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Without the assistance of a trained professional who knows how to palpate the stomach to confirm the presence of puppies, diagnosing the pregnancy of a dog can be challenging within the first few weeks. Changes in the appearance of the mother's nipples, as well as her appetite and behaviour, are often so subtle that the initial stages of pregnancy escape notice.
Around the third week, the cells of the embryo multiply and implant within the dog's uterus to begin the development process. At this stage---around 26 to 32 days into creation---a veterinarian will most likely be able to palpate and confirm the presence of the puppies.
Around the fourth week, the occupants of the dog's uterus begin to make themselves at home. The eyes and faces of the puppies begin to form, and their spinal cords take shape. During this time, the foetus is most susceptible to issues, which can in extreme cases cause embryonal/fetal death. While some of the congenital hindrances can be quite obvious immediately upon birth, many---such as defects to functioning organs---will remain hidden until well into the formative stages of the puppy's life.
Next up---around the fifth and sixth week---the puppies can double in size to around 20 to 30mm. Now they're starting to look like puppies with toes and claws forming as well as tiny whisker stumps under the nose. Their eyes are still closed and their skin pigment has formed. At this stage, their bodies have developed to the point that the sex can be determined and a stethoscope can easily pick up a heartbeat.
In the final phase of the pregnancy, the puppies continue their development safely within the womb. They continue to grow, and will begin to move around inside while mama's body prepares for the delivery.
The puppies will take one of two positions inside the uterus in preparation for their big entrance into the world: anterior (nose and front paws pointed toward the birth canal) and posterior (tail and back paws appear first).
Before birth, they will be enclosed in two separate sacs. The outer one will split open during the birth process.
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