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Understanding Dog Pregnancy: Stages and Care Tips

Healthy Moms, Healthy Puppies: A Guide to Canine Gestation

Ensuring healthy puppies starts with understanding the stages of dog pregnancy. Knowing what happens during each stage of gestation helps ensure that the embryos develop properly and that the puppies are born healthy and strong.

How Long Does Dog Pregnancy Last?

A dog's gestation period typically lasts 63 days from ovulation, with a possible variation of plus or minus 48 hours. Timing ovulation with quantitative progesterone testing is the most accurate way to determine the due date. Without this, you can estimate the due date by counting 62 to 65 days from the last breeding. If the female no longer accepts the male, expect puppies about 62 days later. The size of the litter can also influence the gestation period, with larger litters sometimes arriving a day or two earlier and smaller litters potentially taking a bit longer.

Recognizing Pregnancy in Dogs

Dog embryos are microscopic until around 30 days of gestation. Visible signs of pregnancy appear around 35 days. An ultrasound can provide an estimate of how many embryos are present as early as 28 days. Blood tests are generally unreliable for confirming pregnancy.

Caring for a Pregnant Dog

Once you suspect or confirm your dog’s pregnancy, she will require extra care. The most critical period for avoiding toxins or drug-related defects is during the first 32 days of gestation. Organs are forming during this time, and improper substances can cause damage. Ensure that any supplements or medications are safe for the pregnancy.

Dog Pregnancy Week by Week

Dogs are pregnant for about nine weeks. Here’s a week-by-week guide:

Weeks 1-4

  • Week 1: Conception occurs.

  • Week 2: Monitor for slight weight gain, though energy levels remain normal.

  • Week 3: Watch for brief morning sickness; appetite will soon normalize.

  • Week 4: Visit the vet to confirm pregnancy. Begin adjusting her diet to support embryo growth.

Weeks 5-8

  • Week 5: Your dog might become more affectionate.

  • Week 6: Noticeable belly growth and darker pink teats. Increased rest and nutrient intake needed.

  • Week 7: Deworm the dam and provide a whelping box.

  • Week 8: Fetuses are fully developed, and lactation begins.

Around day 45, increase your dog’s caloric intake due to rapid fetal growth. By day 55, switching to puppy food can help meet her increased nutritional needs.

Week 9

Prepare for labor by ensuring the whelping area is ready. About two days before labor, your dog will lose her appetite and show signs of restlessness.

Labor and Delivery

Labor can last between 3 and 12 hours. The dog may strain for up to two hours before the first puppy is born. Be prepared to assist if she needs help removing the membrane from the puppies.

Post-Labor Care

After labor, clean your dog gently and refresh her whelping box. Ensure she takes breaks to go outside and check her nipples and vulva for any unusual signs.

Puppy Care After Birth

Regularly check the puppies to ensure they stay warm and are feeding well. Weigh them regularly and have your vet examine them about 48 hours after birth.

For more resources on dog pregnancy, whelping, and puppy care, visit


Breeding your first litter is an exciting journey. With proper understanding and care, you can ensure a healthy pregnancy and successful whelping experience. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance.



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