How Long Do Dogs Stay Pregnant?

Most adults have a pretty good idea of where puppies come from. But far fewer have an understanding of the amount of time between conception and when the puppies are born. Let’s take a look at the gestation period of dogs, and other questions surrounding canine pregnancy and how long do dogs stay pregnant.

how long do dogs stay pregnant

What Is The Average Gestation Period?

While humans are pregnant for approximately nine months, the length of gestation is significantly shorter for dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, the average gestation period for a dog is 63 days. This is not an exact number and can vary by several days.

What Determines The Length of Time?

A study done by San José State University found that the amount of time an animal stays pregnant for is largely based on size. This is because of the amount of development that has to occur in the womb. Dogs fall on the smaller side of the scale for mammal size, which is why they have relatively short pregnancies.

How Is The Puppy Developing In The Womb?

With a gestation period of only about two months, a lot of growth happens within a short span of time. To get an in-depth idea of the changes that occur, it is best to look at the time frame month-by-month.

Month One
  • At day 16, the canine embryos embed in the lining of the uterus
  • By day 22, the fetus starts to take shape
  • Heartbeats can be detected by a veterinarian at around day 25
Month Two
  • The eyelids develop a distinct shape by day 32
  • Day 35 is when toes become visible
  • At day 45 the skeletons of the pups begin to form
  • As the mother dog realizes she is close to giving birth, she will search for a place to deliver her puppies.

This video, made by National Geographic, gives a glimpse at what a developing canine fetus looks like while in its mom’s womb. The video explains that muscles needed for survival are the quickest to develop.

Are There Signs That A Dog Is Pregnant?

If you suspect that your dog might be pregnant, there are certain signs to look for. Increased appetite, nipple size, and weight gain are all clues that a dog could be expecting.

The AKC says that to confirm pregnancy, you will need to take your dog to the vet. The vet will do an ultrasound and may feel around for the puppies. However, you should not try to do this on your own because you could injure the pups.

How Should A Pregnant Dog Be Cared For?

According the AKC, proper nutrition is crucial for pregnant dogs. Although you probably do not have to change feeding amounts in the first half of the pregnancy (unless directed by your vet), in the second half you will want to increase the number of meals she has. Check in with your vet to find out exactly how much you should be feeding her.

Princeton Veterinary Hospital says that a pregnant dog will show what is called “nesting behavior” about 3-5 days before giving birth. She will look for a quiet space where she feels comfortable. To help her, provide her with a blanketed box that is big enough to fit both her and the pups, and make sure that she is not disturbed.

how long do dogs stay pregnant

What Happens When A Dog Is Giving Birth?

In general, dogs have an easy time giving birth, says the AKC. One thing to watch out for is if the dog is tearing the placental membrane off of each of the pups, because if not you will have to do it or the puppy will suffocate. The mother dog also chews off the umbilical cords, but if she does not do that, human intervention is necessary.

For the most part, all you have to do is give the dog her space while she births the new puppies, checking in occasionally to make sure things are going smoothly. Her instincts will let her know what to do. If it looks like the mom is in pain or the puppies are having trouble breathing, contact your vet right away.

How Many Puppies Are Born In A Litter?

Doctors Foster and Smith of PetEducation.com explain that a typical litter contains 6-10 puppies. However, this can be dependent on the size of the dog. A smaller dog is more likely to have a smaller litter.

how long do a dog stay pregnant

What Do Newborn Pups Need?

The mother dog will not need much help caring for her new pups, according to an AustinTexas.gov article. The puppies get all of their food from their mom before the age of four weeks. After this, food should be introduced gradually.

Check with your vet to see when you should start introducing food to the puppies, how much food you should give them, and what kind. It is also a good idea to check up on the puppies occasionally while they nurse, to make sure that all of them are getting fed.

Milestones of New Puppies

With the birth of a litter of puppies comes the exciting opportunity to watch them grow. Here are some milestones:

  • At around day 21 puppies learn to stand
  • Between 3 and 5 weeks the puppies will start developing adult vision
  • Between weeks 6 and 8 puppies will start to become more independent, cleaning themselves and playing with their siblings
  • At 8 weeks puppies can leave the litter and be adopted
how long do dogs stay pregnant

Final Thoughts: How long do dogs stay pregnant

If you suspect that your dog might be pregnant, the first thing you should do is take her to the vet. This is the best way to confirm the dog’s pregnancy status, find out how far along she is, and find out how you can provide your dog with the best care possible.

For the most part, you get the chance to be an observer in an amazing process. Enjoy the experience and marvel at nature in action.

About the author

Melanie Fox

Hi there, I'm Melanie Fox, editor at Beloved Bark. We look to provide people with the knowledge and tools to make smarter, more educated choices for their dogs. We have made it our mission to inform our followers with expert advice and recommendations, that will make a difference in your dog's life.

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