Puppies Having Puppies: A Guide for Pregnancy in Dogs

A Guide for Pregnancy in Dogs

Many dog owners who are interested in breeding their dog are particularly interested in how long dogs are pregnant. Dogs are pregnant for three trimesters which last about 21 days each, totaling 63 days. This time frame is measured from the time of ovulation to the day of the birth of the puppies. Your dog should experience her first heat cycle without mating. Usually this happens around one year old.

At times, some dogs may have their first heat cycle a bit later. Dogs go into heat twice a year with each heat session lasting three weeks. To keep track of your dog’s heat cycle you can be assured her heat cycle arrives every six to nine months. During your dog’s heat cycle she can mate with a variety of different males.

Female dog breastfeedingSigns of Pregnancy


During the first few weeks of pregnancy you may notice a few signs such as weight gain, occasional vomiting and becoming exhausted quickly. Your dog may even experience morning sickness due to the hormonal changes occurring in her body.

If this is the case with your dog, be sure to feed her small meals throughout the day so she is able to keep some food in her body. Changes such as behavioral changes and nipple growth are also noticeable signs of pregnancy in your dog. If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs you will want to contact the veterinarian for confirmation of the pregnancy. The veterinarian will use an ultrasound scan and can even detect abdominal palpitation. In addition the veterinarian will take a blood sample to measure the hormone levels in your dog.

How to Prepare for Birth

If you are a first time breeder or your dog has experienced a difficult pregnancy you will want to arrange for your dog to give birth in an animal hospital.

Speak to your veterinarian regarding arrangements and emergency protocol. More experienced dog owners may want to provide an at home birth for their dog. You will want to begin with purchasing essential items that will assist and play an important role during the birthing process.

Items to get in preparation for your dog giving birth:

  • Iodine is used to clean the puppy’s belly.
  • Scissors to cut the placenta or umbilical cord.
  • Heating pad to keep the puppies warm after their birth.
  • Un-waxed dental floss is used to tie the end of the umbilical cord.
  • Thermostat to take your dog’s temperature
  • Paper towels to clean up the area during and after the birthing process.
  • Clean cotton towels to clean the puppies if necessary. Most of the time the mother takes care of this process naturally.
  • Bath mats are used as bedding for the mother and puppies.
  • Newspaper is used to line the whelping box at all times and it is easy to clean up and replace.

You will want to create or build a whelping box that will provide your dog with a quiet, dry, warm, safe and draft-free environment. Creating the whelping box and finding the perfect place for it well in advance before your dog gives birth is recommended. You will want to allow your dog to become comfortable with the area and the whelping box. Allowing her to sleep in the whelping box and spend plenty of time in it will assure her that this is a great spot to have her puppies. Make sure the whelping box has low sides and it provides plenty of room for your dog to stretch out as well as house plenty of puppies.

Dog giving birth preparation

Provide Proper Diet and Nutrition

Always seek the advice of your veterinarian regarding the diet routine for your pregnant dog. Some dogs have health issues that may need to be addressed and only a veterinarian can make that happen. However, in general a pregnant dog that is healthy will continue the same caloric intake she had before she was pregnant. In addition as her body weight increases so should her food intake. Make sure you increase her diet gradually by providing frequent meals throughout the day. This food increase usually happens and is required around the last five weeks before whelping.

How Long are Dogs Pregnant?

As mentioned before, dogs are usually pregnant for 63 days. There may be times that your veterinarian will recommend that your dog give birth earlier than 63 days. This is usually due to a serious health issue that may arise during your dog’s pregnancy or there may be an issue with the puppies that require early birthing. If this occurs the birth is done at the veterinarian office or animal hospital with qualified staff around to assist in the birthing process.

Signs of Labor

Most dogs begin showing signs of labor about 24 hours before actually going into labor. You will notice your dog will not want to eat, become restless and begin her nesting process. Her vulva will have a mucous discharge and she will be panting. She will then begin to make heaving motions as she strains during abdominal contractions. This process usually lasts about one to two hours before the first puppy is born.

The Labor Process

Your dog’s temperature is naturally 101 to 102 Fahrenheit. You will want to take her temperature periodically to see if it drops to about 97 to 99 degrees. This temperature range will alert you that the delivery will happen within 24 hours. Your dog will go through stages throughout her labor.

  • Once her contractions have begun you will notice a green fluid sac come out of her vulva. Soon afterwards you will see the first puppy begin to enter the world either rear first or head first.
  • Your dog will give birth to each puppy which is usually quiet immediately after birth. Your dog‘s motherly instinct will kick-in and she will use her natural abilities to open the sac and clean her puppies by licking them clean.
  • Your dog will sever the umbilical cord on her own.
  • While your dog licks her pups with her tongue she will stimulate a reaction and make the puppies start to cry.
  • After all of the puppies are born and she has cleaned them, your dog will need time to rest. She may still experience mild contractions until they fade away naturally. Your dog will most-likely rest for a few hours.

While most mothers react naturally to the birth of their puppies, some mothers may need a little help. Sometimes she may be too slow in cleaning her puppies after they are first born and she may need your assistance. This is the time that you should use your items that you purchased from the list above. Always handle the puppies gently and use precaution when handling their umbilical cords.

Labor Process in Dogs

In Case of Emergency Call the Veterinarian

Most dogs experience a healthy pregnancy and a seemingly smooth birthing process. However, there are times when emergencies can arise and you will want to be prepared. If you come up against any of the following situations  contact the veterinarian or local animal hospital immediately: 

  • If your dog is experiencing panting in combination with vomiting and tremors.
  • If your dog experiences a pregnancy that lasts more than 65 days.
  • If there is a long delay that exceeds two hours after the green discharge has appeared during the beginning stages of the birthing process.
  • If the puppies are being born with a four hour window between them.
  • If your dog experiences labor and two hours goes by without a delivery.
  • If a puppy is lodged during the birthing process and you are unable to carefully remove it from your dog.

Postnatal Care

Your dog just became a mother and went through the birthing process, be prepared to see a few changes in her as her body adjusts back to normal and her hormone levels balance.

You will want to keep a close eye on your dog to make sure she is returning to her normal self. You will want to occasionally check that her nipples are healthy looking and free from infection. You will notice that your dog will also have soft stool that will last a few days after the birthing process is complete. This soft stool is due to her consuming residue when she was using her natural instincts to clean her puppies during their birth.

You will also notice that your dog will pass blood clots and have vaginal discharge for about one week after the birth. If this lasts more than one week contact the veterinarian immediately. Your dog is naturally equipped with her instincts to fully care for her puppies. There is a chance that she will become territorial in order to protect them. This territorial behavior will gradually decrease over time.

Caring for the Puppies

About two to four hours after the puppies are born they will begin to nurse. They will all find their place to eat and they will remain close-by their mother. When the puppies reach 10 to 14 days old they will open their eyes. You will want to make their first veterinarian appointment when they reach three weeks old. The veterinarian will examine the puppies and discuss any potential health issues with you.

Dog owners that experience the pregnancy and birthing process with their dog soon realize that the question “How long are dogs pregnant?” is just the beginning of their journey. Breeding your dog and guiding your dog through her pregnancy is a rewarding experience that results in precious puppies and a happy, healthy mother.


Newborn puppy


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Shellie Alyssa

Shellie Alyssa

Shellie Alyssa is a passionate writer that specializes in writing about dogs. She has been published on a wide range of websites that focus on health, nutrition, training and history of dogs. She has experience raising and training dogs and is an animal advocate for a variety of different organizations.
Shellie Alyssa

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