal changes after the first month of pregnancy. Experienced mother dogs may notice changes sooner. But early signs are subtle, and dogs won’t show obvious symptoms until weeks 4-6.
At what week do dogs start lactating?
- Lactation, or milk production, generally starts around weeks 7-8 of pregnancy. The mammary glands swell as they prepare to produce milk, and fluid or colostrum may leak. Milk usually comes in fully within 24-48 hours after the pups are born.
I hope these answers help explain what to expect with your dog’s pregnancy! Let your veterinarian guide you through any other questions. Best of luck to you and the furry mom-to-be!
Determining if your beloved dog is expecting puppies is exciting and requires close observation. Look for subtle signs like energy changes and appetite shifts early on. More obvious clues like weight gain and nesting behavior emerge later in the pregnancy. While symptoms can indicate the likelihood of pups, confirm with your vet for an accurate diagnosis.
With your dog confirmed pregnant, focus on providing attentive pregnancy care. To help your dog feel more at ease around other canines, especially during pregnancy, provide premium nutrition, ensure comfort, limit exercise, schedule regular veterinary checkups, prepare whelping supplies, educate yourself on birthing, and track her symptoms to anticipate the arrival of puppies. But don’t worry – when those adorable puppy faces finally debut, the long pregnancy wait will instantly melt into pure joy!