Dog Pregnancy Symptoms – Week By Week
If you have a pregnant canine friend in your home, it is important to be aware of what you can expect throughout their pregnancy.
Pregnant dogs will undergo subtle changes as each week goes by, many of which most dog owners are unaware of.
So what can I expect from my pregnant dog each week of their pregnancy?
Before we introduce you to the symptoms of pregnancy in dogs, let’s first discuss some of the pregnancy basics.
At What Age Can Dogs Get Pregnant?
Many unexpected pregnancies in dogs occur due to the owner being unaware of what age a dog can get pregnant.
While this may seem shocking for some fur parents, female dogs can get pregnant at just 6 months of age.
Most dogs will reach sexual maturity between 6-12 months of age, so it’s safe to assume that your pup is capable at the 6 month mark.
If you do not want your canine friend to get pregnant, it’s important to spay them before this point.
How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?
The standard pregnancy timeline for dogs is very different than it is for humans.
While humans are pregnant for about 9 months, dogs are pregnant for about 9 weeks.
Most canine pregnancies are between 58-68 days, with most dogs giving birth close to the 62 day mark.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Pregnant?
If you think your canine friend could be pregnant, there are a few ways to get an answer.
The best way to determine whether or not your dog is pregnant is by visiting your veterinarian, as they can perform diagnostics that will offer a concrete answer.
It is not as simple as taking a rapid pregnancy test for our pups, so many will need to see a vet for confirmation.
If your veterinarian thinks your dog could be pregnant, there are a few ways to know for sure.
First, your veterinarian can palpate their abdomen for any sign of pregnancy.
However, it takes about 3 weeks for the puppies to be large enough to palpate, so your vet will not be able to do this instantly.
This also will not offer you any insight on puppy health or puppy count, so you will need other diagnostic options for those answers.
Next, your vet can perform an abdominal ultrasound that not only confirms pregnancy, but it can also confirm heartbeats in the puppies seen.
The puppies will be visible on ultrasound between 25 to 35 days of gestation, but it cannot always offer an accurate puppy count.
Some of the puppies can be squished together, so the vet may not be able to determine how many there are.
And last, your veterinarian can perform an x-ray to not only confirm pregnancy in your dog, but offer an accurate puppy count.
The puppy’s bones will not mineralize until about 45 days of gestation, so it is important to wait until the pregnancy has reached this point to perform radiographs.
Your vet can also compare the size of the puppies to the size of your dog’s birth canal on x-ray, as this will help them determine whether or not your dog could have difficulty birthing them.
For this reason, we always suggest having x-rays performed on your pregnant dog.
It is also best to know how many puppies your dog is pregnant with, as this will help you feel confident throughout the birthing process.
If you know how many pups they are having, you can relax once they have had the last one.
How Can I Help My Dog Throughout The Pregnancy?
Once you know that your pup is indeed pregnant, there are a few ways that you can promote a healthy pregnancy going forward.
Ranging from proper nutrition to creating a cozy birthing space, let’s list our favorite tips below.
Maintain A Relationship With Your Vet
It’s important to keep in close contact with your vet throughout your dog’s pregnancy.
Not only is it important to show up for any check ups that your vet recommends, but to also follow through with any diagnostics they suggest.
For example, we always recommend performing x-rays at the end of your dog’s pregnancy.
Offer Quality Food
Quality nutrition is essential for pregnant dogs.
Not only will this nourish them as they create multiple puppies, but it will help them maintain strength when the puppies are born and nursing.
The process of growing and birthing puppies requires a lot of energy, so you will want your dog to be properly fueled.
Many vets will recommend feeding your pregnant dog puppy food, but we suggest asking your vet what they recommend.
Limit Strenuous Exercise
Most veterinarians will suggest limiting any strenuous exercise during your dog’s pregnancy, especially in the final weeks.
Short and frequent walks are typically best for pregnant moms, as intense activities can put unnecessary stress on both the mother and the puppies.
Preparing For The Puppies
Once your dog is in the final weeks of their pregnancy, it is important to set up a cozy space for them to have their pups.
Many people will prepare a whelping box where their dog will deliver their puppies in a clean and safe environment.
A stressful birthing process can be dangerous for the mother and puppies, so you will want them to feel safe and comfortable throughout the process.
Though your dog may completely ignore your den of choice and choose their own space, it is still worth a shot.
Dog Pregnancy Symptoms – Week By Week
Now that you understand the basics of canine pregnancy, let’s discuss the dog pregnancy symptoms week by week.
Week one of pregnancy in dogs just involves the eggs being fertilized, so you will not yet notice any visible changes in your dog.
Everything will appear normal in your canine friend and you won’t even know your dog is pregnant at this point.
During week two, the fertilized embryos will travel to the uterine horns, but this will not lead to any behavioral changes in your pup.
Though there is an impressive process occurring in the uterus, there will be no external evidence of this.
By week 3, the puppies will begin growing during week three, so your puppy may experience an increased appetite.
Some puppies will also have decreased energy levels, so you may notice your pup taking frequent naps.
Your dog is now 4 weeks pregnant and at this point in the pregnancy, your veterinarian will typically be able to palpate the growing puppies.
Your dog may have slightly enlarged nipples, they may have occasional nausea, they might be more tired than usual, and they may also have clear vaginal discharge.
Many dogs will begin to eat more at this point, so make sure they always have access to nutritious food.
Many vets will even suggest switching to puppy food at this point.
At week 5, the puppies are really starting to grow at this point, so you will begin to notice weight gain in your pregnant pup.
She will likely be eating multiple small meals throughout the day, she may be drinking a lot of water, and she may even be urinating more than usual.
By week six you will notice significant weight gain in your pregnant dog.
She may even appear uncomfortable at this point, as her belly will typically become rigid and tense at this point.
Though she may still be drinking more than usual, her appetite may begin to gradually decline back to her normal amount.
Around week seven you will notice your pregnant dog’s breast tissue beginning to swell.
You may also notice a cloudy discharge coming from the nipples, and their nipples will typically be much darker than usual.
Your pup may also begin to shed hair around their belly, and the veins around their mammary tissue will be more pronounced.
The puppies are fully grown at this point, so your dog will be noticeably pregnant and distended.
Their mammary tissue will be noticeably enlarged, and you may even see the puppies moving under your dog’s skin.
Many dogs will experience an appetite decrease during this week, and they will likely begin to display nesting behaviors.
It is important to have a cozy den set up for your pup at this point (whelping box), as they can go into labor at any moment.
The puppies will be born at any moment during week nine!
The pregnant mother may have a decreased appetite, she may be nauseous, and she will likely be displaying obvious nesting behavior.
You will see her move to her chosen birthing area at any point, and the birthing process will begin.
Signs Of Labor In Dogs
While you will typically know nesting behavior when you see it, it is still best to be aware of the possible signs of labor in dogs.
Some of the most common signs of a dog that is about to give birth include:
- Hardened abdomen
- Abdominal contractions
- Increased discharge from the vulva
If your pregnant dog has retired to their birthing area and is experiencing any of the symptoms above, they are likely about to have their babies!
How Long Should My Dog Be In Labor?
If your dog is about to give birth, you will need to be aware of how long the whelping process should take.
Having an accurate idea of what to expect can help you spot when something is wrong, and when you should reach out to your veterinarian for guidance.
From the moment your dog births their first puppy, the process should take about 4-6 hours on average.
Most moms will only rest for about 20-30 minutes between each puppy, but some can rest for up to an hour.
At the end of the day, most dogs will complete their whelping process within 6 hours of passing their first pup.
If you think the birthing process is taking longer than it should, or your mother pup is resting for an abnormal period between puppies, we suggest giving your vet a call.
You do not want to stress out your dog by immediately rushing them to the vet if it’s not needed, so a phone call is always best to start.
Based on the description of the situation, your vet can determine the best plan of action.
Final Thoughts On Dog Pregnancy Symptoms For Each Week
Having an idea of what to expect throughout your dog’s pregnancy can help you stay on top of their health each step of the way.
Plan to monitor your pregnant dog for the 9 weeks she will be pregnant.
During this nine week pregnancy, plan on having your pregnant dog seen by your veterinarian at least once, unless if you believe your dog has higher risk factors.
Be sure to maintain a close relationship with your veterinarian, and to reach out to them if your pup has any difficulties along the way.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 10 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! Read more about us here.