Stages of a Dog’s Pregnancy: A Complete Guide


Congratulations, your dog is pregnant! And now what?! A dog’s pregnancy can be stressful for both the dog and the owner. If you are new to this, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns. How long are dogs pregnant? What should I feed my pregnant dog? Don’t panic, we got you covered.

This article will guide you through the whole process of breeding, taking care of a pregnant dog, birth, and after-birth care. And a few more tips and tricks.

Awesome! Let’s start with the dog’s reproductive cycle.

A Dog’s Reproductive Cycle

Proestrus, estrus, diestrus, anestrus! It sounds like a magic spell, but these are the 4 stages of the dog’s reproductive cycle. Each stage is linked to diverse behavioral, hormonal, and physical changes in the female dog. Understanding each stage can help you notice the early dog pregnancy signs. A female dog can normally get pregnant twice a year. For smaller dog breeds, the heat cycle can happen three times per year.


On average, this stage lasts 9 days but sometimes lasts until 17 days. This is when most dog owners begin to notice changes. The dog may become more affectionate and clingy to the owner or a little bit cranky. Females are not attracted to male dogs during this period, and they are not responsive. The dog’s vulva will swell, and you can notice a bloody discharge. The tail will be tucked down between her legs. This translates to: “I don’t want any male companionship!“.


Usually, this phase lasts from 3 to 21 days. Your dog is the most fertile during this time. This is the actual “heat phase” and this is usually the time when the dog pregnancy will happen. The female dog will be flirtatious, waving the tail whenever a male dog approaches. The swelling of the vulva will be calmed, and the vaginal discharge will turn from red to pink.


The dog is no longer fertile in this stage, and it’s no longer interested in mating. If the dog gets pregnant, this stage will last throughout the whole pregnancy. When there is no pregnancy, this stage lasts till the beginning of the next stage.


This is the resting stage for the female dog. It is the longest period of the heat cycle. On average, it lasts 100-150 days, and it represents the end of the previous cycle and the start of the next proestrus stage.

DID YOU KNOW: Male dogs don’t have a reproductive cycle. They get hit by Cupid’s arrow after the age of 5-6 months. They respond to females in the heat all year round.

Dog Pregnancy: Everything You Need to Know

Taking care of a pregnant dog can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and pricey. And it is not just the pre-birth care. The care after the pregnancy is very important for your dog and the puppies too. It’s amazing to see the transition of your dog into a mom, but you need to be prepared. If you are experiencing your pet’s pregnancy for the first time, you probably have many questions. We are more than glad to answer all of them.

How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

The dog’s gestation period is usually 58-64 days, which equals around two months. The pregnancy length can vary for different dog breeds, as the estrus stage differs. Even if the pregnancy occurred within planned breeding, the act of mating is not a perfect measurement of gestation.

Conception is often difficult to determine because sperm may survive within the female for many days and eggs can stay fertile for the next 48 hours. So predicting the exact length of pregnancy should be done with the help of a veterinarian.

Signs of Dog Pregnancy

If you are curious whether a home stick pregnancy test for humans is gonna work for dogs, the answer is no. The hormonal pregnancy marker in humans is different from that in dogs. So how would you know if your lovely lady is pregnant? While you are waiting for the scheduled appointment at the vet’s office, watch out for these pregnancy symptoms:

Behavioral Symptoms

Let’s take a look at the symptoms:

Decreased Activity

If your dog is energetic and playful most of the time, and suddenly you notice she gets tired quickly congratulations, you will have puppies soon!

Changes in Appetite

In the early stages of dog pregnancy, most dogs have decreased appetite and may experience vomiting. Later on, they will eat more as their hormones change.

Becoming More Affectionate or Irritated

As any pregnant lady, female dogs can have mood swings. If you notice that your dog is becoming irritated and at other times it’s clingy and cuddly, that may be a sign that she is expecting.

Nesting Behavior

Your dog shredded and destroyed your blankets, sheets, or pillows? If you haven’t noticed that your dog is pregnant by now, that can signify that she is. Dogs shred materials to build a nest, which means the due date is near.

Physical Symptoms

Now let’s analyze the physical symptoms that occur in a pregnant dog:


One of the first signs you’ll notice when your dog is pregnant is vomiting. In the first dog gestation weeks, a pregnant dog may be disgusted by its favorite food.

Increased and Discolored Nipples

The nipples of a pregnant dog can increase twice in size and have a more reddish color due to the increased blood flow. Later, a few days before pregnancy, the nipples can start lactating.

Weight Gain and Swollen Belly

One of the most apparent signs that your dog is pregnant is its swollen belly. As the puppies grow, the abdomen expands. During this time, your dog will probably eat more and gain a lot of weight. These symptoms occur at the end of the dog gestation period. If you still haven’t, this is the right time to take your dog to the vet.

DID YOU KNOW: Dogs can “smell” a human’s pregnancy. Due to their sensitive noses, and the hormonal changes in pregnant women, dogs often know if you are pregnant before you do!

Methods for Determining Pregnancy in Dogs

If you are uncertain whether your dog is pregnant, the safest way to find out is in the vet’s office. The vet can do a diagnostic test and ensure that your dog will have a healthy pregnancy. The methods are:

Abdominal Palpation

A gentle pressure on the surface of the belly with the fingers to identify swellings in the uterus that indicate the existence of growing puppies. It is recommended to do it between week 3 and week 4 of the dog gestation.

Abdominal X-Ray

Is only achievable 42 to 50 days after the initial mating. It is typically advised to wait until later in the pregnancy to acquire a puppy count using radiographs since early films might make it difficult to see all the puppies. Radiographs should be taken around day 55 after the initial breeding to get the most precise puppy counts.

Relaxin Blood Pregnancy Test

Is used to detect the early stages of dog pregnancy, from day 21 to day 28 after breeding. Relaxin is a pregnancy hormone that is primarily produced by the canine placenta. False negatives are possible, and negative results should be verified by further testing or by repeating the test in 7 to 10 days.

Ultrasound Abdominal Ultrasonography

This is the most accurate method of identifying and monitoring pregnancy. Developing embryos can be discovered as early as three weeks after conception, and fetuses’ viability can be verified throughout the pregnancy. Ultrasound has the limitation of not being reliable for counting puppies, but it can detect their heartbeats.

DID YOU KNOW: All puppies are born deaf. Their sense of hearing fully develops after 3 weeks.

Dog Pregnancy Timeline

We’ve already covered how long the gestation period for dogs is. During those 9 weeks, you should know what is happening with your dog, week by week:

Week 1

After the breeding, the sperm reaches the eggs and fertilizes them within a few days. You should not expect any changes in the look or behavior of your dog.

Week 2

The fertilized eggs go to the uterus for implantation between days 8 and 14. You may observe behavioral changes that are the first dog pregnancy signs. Your dog may become grumpy and will enjoy its alone time, or it may become more affectionate and stay near you at all times.

Week 3

From days 15 to 21, your dog may experience mood fluctuations, appetite changes, and breast tissue growth. At this moment, implantation has occurred, and the embryos are developing.

Week 4

Fetuses can be felt in the uterine region from 22 to 28 days and can be observed by ultrasound after day 25. The spinal cords are growing, and the fetuses are developing face characteristics.

Usually, the uterus of pregnant dogs will quickly swell with fluids to protect the babies. Also, your dog’s appetite will most likely increase, so it’s recommended to give her more food at this stage in the pregnancy.

Week 5

In this period, the fetuses grow their sex organs and start looking more like puppies. Leg buds extend and toes develop. As the pups take up more room, your dog’s tummy will become notably bloated. Because there is less space for big meals, it is necessary to start serving smaller portions.

Week 6

During this week, the puppies develop claws and eyelids. The lids will stay shut for around 10 days after birth. At this stage, the pregnant dogs may be visibly more uneasy. Due to the increased strain on their stomachs, they may vomit. You may also see clear fluid leakage from the vulva, which is typical. The dog will have a low appetite, so you should give her highly nutritious foods.

Week 7

The puppies have grown hair between 40 and 49 days into the pregnancy, although the coat has yet to fully form.

Their bones haven’t entirely formed yet, but they’ve started to take shape. You should ensure that your dog has gone through worm treatment to protect them from parasites. In this part of the gestation period for dogs, normal activities will make them tired. You should find a quiet and clean place in or out of your house, so your dog can have a comfortable birth.

Week 8

From day 50-56, the pups’ bones and fur are fully formed. As the due date is approaching, the puppies will move around a lot in their mom’s belly. The soon-to-be mama will have swollen nipples, and some lactation may occur. Your dog would start digging in the nest; that’s normal behavior at this period. During this period, give your dog a lot of food to gain strength for the upcoming event.

Week 9

The dog’s pregnancy time is almost over. The puppies are on their way! Their birth can happen any day during this week. At this time, your dog will be agitated, uneasy, or anxious. Talk to your vet about your dog’s anxiety, so they can recommend a CBD oil for your dog. Make sure the whelping nest is ready to go. If you want to predict the approximate time of birth, you should start taking rectal temperature every 12 hours. A normal temperature for dogs is 100 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature drops to 97 degrees in the last two readings, that means the labor will begin within 24 hours.

How to Take Care of a Pregnant Dog

We are sure you take fantastic care of your dog. Now that we’ve covered the question of how long does a dog stays pregnant, you should double the maintenance. You can do a few things to ensure your dog and her puppies are healthy:

  • Feed the pregnant dog high-protein, high-fat, and mineral-rich adult food. Do not deprive a pregnant dog of food since she will require additional nutrients to produce strong and healthy puppies.
  • Exercise is vital for dogs, even in their pregnancy. Regular short walks should be enough for the soon-to-be mama. Don’t overstress her with demanding exercises such as playing catch, jumping, etc.
  • Before whelping, make sure to clean your dog’s ear with a wet cloth. If your dog has long fur, you can groom the hairs around the vagina and the nipples. It’s not recommended to take your dog to the groom, as she can become stressed.
  • Veterinary care is essential, so make sure you take her for regular checkups during the entire dog’s pregnancy time.
  • Don’t give your dog any medications unless your vet prescribes them. All vaccines should be done before pregnancy and breeding.
  • Make sure the whelping nest is prepared, and the dog gets used to the box since she will be spending a considerable amount of time there in the next period.

The Final Stage: Labor

You’ve waited for 9 weeks, and now the day has come. Your dog is in labor! First of all, don’t panic. It may surprise you to find that dogs normally do not require much assistance while giving birth. Their instincts take over, and they mostly do the whelping by themselves.

It’s important to know how long it takes for dogs to give birth. Basically, the dog’s labor happens in 3 stages:

First Stage: Starting Contractions

The first stage is characterized by cervical relaxation and the onset of periodical contractions. However, you are unlikely to notice any contractions at this point in the birth. During this period, your dog will be agitated, will move in and out of the nesting box, will breathe heavily, dig, and may even vomit. This phase might last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.

Second Stage of Dog Labor: Stronger Contractions and Birth

The abdominal contractions are more potent, frequent, and visible in the next period. The dog’s water will break, and eventually, a puppy will be delivered. Puppies are generally born every 45-60 minutes. There is no right way for a puppy to come out, so some of them can be born tail first, some headfirst. The dog mom can take a time out a few times in the whelping process.

Want to know how long does it take for dogs to have puppies? It can vary from 3 to 12 hours.

Third Stage: Afterbirth

Passing the placenta is the final step of the labor. After each puppy is born, a greenish-black clump of fetal membranes (also known as “afterbirth”) is ejected.

How Many Puppies Can Be Born?

The typical litter size varies depending on the dog’s breed. Larger litters are more common for larger breeds. The average litter size is six to eight puppies, although certain large breed dogs give birth to 15 puppies. Small breed dogs have one to five puppies. If your dog is a first-time mommy, her litter will be smaller in size compared to the next ones. Also, the dog size determines how long are dogs pregnant. Small breeds, such as Chihuahuas, carry their puppies slightly longer than others.

DID YOU KNOW: The world record for the number of puppies in one litter is 24. They were born in 2004 to a Neapolitan Mastiff called Abellatino Arabella (Tia).

Postpartum Care

If this is your dog’s first time having puppies, make sure you help her the first few days. Same as your dog pregnancy week by week care, you can do one or two things to ease the postpartum period:

  • With a warm and wet cloth, wipe the nipple area and clean all the fluids and discharge.
  • Check the puppies from time to time to make sure they are close to their mother and nursed. If not, move them close to the nipples.
  • Feed your dog with high-calorie food, as she needs to produce healthy milk for the newborns, or consider giving food supplements to your dog.
  • Sometimes, when the dog is very close to the owner, she can refuse to stay with the puppies. In that case, move the nest closer to you, so the dog can be near you with the puppies.
  • If you notice that your dog has a high fever, abnormal vaginal discharge, or she is not producing milk after birth, immediately call your veterinarian. As you should do if there are any problems during the whole length of the dog pregnancy.
DID YOU KNOW: Newborn puppies sleep almost 20 hours a day. Just like a human baby!

Before You Scoot

Hooray, you made it! Although taking care of your pregnant dog is challenging, in the end, it is worth it. Being prepared for the dog pregnancy week by week is crucial. The proper nutrition of your dog is very important, as is the exercise and vaccines before the breeding. Make sure you help your dog with the nesting box and regularly take her to the vet. If you don’t have enough space or finances for new puppies, maybe you should consider neutering\spaying your dog. Now that we’ve covered all you need to know, go play with the puppies!

DID YOU KNOW: The main reason why male dogs run away from home is to find a partner for mating. Sometimes they even forget to eat and drink!



Are dogs pregnant for 3 months?

Depending on the breed, dogs are pregnant from 2 to 3 months. The average pregnancy is 9 weeks which equals 2 months. Some smaller breeds carry their puppies a few days longer compared to larger breeds.

When can you tell a dog is pregnant?

We know how long are dogs pregnant. During that 9 weeks, if your dog shows these physical and behavioral symptoms, it means she is pregnant: increased or decreased appetite, vomiting, swollen nipples and abdomen, mood swings, and tiredness.

How many times can a dog get pregnant?

Dogs can get pregnant when they are in their heat cycle. Usually, dogs get in heat twice a year. Smaller dog breeds can get pregnant 3 times per year.


When she couldn’t decide between being a nurse, a psychotherapist, and a financial genius, Ofelia decided to do all three. Her interests run far and wide, and she loves researching about everything you get to read on our website. Credit cards or top-notch software, she’s here to tell it all like it is.

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