Pregnancy in Female Dogs: How Long does it Last? Gestation, Symptoms, and Birth



Pregnancy in female dogs: when my pet becomes a mother.

When our furry friend is female, and if we wish she could give us great joy with a litter of puppies. Let’s see what pregnancy in female dogs consists of. If we want to promote mating, the most fertile mating season is the estrus. During this period, she accepts the male dog, and the probability of her becoming pregnant is very high.

Identifying the first heat of the dog is not so easy (there are some cases in which it is not evident), and it can occur once she reaches sexual maturity, therefore, between the seventh and tenth month of age.

But this is data subject to great variability because it depends on the canine breed and the female. Small female dogs can go into heat from the fourth month or wait until the twentieth month of age. Usually there are two periods of heat in a year, but it can also be just one.

Pregnancy in Female Dogs : How Long does it Last?

How long does pregnancy last in female dogs? Around 60 days (from a minimum of 57 days to a maximum of 65 days). There are no pregnancy tests for dogs, unlike humans. Only after 21-25 days, gestation can be verified through a visit to the vet.

Using abdominal palpation, the veterinary can identify the amniotic sac and, and for added safety, usually performs an abdominal ultrasound. It will not be possible to know the number of puppies in the pregnancy until day 45 of gestation.

In this phase of pregnancy, in fact, the bones of the fetuses calcify and it will be possible to count the spinal columns and heads by means of an X-ray.

During pregnancy, the bitch must undergo periodic ultrasound examinations, in order to verify the presence of the puppies’ heartbeat before birth and their growth.

These tests are necessary to reduce risky births and premature deaths of puppies inside the utero. In addition, after the 45th day of gestation, the pregnant dog’s diet should be modified by providing appropriate supplements, which are useful and necessary to ensure adequate nutritional requirements during the parturition phase and during the lactation period.

Pregnancy in Female Dogs: Symptoms before Birth

To help our dog as much as possible during her whelping period, we must provide her a comfortable kennel or whelping box where she can give birth to her puppies.

Sometimes, however, the animal prefers places other than the house as a kennel. Remember that we should not force her, and let her feel as comfortable as possible.

Labor begins with nonspecific symptoms such as loss of appetite and restlessness. One of the recurring behaviors of the future mother, could be to protect the house and bring pieces of cloth, towels or whatever you find to make the place more comfortable when her puppies are born.

The only symptom of pregnancy which is decisive is the sudden drop in body temperature, which drops to less than one degree Celsius, to 37.5 -37 °C (99.5 – 98.5 °F). From this moment, we will have to wait between 12 and 24 hours until parturition.

During this time, the first contractions may occur and the expectant mother may be agitated. The delivery of our pet is a very emotional moment for the whole family, but the pregnant dog knows what to do by natural instinct.

Our presence only serves to verify that everything is happening without complications. Otherwise, you have to call the vet.

Pregnancy in Female Dogs: Whelping

The birth of the female dog is divided into 3 phases:

Prodrome: Stage 1

It is the preparatory phase. It begins with the discharge of the mucous plug and lasts between 6 and 12 hours. The respiratory rate of the expectant mother increases, she will be nervous and subject to tremors.

Delivery: Stage 2

It begins when the waters break, from this moment it usually takes 30/60 minutes until the first puppy is delivered.

How many puppies can a female dog deliver in her first pregnancy? On average, female dogs give birth to 5 or 6 puppies, with a variable time interval between 20-60 minutes from each other. Therefore, labor can last for up to 3-6 hours, but sometimes it can last much longer, depending on the number of puppies and how labor goes.

Sometimes, in fact, she also rests for a long time between the birth of one puppy and another, always taking care of and protecting the newborn puppy.

The dog can give birth lying down or crouching, and before a puppy enters the birth canal, it usually turns a couple of times on itself. Puppies can be born on the head (normal birth), or on the tail (breech birth). However, it is important that both front or rear legs stick out together with the head or tail.

If this does not happen, with sterile gloves, we can help the dog in her parturition, turning the puppy to the right and to the left, very gently, without pulling (as midwives do in human’s birth).

The puppy is usually born in the amniotic sac and with the placenta. The mother herself will release it, eating the placenta. Once this process is complete, she will clean the newborn by licking it. This will improve breathing and calm the puppy. If the puppy turns its head, it is a sign that it wants to latch on to its mother’s nipple.

We must pay attention to this phase, because if the mother is about to give birth to another puppy, she could smash the already born puppy.

If the mother has not properly cleaned the newborn puppy, you should only use a very soft and clean cloth to remove the debris from the placenta and umbilical cord.

Puerperium: Stage 3

The dog discharges the afterbirth and eats it, then calms down with her puppies. She may not want to eat, this is because the placenta is a hyper protein.

We must make sure that she drinks a lot of water. She could have discharges in the next few weeks, but they are physiological. However, it is a good idea to contact the vet within 24 hours after the bitch has whelped, newborn puppies should also be monitored and the mother should visit, to avoid the risk of fetal or placental retentions.

Pregnancy in Female Dogs: Risks

As we have observed, childbirth can be safely managed at home. But we must be careful with some warning signs before and during delivery, It is necessary to call the vet urgently if the following cases occur:

  • Regarding labor, if the dog has passed the deadline, but shows no signs of giving birth.
  • High body temperature, because we could be in the presence of an infection in our pregnant pet.
  • Greenish discharge is often a sign of placental abruption.
  • If too much time goes by between the waters breaking and the first delivery. Indicated time 1 hour.
  • If too much time goes by between one pup birth and another. Approximate time is more than 4 hours.
  • If the fetuses do not come out correctly in the delivery.
  • The mother’s breathing difficulties at the end of labor may be an indication of hypoglycemia or infection.

The arrival of very small and tender puppies is a moment of great joy for the whole family, but we must prepare and care for the mother with love, at a time that is very exhausting for her.

If you have more questions, you can consult a professional near your home, who will provide the best assistance and answer all your questions.


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