Canine Gestation Week-by-Week

Kelly Roper
English bulldog near birth
English Bulldog 59 days pregnant

What can you expect during canine gestation? Quite a lot, actually. Learn more about what goes on during each week of a dog's pregnancy, and get tips on caring for your pregnant dog.

Canine Gestation Calendar

The week-by-week canine gestation calendar below will help you understand how the puppies are developing, as well as the outward changes your dog is going through and how you can support her.

Canine Gestation Calendar
Week Changes
Zero to One *Breeding takes place. *Within a few days, the sperm reaches the eggs and fertilization occurs.
Two *The fertilized eggs make their way to the uterus for implantation. *You may notice behavioral changes in your dog. She may become moody or more affectionate.
Three *Implantation has taken place and the embryos begin to develop. *Your dog may begin to display mood swings, appetite changes and breast tissue development.
Four *Fetuses can be felt in the uterine horns around day 28, and can also be seen by ultrasound. *The spinal cords are developing, and the fetuses are beginning to grow facial features. *Your bitch's uterus will shortly fill with fluids to protect the fetuses. After this, it will be weeks until the puppies can be felt again. *Your dog's appetite will likely increase, so offer her more of her food.
Five *The fetuses develop their sex organs and begin to look like actual puppies. The leg buds lengthen and develop toes. *Your dog's belly will begin to look noticeably swollen as the pups take up more space. *With less room for full meals, it's time to begin serving smaller meals more frequently.
Six *Pups continue to grow and pigmentation develops. The eyes now have lids and remain sealed until approximately ten days after birth. *Your dog is noticeably more uncomfortable at this point. She may vomit occasionally due to the extra pressure against her stomach. *You may also notice clear fluid discharge from her vulva. This is normal.
Seven *Puppies are well-developed, and now begin attaining size in preparation for birth. *You may be able to see/feel the puppies' movements in your bitch's abdomen. *Her breasts are well developed and probably contain a bit of colostrum or "first milk". *Your dog is noticeably tired and may begin searching for a place to whelp. Time to set up a whelping box.
Eight *The pups have fur and are now crowded in the uterus. You may notice a lot of activity as they get into position for the coming birth. *Your bitch may begin digging the bedding in the whelping box. This is natural "nesting" behavior. *Allow your bitch to feed freely as she is able.
Eight to Nine *The pups are ready for birth, and may be quite still as they rest in preparation for the marathon to come. *Your dog may appear uncomfortable and restless or anxious. *Time to begin taking rectal temperature readings 12 hours apart. Normal temperature is 100 to 101 F; a drop down near 97 F held for two consecutive readings indicates labor will begin within 24 hours.

Gestation Care Tips

Nutrition

  • If you're already feeding a balanced diet, there's no need for additional vitamin supplements.
  • As your dog's needs increase, simply offer her more of her current diet.
  • You can add a spoonful of cottage cheese to her evening meal to boost calcium intake in a natural way, but refrain from giving calcium pills. They are too potent and can do more harm than good during the pregnancy.

Activity Level

As you can tell from the canine gestation calendar, it's a good idea to limit any strenuous activity during the first two weeks of pregnancy to ensure implantation takes place. After this time, your dog can resume her normal activities within reason. Once her belly begins to show, it's a good idea to limit her exercise to gentle walks to keep her well toned.

Veterinary Care

An early pregnancy check up and good communication with your vet are generally all that is required to make sure the pregnancy develops as it should. Call your vet if your dog displays any behavior you deem completely unusual or if she displays signs of distress. Do not give vaccinations or worm your dog until after whelping, and only with your vet's supervision.


If you'd like to progress to the next stage, read Delivering Puppies>.

Canine Gestation Week-by-Week