A healthy human pregnancy can vary by several days, and likewise so do canine pregnancies. If your pregnant dog was a stray, the estimated time of birth is even more difficult to determine. Regular vet care and frequent monitoring will help ensure that she has a hopefully uncomplicated pregnancy and birth.
The gestation period for dogs varies, usually due to their size. A canine pregnancy lasts from 58 to 68 days, with toy breeds usually being on the shorter end. The larger the dog, the longer the pregnancy. Keep in mind that she may have been impregnated by more than one male within two weeks from the time of conception—so the last puppy to be conceived will still be born at the same time as the first-conceived. Therefore, the last puppy—also known as the “runt” of the litter, could have been in the womb for a mere 44 days!
Stages of Pregnancy and Their Signs
Your veterinarian should provide regular check-ups for your pregnant dog, especially if she was a stray. The vet can make an approximation of how far along she is by feeling her belly. Do not attempt to feel your dog’s belly; only a trained doctor should do this. You can harm the fetuses if you press too hard, or you can cause a miscarriage.
Not all dogs have morning sickness, and it is common for the first two or three weeks to pass without incident. After three weeks, your dog should be showing the first visible signs of pregnancy.
If the vet can feel the puppies, and they are no larger than an inch or two, the mother is probably around 25 to 35 days pregnant. After 35 days, her belly will protrude noticeably. Her nipples will darken and enlarge. At the 45-day mark, you may want to spend the extra money to have an x-ray done, which will give you a definite number of puppies in the litter. Your vet should advise you on how to care for the mother when she gives birth, and how to handle any emergencies.
Caring for Your Pregnant Dog
Besides making sure she has good vet care, your home should be a safe haven for the expecting mother. A comfortable and stress-free environment is the single most important thing you can provide to her. This may mean that your own children will have to steer clear of her, especially if they are prone to being noisy and rambunctious. She is in a fragile state, and any young children should be supervised around her.
Give her soft bedding and plenty of blankets and cushions if your house tends to be cold. Too much heat can also be a problem, so try to afford her a climate-controlled atmosphere. Setting up a playpen for her in the TV room is a fantastic idea, as she still wants human companionship, and she needs the security of knowing that you are there for her.
Because of her growing belly, she may not be able to eat large amounts in one sitting. Nevertheless, you must make sure she is receiving adequate nutrition and calories. Therefore, offering her smaller meals frequently throughout the day may be necessary.
Enjoy experiencing the pregnancy with your dog. It is a miracle happening right before your eyes, and you may never get to see it again! Your dog will love and appreciate you so much, because she knows that you were her guardian during such a precarious time in her life.
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.