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Breeding, My First Litter

My First Litter: Dog Pregnancy Stages

August 11, 2022

Dog Pregnancy Stages

My First Litter

Last updated: October 5, 2017

Healthy puppies come from healthy moms. Understanding the dog gestation period is critical to ensuring her embryos develop properly and her puppies are born healthy and strong. Here’s a quick look at what happens during each stage of gestation as embryos develop into puppies.

How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

Gestation for dogs lasts 62 to 65 days and we count from the last breeding. When a female no longer accepts a male it’s a sign she is ovulating and should give birth 62 days later. Small litters have much more room and can go a day or two longer gestation. Meanwhile, large litters may go a day or two earlier.

When Will I Know My Dog is Pregnant?

Dog embryos are tiny and have to be viewed under a microscope until about 30 days gestation. At around 35 days they are growing fast and mom starts to belly down. At this point you will be able to tell she is pregnant. An ultrasound can be done as early as 28 days to identify the number of embryos in the uterus. Blood testing for pregnancy is not very reliable and usually not done.

Taking Care of Pregnant Dogs

If you know or suspect your dog is pregnant make sure you give her extra care. The most critical time for toxins or drug-related defects are days 21 to 32 of gestation. Cleft pallet and bone defects happen during the end of this period (days 25 to 32). Nothing should be given to mom during that time that does not help the pregnancy. This is when puppies’ organs are being formed and damage is easily caused by giving the wrong thing. For a complete list of what not to give during pregnancy check out my blog, 27 Things Not to Give Pregnant Dogs.

Days 21 to 32 are also the critical time to be giving prenatal vitamins such as Breeders’ Edge®Oxy Mate™ since organ, spine and brain development happens during this time. Prenatal vitamins were good for your mom when she carried you and they are good for your dog moms as well for the same reasons. Vitamins during pregnancy are necessary so babies are born as healthy as possible. We want puppies born healthy and fighting to live. We don’t want to fight to keep them alive.

Providing prenatal vitamins in addition to a regular healthy diet gives mom all the help she needs to grow healthy embryos. From days 21 to 32 of the pregnancy there is no need for extra calories and we don’t want mom fat! An overweight mom can lead to a difficult birth and C-sections. Remember, if you have to look under a microscope to see them, how much can they possibly eat?

At about day 45, it is necessary to increase calories since the rapid growth of the babies will cause an increase in appetite. At day 45, the cartilage bone formation starts to calcify and can be seen on an x-ray. When it comes to day 55 we often start giving mom puppy food since there are more calories per bite and she is running out of room in her tummy. It’s important to be sure mom stays on food until term and birthing starts.

The next step is whelping. It’s an exciting moment when those puppies start to arrive. We have lots of resources available on whelping, so make sure to do your research ahead of time so you can be prepared and have a successful and positive whelping experience. If you ever have any questions along the way, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800.786.4751.

-Dr. B
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

This is the third article in our My First Litter Series. Other articles in the series talk about whelping, newborn puppy care and what to know before raising a litter of puppies. Be sure to check out all the articles in the My First Litter Series.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.