Normal Pregnancy in Dogs

I received a question on this today, so I will post the handouts we use here at KVC.  This is the first of three.

Normal Gestation in Dogs

Gestation is the period when the young are developing in the mother’s uterus.  In dogs, gestation normally lasts 9 weeks (63 days).  However, puppies may be delivered between 58 and 68 days and the pregnancy is still considered normal.

 Diagnosis of Pregnancy:

Ultrasound examination can reliably detect pregnancy by 21 days post-conception.  Examination is scheduled at 30 days post-breeding.  While ultrasound is great for detecting pregnancy, it is not great for counting the pregnancies.  By the eighth week of pregnancy, the puppies can be seen on X-rays (when there is calcium in their bones).  This is the best way to count the number of puppies expected.

 Physical Changes:

During the first 5 weeks of pregnancy, there are few noticeable changes in the mother. After the 5th week, you may notice weight gain, especially with large litters.  If only 1 or 2 puppies are present, the mother may gain little weight until shortly before birth.  Abdominal enlargement is generally obvious in the last 3 weeks.  The mammary glands may begin to enlarge a early as the 35th day, but usually development is not obvious until 45 days.  Milk maybe present as early as 7 to 9 days before delivery, but usually it is not produced until 1 to 2 days before delivery.

 Behavioral Changes:

During pregnancy, the female dog may show a change in behavior, especially in the last few weeks. As the uterus enlarges with the developing puppies, your pet may become restless, seek seclusion and in the last few days, soil the house.  She may shred papers, blankets or bedding in an attempt at “nest building” in the last weeks.  During the last 2 weeks, your pet may become irritable and should avoid contact with small children.  She will need a quiet place, out of the traffic pattern to deliver her puppies. It would be good to set aside a place ahead of time and let her get accustomed to it, rather than have her crawl under the bed or into a closet when the time comes.


Good nutrition is essential for healthy puppies and mothers.  During the first four weeks, nutritional needs don’t change much.  The mother needs to be on a good, well-balanced diet, and her regular name-brand dog food should be okay.

During the last 5 weeks, your dog’s nutritional needs nearly double.  Even if fed several small meals each day, she may not be able to eat enough of her regular dog food to satisfy these needs.  Therefore it is best to feed a good, name-brand puppy food, like Science Diet, Purina, Iams, etc. during the last half of pregnancy and during the nursing period.  The puppy food has 50% more nutrition than the same volume of adult dog food. This will do a better job of supplying the increased calories, protein, and calcium needed for the development of the puppies and for nursing.


Moderate exercise is the proper approach.  Neither forced rest nor strenuous exercise is a good idea. Short periods  of gentle play and short walks are good.

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