If you were to ask someone what their favourite breed of dog is, the answer will most often be, “My dog!” If that is the case, it’s not surprising that when people look for a companion for their beloved canine, they often decide to breed their own dog in the hopes of getting a “mini me” version of their original pet. But how long are dogs pregnant for?
How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?
The Average Length of a Dog's Pregnancy
The simple answer to this question is between 58 and 67 days, with the average time frame being closer to 63 days, or around 2 months. This may seem like a long time, but compare that to an elephant which on average will be pregnant for 660 days, or a camel which has a gestation period of around 400 days, this is relatively a short period. In fact, the time between conception and delivery is amazingly short, considering a litter of puppies begins with just a collection of cells that only 9 weeks later emerge as perfectly formed little dogs.
What Can Affect the Dogs Gestation?
Yet not surprisingly, the answer to "how long are dogs pregnant?” can actually vary quite a bit, depending on various factors, so it is probably best to talk to your vet about your specific dog if you want a more accurate timeline. So what can affect the length of a dog's pregnancy? Generally, there are three main contributing factors:
The size of the mother dog is a crucial factor in estimating the duration of the pregnancy. Smaller breeds of dog will generally carry their pups slightly longer than a larger breed of dog. So a larger breed (e.g. German Shepherd) might deliver closer to 58 days, whereas a smaller breed (e.g. Pug) will perhaps be nearer to 67 days.
The gestation time period also depends largely on the size of the litter of pups. If the mother is expecting only one or two pups, then there is more room in the uterus for the pups to “cook” a little longer. But if the mother has 5 or 6 puppies, it may trigger an earlier delivery when they run out of growing space.
Family Line Average
Finally, if possible, have a look back through your canine’s family tree to see if there are any records of average length of pregnancy, particularly your dog’s mother or grandmother. Many professional breeders keep scrupulous records of exactly these sorts of details. Whilst this isn’t an exact science, it will often give an indication as to how long your dog's pregnancy is likely to last.
Dog Pregnancy Week by Week
Week 1: It Starts
Believe it or not, this is a busy week for your dog! Day 0, the date you use to calculate the dog’s gestation period, is actually the day she begins ovulating, what some people refer to as when she goes “into heat”. A female dog will not accept a male until she is definitely ovulating. After mating, it can take several days for the sperm to reach the ovum and the fertilization to occur. Don’t use any flea treatments during this time.
Week 2: Drifting South
During the second week of gestation, the newly fertilized little cells, which were formed very high up in the uterus, begin to grow and separate, forming into little embryos that will eventually develop into your puppies. These embryos will then slowly begin to drift down to the uterine horns, where they will float merrily in the uterine fluid well protected from the outside world.
Week 3: Snuggling In
In the third week of pregnancy, the little embryos give up their free floating lifestyle and begin to attach themselves to the uterine walls. They do this so that they can be progressively wrapped up in a membrane, which will protect the little embryos, as well as supplying them with the nutrients they need to continue growing and developing. At this stage, the tiny embryos are less than 1 centimeter long.
Week 4: I See A Face!
Week four is a very special week. It’s at this stage that a vet should be able to confirm that your dog is definitely pregnant by gently palpitating the mothers’ abdomen. But this is also when the future puppies are at their most vulnerable – for this reason, it may be wise to begin limiting rough play or strenuous exercise. The exciting news is the embryos now have a face, eyes, ears and a spine, although they are still only around 1.5 centimeters long.
Week 5: It’s A Boy!...Or A Girl!
So many exciting things are going to happen in week five! For one thing, your future puppies are no longer embryos, they are now officially foetuses. Their growth will also begin to speed up, so you may need to start feeding the mother nutritional supplements at this point. The foetuses will grow toes, claws, whiskers and perhaps most importantly, they will develop into either males or females. You can also choose to have an ultrasound performed at this stage to check how many puppies to expect.
Week 6: She Ain't Heavy, She's A Mother!
Week six is when the mother dog will suddenly start to look pregnant. Up until this point, the changes have been subtle and internal, but now, her stomach will bulge out and people will begin to ask you if your dog is pregnant. You can now start to feed your dog as much as she wants, as she needs the extra fuel to feed numerous growing foetuses. You should also start to prepare a comfortable bed or a box that can be used when the time comes to deliver.
Week 7: Hair Loss & Hair Growth
A transition occurs during the seventh week. You may notice that the mother dog will begin to shed the hair on her stomach in preparation for the birth – this is normal, so don’t panic! At the same time that the mother is losing hair, the future puppies are finally growing theirs! This is one of the last things that they develop, so from this point they will actually look like tiny puppies. Week seven is also the time to make sure the mother dog has been properly wormed as parasites could cause issues at birth.
Week 8: Flowing with Milk, But Not Honey!
She’s so close! By the eighth week your mother dog will know she is getting close, so she may start “nesting”, which basically means getting comfortable in the place she plans to give birth, hopefully the bed/box you prepared back in week six. She will also begin to produce milk, which can begin flowing from the teats up to a week prior to the birth. Try and keep the mother calm and prevent any rough running or jumping, which could start a premature labour.
Week 9: Puppies!
The "future puppies" have now just become puppies, and they could emerge at any moment! Keep feeding the mother as much as she wants, but don’t be alarmed if her appetite isn’t as robust as it was over the previous few weeks. If possible, give your dog a bath and a trim to get her nice and tidy for the birth. You can also start to take her temperature at regular intervals; once you notice a drop of one degree below average, you can expect to welcome puppies in the following 24 to 48 hours.