How Long Are Dogs Pregnant For?
Puppies! Everyone loves how cute, cuddly, and playful the are. For both dog breeders and pet owners alike, awaiting the birth of a new puppy can seem like forever! The good news is that a dog’s pregnancy is much shorter than a human’s. So, how long are dogs pregnant for?
Typically, dogs are pregnant for around 63 days, but this number can differ by a few days based on various factors.
There is a lot that goes into a dog’s pregnancy, and this article will touch on everything you need to know.
The Canine Reproductive Cycle
You need to understand the canine reproductive cycle to answer the question of how long a dog is pregnant. An unaltered dog will go into heat about every six months with some dependencies on breed and the dog itself. A female dog has four stages in the reproductive cycle, they are:
This first stage lasts about nine days. Females will start attracting males though they aren’t ready to mate. Indicators of proestrus are a swollen vulva bloody discharge.
The estrus stage lasts from three to eleven days. The female will be receptive to mating during this phase. Indicators of estrus include an enlarged and soft vulva and a light discharge color.
Diestrus is the final stage and it occurs around the fourteenth day. During this two-month long phase, the female is no longer receptive to males. Indicators of diestrus include:
- Not receptive to males
- Discharge becomes redder and tapers off
- Vulva returns to normal
This is the time between diestrus and the next proestrus, and will last about four months. However in some breeds, this can be much longer. During this time the uterus prepares for the next possible pregnancy.
Once you understand the heat cycle you can better determine the length of a dog’s pregnancy. You can calculate conception dates by tracking the heat cycle and breeding period.
How To Tell If A Dog Is Pregnant
It’s difficult to tell right away if a dog is pregnant. Most likely, you’ll have to rely on your veterinarian to make the determination. You’ll want to have the best estimate of the time frame of when the dog was bred. You need this because the four methods of testing for pregnancy in dogs are time sensitive.
Testing for relaxin is one method to determine if a dog is pregnant. The hormone relaxin is released from the placenta tissue during pregnancy. This diagnostic test is fairly accurate, but the female must be at least 30 days into her pregnancy. Tests before that can produce false negatives.
Abdominal palpation is done by feeling the dog’s abdomen to look for swellings in the uterus. Each fetus has a fluid-filled sac that can be felt between the 21st and 35th day of gestation. After one month, however, the sacs lose their shape and the uterus develops a feel that can be mistaken for fat or pyometra.
X-rays are most effective after day 55. With an x-ray, the veterinarian will be able to give an accurate count of puppies can determine the best timing if an elective cesarean will be performed.
Early in gestation, an ultrasound can be done between days 25 and 35 to determine if a dog is pregnant. Also, ultrasounds can register fetal heartbeats in the puppies growing inside the pregnant dog.
How Long is a Dog’s Gestation Period?
In dogs, a normal gestation period is approximately 63 days from the time of conception, but it can vary by several days. Even if you know the day mating took place, it can still be hard to pinpoint the day of conception. This is because the act of a mating isn’t an exact measurement of gestation. The female’s eggs remain fertile for up to 48 hours and sperm can live several days inside the female. Ultimately, this makes it hard to determine the exact day the pregnancy occurs. Using hormone measurements, gestation length is as follows:
- 56 to 58 days from the first day of diestrus
- 64 to 66 days from initial rise in progesterone
- 58 to 72 days from first breeding
Stages Of Dog Pregnancy
During a dog’s pregnancy, the gestation stages are relatively short and the puppies develop quickly over two to three months.
The embryos move to the uterine horns around the 7th day and the embryos embed in the uterine lining around the 16th day. By day 22, the fetuses begin to take shape. Many dogs don’t show symptoms of pregnancy during the first three weeks. Some signs of pregnancy in the first month include:
- Increased affectionate behavior
- Increased appetite
- Decreased activity
- Slightly enlarged nipples
- Clear vaginal discharge
During the second month, fetal development happens quickly. By the 50th day, x-rays will show the number of pups in the litter and the female will begin looking for a place to nest around day 58. Signs of pregnancy during the second month include:
- Noticeable increase in appetite
- A 20 to 50% weight gain
- Enlarged, firm abdomen
- Visible puppy movement
- Increased urination
- Behavioral changes
- Decrease in appetite by 45th day
- Clear vaginal discharge
By the beginning of the third month, the female is ready to whelp. By the fifty-eighth day, development of the puppies is almost complete. The puppies will begin moving into the whelping position over the last few days of pregnancy. Signs during this time include:
- Waist trimming as pups move into whelping position
- Appetite loss
- Drop in body temperature 12 to 24 hours before labor
A dog’s pregnancy is an exciting time for dog parents. Understanding the entire process can give you a pretty good idea of when the new puppies will arrive. Plus, you’ll know what your dog should be experiencing at each stage. With all of this information and preparation, you’ll be more than ready for the big day when it finally comes. Dog pregnancy can be a stressful time for both you and your dog, but knowing your dog’s journey to motherhood will make it easier when you know all is well.
For South Bend, IN area dog parents, Lincolnway Veterinary Clinic in Mishawaka, IN is here to help you with your dog’s pregnancy. Give us a call today at (574) 256-1871 or schedule an appointment online!