How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

Dog Health April 21, 2024
How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?
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How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

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How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

Puppies are so adorable, cuddly, and fun to watch. The birth of puppies can seem like an endless wait for both dog breeders and pet owners.

The good news is that, compared to human pregnancy, your dog’s pregnancy is much shorter. So, how long are dogs pregnant?

Keep reading to learn about how to know if your dog is pregnant, the stages of gestation, and how labor occurs in dogs.

How to Tell if Your Dog Is Pregnant

Humans are able to take a pregnancy test and find out instantly if they are pregnant or not. For our dogs, it is not as easy. To find out if your dog is pregnant, you should probably make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Since all dog pregnancy testing procedures are time-sensitive, be sure to tell your veterinarian the exact date your dog was bred or your best estimate of the time period if you happen to know.

Veterinarians can determine a dog’s pregnancy in one of four ways:

  • Hormone tests
  • Palpation
  • Ultrasound
  • X-rays

Hormone Tests

To find out if a dog is pregnant, veterinarians can perform a test for the hormone relaxin. Relaxin is a fairly accurate diagnostic test because it is only released from placental tissue during pregnancy.

However, your dog must be at least 30 days into her gestation for the test to be accurate. A false negative could occur on tests conducted earlier.


The simplest and most affordable method of determining pregnancy is by palpation. The membranes surrounding each fetus expand to form fluid-filled sacs as it grows.

Between days 21 and 35 of gestation, or roughly three to four weeks, these sacs can be felt.

In a 45-pound dog, they can reach the size of about a table tennis ball. After a month, the sacs lose their distinct shape, and the uterus starts to feel floppy, giving the impression that it has fat or a pyometra.


Early in the gestation period, an ultrasound is the best tool for determining whether a dog is pregnant. Between days 25 and 35 of pregnancy, veterinarians recommend ultrasounds. Ultrasounds not only detect pregnancy, they also determine whether the fetus is alive by registering fetal heartbeats.

Additionally, ultrasounds can be used to rule out additional causes of uterine distension, such as pyometra, and to determine the gestational age of the fetus.


You can accurately predict the number of puppies the mother dog will produce by using an x-ray. Because the fetal skull and spine are not visible on an x-ray until days 42 through 45 of pregnancy, X-rays are most useful later in the pregnancy.

By delaying until after day 55, veterinarians can accurately estimate the expected number of puppies and choose the ideal time for an elective cesarean section.

How Did My Dog Get Pregnant?

In addition to the obvious “birds & bees” explanation, it is useful to know that female dogs do not always become pregnant. A non-neutered female’s “heat” season typically begins between the ages of 6 and 36 months, lasts three weeks at a time, and occurs twice a year.

When you least expect it, such as while out for a walk, visiting someone’s home, taking your dog to dog daycare, or even in your own home or garden, a female dog “in heat” may be impregnated by a male dog “in-tact.” Unneutered male dogs are known to do anything to get to a female.

How Long is a Dog’s Gestation Period?

A typical gestation period for dogs is roughly 63 days from conception, though this can vary by several days. It can be challenging to determine the day of conception, even if you are aware of the day the couple mated. This is due to the fact that mating is not a precise indicator of gestation.

The sperm can survive inside the female for several days, and the female’s eggs can remain fertile for up to 48 hours. In the end, this makes it challenging to pinpoint the exact day your dog’s pregnancy begins. Using hormone measurements, gestational length is calculated as follows:

  • 56 to 58 days from the first day of diestrus
  • 64 to 66 days from the initial rise in progesterone
  • 58 to 72 days from the first breeding

What are the Stages of Pregnancy?

Week One
When the female dog is in heat, which usually happens 10 to 20 days into her heat cycle, and her eggs are fertilized, breeding takes place.

It should be noted that because canine ovulation produces numerous eggs, it is possible for dogs to have multiple fathers in a single litter of puppies.

Week Two
Following fertilization, the embryos move into the horns of the Y-shaped dog’s uterus and embed themselves in the uterine lining.

Week Three
Embryo development is taking place. Your dog’s appetite and energy levels could start to change.

Week Four
By days 25–28 of gestation, a veterinarian can use their hands to feel the developing embryos (This exam should be done by a qualified professional to prevent endangering the pregnancy) and use an ultrasound to find heartbeats.

As the uterus fills with more fluid over the next few days, the puppies will not be palpable until closer to delivery. Your dog will become more hungry as her litter develops at a remarkable rate.

Week Five
Your pregnant dog is currently in her second trimester. Her unborn puppies are now referred to as fetuses rather than embryos. The weight of the developing fetuses will increase dramatically (by up to 75 percent) as their organs continue to grow and develop, and the belly of your dog will noticeably grow.

You may notice that she starts to eat smaller meals more often throughout the day.

Week Six
Your dog’s belly grows bigger and more rigid as the fetuses develop their coats and skeletons, and depending on how many and what size they are, your dog may start to feel uncomfortable.

Week Seven
Your dog will have enlarged breast tissue and prominent, dark nipples, and you might even notice colostrum, or “first milk,” dribbling from her nipples. She might start losing her belly hair. The fetus may also be moving beneath her skin, which you may be able to see and feel.

Week Eight
The puppies have reached full development and are starting to position themselves in the birth canal. Your dog may be exhibiting anxiety or a determination to find a secure, quiet location to deliver her litter if you notice a lot of movement in her abdomen.

By providing her with clean blankets, towels, and/or newspapers in a kiddie pool, crate, or other enclosure that provides her with comfort and privacy, you can assist her in creating her nest.

Remember that during the birth, the bedding in her nest will be destroyed. After the puppies are born, you will need to line the nest with another set of bedding.

Week Nine
Whelping time has arrived. You could begin checking your dog’s temperature every day. The ideal temperature is rectal. Temperatures between 100.5 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit are considered normal.

Her temperature will decrease by a few degrees just before giving birth. That’s a sign that labor is very close, and it will usually start within 24 hours. Keep an eye on your dog’s progress once labor starts, but allow nature to take its course.

Do not make her feel uncomfortable by inviting the entire family and the neighborhood to watch.

How Long Will My Dog Be in Labor?

Depending on how many puppies your dog is birthing, the length of labor is usually between three and twelve hours. Both tail-first and head-first births are normal for puppies.

A puppy usually arrives within 45 to 60 minutes and is born in a sac. The mother dog will open the sac and tear the umbilical cord herself. In the event that she doesn’t, you should carefully open the sac and clean the puppy.

Call your veterinarian if the labor lasts longer than four hours without any puppies or in between puppies. Stillbirths are common in most littered mammals. If you notice a puppy not breathing, try to clear the mouth and rub the body to stimulate the puppy.

Final Thoughts

For dog parents, a dog’s pregnancy is an exciting time. Dog pregnancies can be stressful for both you and your dog, but when you are aware of your dog’s motherhood journey, it will be less stressful. Remember, feeding your pregnant and nursing dog high-quality puppy food is advised to ensure that her nutritional needs are met.


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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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