Pregnancy in dogs

Pregnancy in dogs is relatively short compared to many other mammals. On average, a dog’s pregnancy lasts approximately 63 days. 

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 postnatal care for your beloved canine companions.

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Pregnancy in dogs – body changes and what to do

After a successful mating, pregnancy will last on average 63 days (can vary from 57 to 72 days).

Phases of pregnancy

Early-term from week 0-3

  • Body changes: You’re unlikely to notice any obvious changes in your dog, but she may:
    • Gain a small amount of weight
    • Have a change in appetite or be sick – this should pass in a day or so. If not, consult your vet
  • What to do:
    • Even if your dog seems fine,  always take your dog for a check-up with your vet if you think she is pregnant. And let your vet know the date she was bred/mated.
    • Start a diet for pregnant and nursing dogs or a high-quality puppy food

Mid-term from week 3-6

From day 25 after mating, your vet can do an abdominal ultrasound scan to confirm and check her pregnancy. You will start noticing changes in appearance.

  • Body changes:
    • Weight gain
    • Changing shape – her tummy will start to round up and sag down
    • Appetite will increase, especially after the 5th week
    • The nipples along her mammary glands will start to enlarge and may darken in preparation for milk
  • What to do:
    • Continue exercise and routine as usual
    • Start the deworming plan that your vet recommends from day 40 of pregnancy

Late-term from week 6-9

  • Body changes:
    • Belly becomes visibly larger.
    • Mammary glands will swell
    • Milk may leak from her nipples
  • What to do:
    • Prepare a nesting area
    • Familiarise yourself with the emergency signs of labour, so you will know when to call your vet if anything goes wrong
    • Get the emergency vet number and location in case of need
    • If it is past day 63 and she hasn’t yet given birth, contact your vet

From day 45, we can start to see the puppies on an x-ray (radiograph).

Your vet may want to do x-rays to rule out some birth problems. This is mostly a concern with flat-faced dog breeds (brachycephalic), who may have birth canals that are too narrow to pass big puppy heads.

If your vet determines that the puppies are too big to pass safely through the birth canal, then your dog will need to have a caesarean section (C-section).

For information on whelping in dogs click here.


Things to lookout for

Things you may need to consider

Pregnancy termination

The decision to end a pregnancy never comes easily.

This might be necessary in different scenarios:

  • You may decide to end your dog’s pregnancy if she is too young to carry a pregnancy safely.
  • Accidental mating happens between disproportionate partners.
  • Accidental pregnancy that puts your dog’s health at risk.

A termination can be achieved with medications or surgery.

It is helpful to know the breeding date, as different medications work only during certain stages of pregnancy.

  • Spaying
  • Medications:
    • Progesterone antagonists (aglepristone)
    • Prolactin inhibitor (Cabergoline)
    • Prostaglandins (cloprostenol)
    • Estrogens (estradiol benzoate)

Talk to a vet to discuss what is the best option for your dog since the choice of medication will depend on the length of the pregnancy and possible side effects.


What to do

What to do when you have a pregnant dog

Vet checks before breeding

  • Ideally, schedule a pre-breeding vet check-up to ensure your dog is in optimal health for pregnancy.
  • Confirm vaccinations are up-to-date and discuss a suitable breeding plan with your vet.
  • Perform necessary genetic testing to avoid hereditary issues.
  • Record the day of mating. This helps to monitor the length of the pregnancy, plan for birth and prevent pregnancy complications.

Vet check-up during pregnancy

Take your dog for a check-up with your vet as soon as you think she is pregnant.

Your vet will look into her health and make a pregnancy plan with you.

It’s also recommended to have at least another two check-ups during pregnancy:

  • at mid-term (6 weeks) and
  • close to the expected delivery date (8 weeks).

Pregnancy confirmation

Confirming pregnancy in pets is not as simple as urinating for a strip.

There is no early blood test either. The only blood test that can be done is a relaxin test.

  • Relaxin test: can be detected at around 14 days after mating but is more accurate at 25 days+.

Confirming your dog’s pregnancy can also be done by:

  • Hands-on examination: Depending on your dog’s size and how many puppies they have, your vet may be able to feel for puppies from 20-30 days after mating. However, this can be difficult and isn’t the most accurate way to diagnose pregnancy.
  • Ultrasound scan: your vet will be able to scan your dog from around 25 days after mating.
  • X-rays: less common due to radiation exposure and the need for sedation, can be taken after 45 days.

Nutrition during pregnancy

  • When your dog becomes pregnant, it is important to consult with a vet for specific dietary recommendations based on breed, size, and individual needs.
  • The general recommendations are to start a gradual transition to a high-quality diet formulated for pregnant and nursing dogs or high-quality puppy food.
  • Introduce the new food in a space of around one week, gradually increasing the amount of the new food.
  • From week 3, start increasing the frequency of feeding. Ideally, feed your dog 3-4 meals throughout the day. As the pregnancy progresses and the womb takes up more space, it becomes difficult for her to eat a lot in one go, so increase the number of meals.
  • You should not give your dog calcium supplements or any other type of supplement unless advised by your vet.

Deworming during pregnancy

Your dog will need to be dewormed more frequently while she’s pregnant to prevent her from passing worms to her puppies.

Always speak to your vet for advice before choosing a wormer, because not all treatments are licenced for pregnancy.

  • From day 40 of pregnancy, Fenbendazole is usually recommended to give to dogs every day until 2 days post-whelping.
  • For puppies, it is usually recommended to start a deworming plan after they are 2-4 weeks old. Speak with a vet for more information.


What not to do

What not to do when you have a pregnant dog

Avoid intense exercise

  • Maintaining your dog’s fitness during pregnancy is important. Extensive exercise should be avoided.
  • As she approaches whelping, she won’t need or want as much exercise. Let her rest if she seems tired, and let her decide how much she wants to do.

Prevent environmental stress

  • It’s particularly important to minimise stress during late-term pregnancy.
  • Around week 7, create a clean, comfortable and stress-free environment. Including a nesting area and minimising disruptions (loud noises, excessive people, other pets, cold environment).

Care with medication

  • Speak to your vet If your dog is pregnant and has a condition that requires medication.
  • Many drugs are unsafe during pregnancy and nursing (lactating).
  • Don’t give or apply flea and worm treatment to your pregnant or lactating dog without getting advice from a vet first.


When is it normal

Common behaviour changes seen during pregnancy

Your dog may change its personality as well as behave differently when expecting.

  • Increased affection: Your dog may seek out more of your company to connect and cuddle. It has also been observed that dogs can be more affectionate when their owners are pregnant too.
  • More tiere: You may notice that she sleeps more, especially as the pregnancy progresses.
  • Restlessness: As her pregnancy progresses, she may look more unsettled needing to readjust her position to feel comfortable. A restless dog that won’t stay still can be a sign that she is close to giving birth, so keep an eye on her.
  • Nesting behaviour: In the last few weeks before birth it’s normal for her to gather items from around the house to make a cosy nest.
  • Increased thirst and urination: You may notice your dog drinking more water during pregnancy, which often leads to more frequent urination. This is due to hormonal changes and the increasing demand on her body.


When to worry

When should you be concerned about your dog during pregnancy?

Take your dog to the nearest vet practice if they look:

  • Disoriented
  • Stiff
  • Lethargic

Joii can help if:

  • Your dog is not eating as usual
  • Is restless
  • You need help creating a suitable nest
  • Advise on your dog’s diet and exercise
  • Confirming normal labour
  • Identifying emergencies
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