Pregnancy in dogs – an overview

Responsible breeding requires careful planning and attention to the needs of both the mother and her puppies. Consult with your vet regularly to ensure a smooth and healthy pregnancy, labour, and postpartum care for your beloved canine companions.

Table of Contents

Your dog’s best chance of getting pregnant

Female dogs, also known as bitches, typically go into heat or season every 5 to 11 months.

During this time, they become receptive to mating and can become pregnant. 

The optimal time for breeding depends on the individual dog’s reproductive cycle, which comes after the heat and lasts around 1 week but can last up to 20 days. Medical tests are available to identify ovulation dates.

If you are interested in breeding your dog, speak to your vet.

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A brief overview of pregnancy in dogs

Once fertilisation occurs, the gestation period for dogs lasts an average of 63 days. 

During pregnancy, a dog’s body undergoes several changes. In the early-term of pregnancy, you will hardly notice changes. As the pregnancy progresses, her tummy will start to become rounder and sag down, and the nipples may become more prominent and darker in colour.

Confirming pregnancy in dogs is not as simple as urinating for a strip. There is no early blood test either. The only later blood test that can be done is a relaxin test. Confirming your dog’s pregnancy can also be done by: hands-on examination, ultrasound scan or x-rays.

Caring for a pregnant dog requires providing adequate nutrition and care during this time. This includes feeding a high-quality diet, deworming medication, regular exercise, and getting the necessary vet check-ups.

For full details on pregnancy in dogs click here

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The signs of labour

Dogs give birth at around 8 weeks of pregnancy. 

As the due date approaches, you may notice signs that indicate your dog is preparing to give birth. These signs include nesting behaviour, restlessness, panting, and a decrease in body temperature. 

It’s essential to provide a quiet, comfortable space for the mother to give birth and to be prepared to assist if necessary.

When the time comes, the mother will go into active labour, and the first puppy is usually delivered within an hour of the contractions starting.

Signs you should call a vet during labour in dogs

  • Take your dog to the nearest vet practice if your dog has been straining for 20-30 minutes without delivering a puppy.
  • If you see a puppy stuck.
  • If your dog has heavy bleeding, pain, weakness, or any other signs of distress.
  • If your dog is at day 70 of her pregnancy and hasn’t shown any signs of labour.

For more information on whelping, including when to call a vet, click here

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The first days of newborn puppies

It’s crucial to monitor the puppies closely during the first few days of life. 

Book a post-natal vet check-up and ensure they are nursing and gaining weight appropriately.

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