Puppy is very exciting. The wait can seem endless if you’re new to breeding or if you’re eagerly waiting for a reserved puppy from your breeder. The gestation period for dogs is shorter than that for humans, which is good for both the dog and us. How long does a dog’s gestation last?
The Reproductive Cycle in Dogs
To answer the question “How long do dogs stay pregnant?” you must first understand the dog’s reproductive cycle. Although intact females go into heat about every six months, this can vary depending upon the breed and dog. The heat cycle is 18-21 days long and can be broken down into four stages. Breeders use these stages to decide the best time to breed their dogs.
These are the four stages of the female dogs’ reproductive cycle:
Proestrus is the first stage in the reproductive cycle and lasts approximately 9 days. This is the time when females attract males. However, they may reject their advances until stage 2. These are the signs of proestrus:
- The swelling of the vulva
- Bloody discharge
Estrus can last anywhere from 3 to 4 days to 7 to 11 days. This is when the male is attracted to the bitch. To ensure that their dogs are bred at the best time, many breeders have their veterinarian perform vaginal smears and blood tests. These are the signs of proestrus:
- A soft, enlarged vulva
- Discharge is lighter in color and lessens
The final stage of the cycle is Diestrus. It usually occurs on day 14. The bitch’s discharge gets redder and tapers off during diestrus. She will then stop allowing mating. When all signs of swelling or discharge have disappeared, the heat is over. Anestrus is the time between each heat cycle and the next. It usually lasts about six months.
The heat cycle is an important factor in determining how long a pregnancy will last. Breeders can use the heat cycle to calculate when their chums are due. This allows veterinarians to test for pregnancy more accurately.
How to tell if your dog is pregnant
Humans have developed rapid pregnancy tests to help us determine if we are or not. For dogs, it is more complicated. To determine if your dog has a pregnancy, you will likely need to see your veterinarian. It is important to inform your veterinarian exactly when your dog was born or the best timeframe since all pregnancy testing methods for dogs can be time-sensitive.
There are four ways veterinarians can determine if a dog has become pregnant.
- Hormone testing
A veterinarian can test her for relaxin to determine if a bitch has become pregnant. It is only possible to test for relaxin in pregnancy. The test can only be performed if the bitch is at least 30 days pregnant. False negatives can result from tests taken before that time.
The simplest and most cost-effective way to determine if you are pregnant is palpating. Each fetus’s membranes develop to become fluid-filled sacs. The fluid-filled sacs are felt between days 21-35 of gestation (approximately 3-4 weeks). They grow to the size of table tennis balls in a 45-pound dog. The sacs begin to lose their unique shape, and the uterus can feel floppy. This can lead to the mistaken identity of fat or a pseudometra.
Breeders can use x-rays to estimate the number of puppies they expect from their chum. Because the fetal spine and skull are not visible on x-rays until days 42-45, X-rays work best later in pregnancy. It is important to wait until day 55 to allow veterinarians to accurately count the expected puppies and determine the best time to perform an elective cesarean.
An ultrasound is the best method to determine if a dog’s pregnancy is early in the gestation process. According to veterinarians, an ultrasound should be performed between days 25-35 of gestation. Ultrasounds can detect pregnancy and register fetal heartbeats. Ultrasounds can also help determine gestational age and rule out other causes such as pyometra.
Gestation Period: How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?
Dogs can live for approximately 63 days after conception. However, this can vary by several days. Although this may seem like an easy answer, establishing the conception process is not always straightforward. The sperm can survive for many days in the female, and eggs can stay fertile for as long as 48 hours. This means that the act of mating is not an accurate measurement of gestation. Without the help of a veterinarian, it is difficult to predict how long a pregnancy will last.
Hormone measurements provide a more specific time frame for gestation. Breeders often use blood tests and vaginal smears to monitor the reproductive hormones in their breeding process. This allows them to determine the best time and length of gestation for their bitch.
The accurate measurement of hormones can determine the length of the gestation period.
- 56-58 days after the initial day of diestrus
- 64-66 days after the first rise in progesterone
- From the moment the bitch was allowed to breed, it took between 58 and 72 days
The average time for dogs to become pregnant is about 9 weeks. Each day is important. It is vital to know the gestation length for both the pups and the bitch. This information is also used to monitor nutrition and provide veterinary care.
Dog Pregnancy: The Stages
Dogs go through all stages of pregnancy quickly. Dogs have shorter gestation periods, which means that pups can develop quickly inside their wombs over two and three months.
The embryos reach the uterine organs around the seventh day. They are then embedded in the uterine tissue around the 16th day. By day 22, the fetus is beginning to form. A veterinarian should detect fetal heartbeats using ultrasound by day 28.
Many dogs don’t show symptoms for the first three weeks. The following symptoms are to be aware of during the first month:
- Appetite increases
- Nipples slightly larger
- More affectionate behavior
- Clear vaginal discharge (around week four)
- Reduced physical activity
- “Morning sickness”
During the second month, fetal development is rapid. By day 32, the eyelids have formed, and the toes can be seen by day 35. Day 40 is when the claws develop, followed by the coat and skeleton a few days later (day 45). An x-ray can reveal the number and gender of litter puppies by day 50. The bitch will begin looking for a nest at day 58.
The second month is when the signs of pregnancy in the bitch become more evident:
- Increased appetite
- Weight Gain of 20-50%
- Urethrination has increased
- Behavior changes
- Clear, odorless vaginal discharge
- A firm, enlarged abdomen (days 45-50)
- Day 45: Reduced appetite
- Visible puppy movement in the abdomen (day 50).
By the end of the third month. The puppies are almost ready to whelp by day 58. This means that the puppies will move into the whelping position in their birth canals over the final few days of the bitch’s pregnancy.
Dogs may experience symptoms in the final days of their pregnancy.
- As puppies enter the birth canal, their waist will shrink.
- Appetite loss on day 61 or Day 62
- A temperature drop of 12- to 24 hours before labor
- Uncontrollable behavior
- Pacing, panting or shivering are all possible
What is the average length of dog labor?
Labor begins after the gestation period has ended. There are three stages to labor.
The first stage lasts between 12 and 24 hours but is rarely visible. The first stage is characterized by increased strength and frequency of contractions in the muscular wall, but there are no obvious signs. Instead, it would help if you looked for these signs of labor in dogs:
- Behavior and disposition changes
- Precautionary behavior
- Intermittent nesting
- Refuse to Eat
- Clear vaginal discharge
Stage two is when puppies are delivered. This stage takes anywhere from 1 to 24 hours. Bitches only deliver one puppy at once. Delivery should take no more than 1 to 2 hours. Usually, delivery occurs every 30-60 minutes. It is important to know how many puppies are expected. This will allow owners to know when their pup is done with stage 2 and call a vet if they have any concerns.
Stage three is when the placentas are delivered. The delivery of the placentas is in stage three. Stage two and three occur simultaneously. This usually happens shortly after stage two has ended.
If your dog labors for more than 24 hours or more than two hours between puppies, you should consult your veterinarian. This could indicate a serious problem and put the lives of both the puppy and the bitch at risk.
Take the Next Step
What is the average length of time dogs can become pregnant? It’s just enough time to produce a healthy litter of puppies. You can give your puppies the best start in life if you are educated and take care of them properly.