What can you expect during canine gestation? Quite a lot goes on, actually. Learn more about what goes on during a dog pregnancy week by week and get tips on caring for your pregnant dog.
Canine Gestation Calendar and Timeline
The approximate expected time of a dog's pregnancy is 63 days, although puppy gestation can vary by several days. Dog pregnancy can generally be expected to last between eight and nine weeks. If you know when your dog was bred, use this dog gestation calculator to estimate when your pet is due. The week-by-week canine gestation guide below will help you understand how the puppies are developing along a timeline, as well as the outward changes your dog is going through for the eight to nine weeks she will spend advancing through the stages of pregnancy until she delivers puppies.
Week Zero to One
On day 1-7, breeding takes place. Within a few days, the sperm reaches the eggs and fertilization occurs.
On days 8 to 14, the fertilized eggs make their way to the uterus for implantation. You may notice behavioral changes in your dog that represent the first signs pregnancy. For example, she may become moody or more affectionate.
On days 15 to 21 your dog may begin to display mood swings, appetite changes, and breast tissue development. At this point, implantation has taken place and the embryos begin to develop.
On days 22 to 28, the 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. Also, your dog's appetite will likely increase, so offer her more of her food.
On days 29 - 35, 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.
On days 36 - 42, 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.
On days 43 - 49, puppies are well-developed and now begin attaining size in preparation for birth. This is when you can feel puppies move in your bitch's abdomen. Her breasts are well developed as in the image of the pregnant bulldog. The breasts 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.
On days 50 - 56, 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 dog may begin digging the bedding in the whelping box. This is natural "nesting" behavior. Allow her to feed freely as she is able.
On days 56 - 63, the pups are ready for birth and may be quite still as they rest in preparation for the marathon to come. When your dog is ready to give birth, she 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.
Video of Fetal Development
This video by ProPlan gives an excellent animated view of how a puppy fetus develops in the womb during gestation.
Video Illustration of Dog Pregnancy Timeline
To further clarify the stages of dog pregnancy, review the week-by-week images in the following video.
Dog Gestation Care Tips
It's important to take great care of your dog throughout all the stages of pregnancy.
- 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.
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.
An early pregnancy checkup 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.
Learning About Canine Gestation
Caring for a pregnant dog is a huge responsibility. Learning about the daily and weekly changes during the gestation period can alert you if your dog is experiencing difficulty. Make sure you work with your veterinarian to regularly check up on your dog's progress to ensure a healthy mom and litter.