If you don’t want your female dog to have puppies it’s best to have her spayed by the vet before she reaches sexual maturity, bearing in mind that can be quite young.
It depends on the dog and her heat cycles but some puppies are able to get pregnant themselves well before they are a year old, in some cases by 5 to 6 months.
Accidents do happen though and you may find your dog pregnant. Alternatively some people decide to breed from their dogs so plan to have a litter of pups.
If you suspect your dog is pregnant take her to the vet who’ll be able confirm dog pregnancy. They will also pick up on any health issues which may arise.
Dog pregnancy lasts for around 60 days or nine weeks. However, dog pregnancy can sometimes be slightly less or slightly more depending on when the dog ovulated, its breed size and the size of the litter.
Dog pregnancy tests
There are a number of ways the vet can check for dog pregnancy:
- They can test for a hormone called relaxin which is only produced by pregnant dogs. This can be done after about 21 to 25 days.
- They can palpitate your dog’s abdomen. The vet may be able to feel little bumps which are the growing puppies in tiny form. The dog’s uterus lining may feel thicker. This can be done after about 21 days.
- They can use a stethoscope to find the puppies’ heartbeats. They won’t be able to pinpoint how many in the litter. This can be done from about 25 days.
- They can carry out an ultrasound scan. This can be done after about 28 days. This is probably the most effective and usual method of testing.
- They can do an X-ray. This can show the puppies’ skeletons. This can be done after about 49 days but some vets advise against it because of exposing the newborns to radiation.
Dog pregnancy signs and symptoms
- Vaginal discharge about a month after mating.
- Swollen and prominent teats about 25 -30 days into the pregnancy.
- Swelling abdomen about 45-50 days after pregnancy
- Body weight increase
- Slight depression
- Increase in appetite in the second half of pregnancy. Dogs need to be fed up to 30% more towards the end of their pregnancy. It may be an idea to switch to puppy food as this has more calories in than adult formula dog food.
- Towards the end of the gestation period, your dog will probably display its nesting instincts, scratching and showing restlessness.
Make her a nesting or whelping (giving birth) bed. Maybe a big cardboard box or crate. It should be big enough for her to come and go from but leave her puppies in when they are born. Fill it with old towels or blankets which you don’t mind throwing away afterwards.
You’ll have a good indicator of her due day.
Dogs temperatures drop when they are about to go into labour so you may want to take your dog’s temperature rectally, your vet will show you how this is done if you haven’t done it before.
There may be a greenish vaginal discharge to show she is ready for labour and birth.
When your dog is giving birth she’ll usually do it without any special help from you. She’ll handle it herself, delivering the puppies, removing the amniotic membranes and chewing off their umbilical cords before cleaning them. It’s unlikely that you’ll have to do anything but you may like to have your vet’s out of hours number available, or a friend who has been through a dog’s labour before on standby, to advise in case you have to step in and help with cutting of the umbilical cords or removing the pups from their amniotic sacks if the mum dog seems too exhausted. The puppies need to remain with their mum for at least eight weeks before going to new homes
How to care for a dog during dog pregnancy
There are 5 top tips to care for your dog during pregnancy
- Ensure your dog is up to date with all her jabs before she is pregnant to avoid her getting ill. If your dog is pregnant already advise your vet and they can treat her accordingly. Also ensure that the flea and worming treatment is up to date
- Feed normal wet dog food for the first half of the dog pregnancy and increase the portions in the second half. Switch to puppy wet dog food as this has a higher calorie content than adult wet dog food
- Do not push your dog to go for walk if she doesn’t want to, she may become very tired as the dog pregnancy progresses. If normally an active dog decrease the amount of exercise as she goes further into the pregnancy
- Help prepare your dog for labour by providing her with a cardboard box to nest in
- Finally make her as comfortable as possible throughout the pregnancy