Are you expecting puppies? Congratulations! Pregnancy is an exciting time for any dog owner, but it’s important to monitor your dog closely throughout the 63 day journey. This week-by-week guide will walk you through what to expect during your dog’s pregnancy and how to keep mom and pups healthy.
Week 1-2: Fertilization and Early Development
During the first couple weeks of pregnancy, fertilization of the eggs occurs and the embryos make their way to embed in the uterus. At this early stage there are no noticeable physical changes in your dog. Her weight, appetite, and energy levels should remain stable. You likely won’t observe any morning sickness or other symptoms during this time.
The only way to confirm pregnancy at this point is through diagnostic testing. An ultrasound can detect fetal heartbeats by day 20-25. Blood tests measuring relaxin or pregnancy-specific proteins provide the earliest detection around day 21-25. If you plan to have your dog x-rayed later on, hold off until at least day 45 as earlier radiation can negatively impact the fetuses.
While you won’t see much happening on the outside, your dog’s body is hard at work on the inside! Sperm meets egg and fertilization takes place in the oviducts. Cell division occurs rapidly as the embryos travel down the oviducts and into the uterus. Embryos will embed themselves in the uterine lining around day 16-20 where they will continue developing.
During this time, maintain your dog’s normal diet and exercise routine. There’s no need for any diet or lifestyle changes just yet. She can continue brisk walks and playing as usual. Make sure she’s up to date on deworming and flea/tick prevention as parasites can impact developing puppies. Schedule a vet visit to confirm the pregnancy if desired. Otherwise, the waiting game continues!
Week 3-4: Confirming Pregnancy
Weeks 3 and 4 still may not bring huge visible changes, but important developments are happening internally! Your dog’s embryos have embedded in the uterus and placental formation is underway. The amniotic sacs and fetuses are rapidly growing. Your dog may start displaying signs of morning sickness - lethargy, appetite changes, and vomiting.
Around week 4, pregnancy can be confirmed through ultrasound or blood tests. Ultrasound allows visual confirmation of puppies. Blood tests check for pregnancy-related hormones like relaxin. This is a good time to schedule your dog’s first veterinary checkup.
Some subtle physical changes may be noticeable. Abdominal distension becomes visible in some dogs. Her nipples may enlarge slightly.
Make sure to monitor your dog’s weight at this stage. Weight gain should not exceed 10% of ideal body weight during the entire pregnancy. Excessive gains early on can indicate issues like diabetes or improper diet. Discuss optimal weight goals and diet with your veterinarian. Switching to a high-quality puppy food provides extra nutrition for mom and growing fetuses.
As for exercise, reduce strenuous or high-impact activities. Take shorter, gentler walks and limit rough play or jumping. Provide plenty of rest periods and comfortable bedding. Your dog still requires daily exercise, but don’t overdo it.
Week 5-6: Bellies Expanding
Halfway through pregnancy, those puppy bellies are growing! Your dog’s abdomen will become noticeably enlarged during weeks 5 and 6. Those little embryos are now fetuses rapidly developing bones, organs, and tissues. Their skeletons begin to calcify.
As the fetuses grow, your dog’s caloric needs increase. This is a good time to transition to a high-quality puppy food diet. The extra calories, protein, and calcium support your dog’s needs and proper fetal development. Feed smaller, more frequent meals if your dog has appetite changes or vomiting. Proper nutrition is crucial during this growth stage.
Along with diet changes, adjust your dog’s activity levels. As her belly expands, too much running and jumping can be uncomfortable and risky. Take shorter, gentler walks and limit stairs or rough play. Provide plenty of soft bedding so she can rest comfortably. Regular bathroom breaks are a must as the puppies compress the bladder!
You may notice behavioral changes as well. Your dog may seek isolation or appear anxious as her body changes. Reassure her with love and affection. Purchase a whelping box or set up a quiet, private area with bedding where she can start nesting. Talk to your vet about supplements like prenatal vitamins. Regular checkups monitor mom’s health and the puppies’ growth.
Week 7-8: Preparing the Nursery
The final trimester brings rapid puppy development. Their skeletons are calcifying and organs maturing in preparation for life outside the womb. The puppies’ movements may be visible through mom’s belly. An x-ray taken during week 7 or 8 can provide an estimate of litter size and check for any positioning issues.
Your dog will appear very pregnant now. Monitor for unhealthy weight loss or gain and adjust feedings as needed. Her temperature, appetite, and energy levels may fluctuate. Prepare a whelping area with comfortable bedding, plenty of fresh water, and minimal distractions. This nursery allows her to acclimate before delivering puppies in week 9.
As you get closer to delivery, watch for signs of impending labor. Your dog’s temperature will drop 1-2°F about 24 hours before whelping as progesterone levels fall. She may pant, pace, vocalize, or refuse food as the puppies drop into birthing position. Do not leave her alone once you observe these clues that labor is imminent!
Have an emergency puppy kit prepared, and review assistance techniques with your vet. Puppies will arrive soon, so mom needs round-the-clock monitoring and support. Stay tuned for the big event!
Week 9: Labor and Delivery
After 63 long days, the big day is finally here - your dog is ready to deliver her puppies! Labor occurs in three stages:
Stage 1: Early labor can last 6-12 hours as the cervix dilates and uterine contractions begin. Your dog may pant, shiver, pace, vocalize, lose appetite, or vomit. Provide comfort measures but do not leave her alone.
Stage 2: Active labor lasts 1-4 hours as stronger contractions push puppies into the birth canal. Your dog’s water may break. Puppies deliver at 30-60 minute intervals. Clean puppies immediately and tie off umbilical cords if needed.
Stage 3: Hard contractions deliver placentas after each puppy. Stage 3 continues 1-4 hours until all placentas pass. Count placentas to ensure none were retained.
Keep mom and newborn puppies warm, dry, and quiet during delivery. Call your vet immediately if you notice signs of distress like prolonged labor, excessive bleeding, or green/brown discharge. Most puppy births progress smoothly, but be prepared to assist just in case.
Congratulations, the puppies have arrived! You’ll need to monitor mom and newborns very closely over the next few weeks. Weigh puppies daily, make sure they nurse regularly, and watch for any signs of illness. Your vet will examine mom postpartum and check puppy health within their first week. Enjoy the new family additions!
Welcoming a new litter of puppies is an amazing journey. As an owner, you play a crucial role in providing exceptional care for mom throughout pregnancy and delivery. Follow this week-by-week guide to understand the changes your dog experiences leading up to the big day. With proper nutrition, exercise modification, veterinary care, and attentive monitoring, you can set your dog up for a smooth pregnancy and optimal health for all puppies. Stay tuned for the joys and challenges of raising adorable, rambunctious little ones!