Pregnancy stages in dogs


Diagnosing pregnancy in a dog is extremely difficult unless you are experienced at looking for the signs and symptoms. Diagnostic tests, such as ultrasound, are unable to detect early pregnancies in dogs. The period during which puppies are developing inside the mother's uterus is known as the gestational period. While gestation in dogs normally lasts for nine weeks, the puppies may be born anywhere from 58 to 68 days after the pregnancy begins. During pregnancy, a dog goes through several stages, similar to those that occur during a human pregnancy.


Pregnant dogs require special care just like pregnant humans. As a dog's pregnancy progresses, her nutritional needs change and her activity limitations expand. Moreover, preparation for labour and delivery must be made before the dog is ready to give birth to her puppies. For these reasons, it is important to determine what stage of pregnancy a dog is in, and to learn to recognise the symptoms associated with each pregnancy stage.


Pregnancies in dogs are divided into four stages: stage one, stage two, stage three and imminent delivery. In the first stage, which lasts approximately three weeks, the pregnant dog will typically show no signs of being pregnant. However, some dogs in this stage of pregnancy may be reluctant to eat or may seem unusually tired. As the pregnancy progresses into the second stage, or weeks four through six, the dog's appetite begins to increase and she may begin to gain weight. Nipple growth typically begins at the beginning of stage two.

Stage three symptoms include an obvious increase in abdominal growth and the beginning of milk production. The puppies may be felt moving in the abdomen during the end of stage three. This stage of pregnancy concludes near nine weeks. When delivery is imminent, the pregnant dog may begin nesting, appear restless and begin seeking a place to have her puppies. A temperature drop to 36.1 to 37.2 degrees C is a sign that delivery will occur within the next 24 hours.

Time Frame

While most dogs typically come into heat every six months, larger breeds may come into heat less frequently. Vaginal bleeding and swelling of the vulva are obvious signs that a dog is ready to breed. Once conception takes place, a dog's gestation period lasts for an average of nine weeks. Three weeks after breeding, or after the first stage of pregnancy, female dogs should be examined for signs of pregnancy. Symptoms typically do not begin until the second stage, but dietary changes should be made if a pregnancy is suspected. The third stage of pregnancy begins near week six and lasts until a day or two before delivery begins. Because the time line of the pregnancy is important, and because pregnancy dating cannot be done until near delivery, the dates of breeding and symptom development need to be kept on record.


Because pregnancies in dogs cannot be confirmed by urine or ultrasound until late in the pregnancy, knowing what symptoms and signs are associated with pregnancy in dogs can help tremendously in making the diagnosis. During the first month of pregnancy, most pregnant dogs will gradually begin to put on weight. This is especially true for dogs carrying many puppies. Generally, a diagnosis cannot be accurately made at all until nearly a month after breeding. At this time, the pregnancy may be detected by feeling the dog's abdomen for signs of developing puppies. X-rays can confirm the diagnosis and detect the number of puppies after approximately six weeks. About this time, mammary glands may also begin to enlarge, but milk may not be present until a week before delivery occurs.

During the final few weeks of pregnancy, your dog may become irritable and should not be left alone with small children or other pets. As the birth gets closer, pregnant dogs often become restless, withdraw and may urinate or defecate in the house. Nesting typically takes place during the final week of pregnancy.


There are some things to look out for in pregnant dogs, both during pregnancy and during the delivery process. If your pregnant dog stops eating and drinking, appears to be ill or begins bleeding during the first stages of pregnancy, she should been seen immediately by a veterinarian. During delivery, if a puppy becomes lodged in the birth canal, if strong labour persists for more than two hours without delivery of a puppy or if labour becomes weak, intermittent or lasts longer than six hours without giving birth, a veterinarian should be consulted immediately. Your pregnant dog should also be seen if her pregnancy continues beyond 65 days, and she should be seen in emergency care if she begins panting, vomiting or develops tremors.

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