If you recently found out that your dog is pregnant, then you probably have a number of questions. Chief among these is, “How long do dogs stay pregnant?” Many people assume that dogs, being mammals, may have a relatively long gestation period like humans. However, the average time that a female dog is pregnant is just 58 to 65 days from the breeding date. That’s just a couple of months, which means that you don’t have a lot of time to prepare before your new litter arrives. In the meanwhile, you’ll want to learn everything you can about how long do dogs stay pregnant and how you can help your dog through the process.
A female dog that has not been spayed typically goes into heat every six months, though it is not unusual for dogs to occasionally skip a cycle. In general, spaying is a safe, healthy option for most dogs. Rescue shelters around the world are incredibly overburdened by dogs that are looking for a forever home. By spaying your female dog, you are thoughtfully not contributing to the problem. Moreover, your female dog receives incredible health benefits from being spayed. A female dog that is spayed before her first heat cycle is all but guaranteed never to develop breast cancer and will never have a uterine infection or uterine cancer.
On a day-to-day basis, living with a female dog in heat isn’t the easiest thing. Going into a heat cycle is often marked by troubling behavioral changes and red discharge from the vulva. You may notice that your pup’s appetite has changed and that she’s engaging in excessive licking. It’s not a comfortable time for your dog, and it can be stressful for you too as she exhibits personality changes and you find yourself cleaning up her messes.
Nevertheless, if it is your intention to breed your female dog, then these are the symptoms you need to be on the lookout for. While male dogs may be showing intense interest in her, she may not be reciprocating just yet. During the first six to 10 days of the heat cycle, the female dog is not yet fertile. Her body is simply preparing for the next phase. When it arrives, her bloody discharge typically changes color. No longer pink, this sandy-colored discharge generally signals that the female dog is now fertile and ready to breed. This second phase often lasts from six to 10 days, though some dogs have stayed in this phase for up to 20 days.
You may notice some even more extreme behavioral changes in your pup during this time. Restlessness becomes impossible to control. She vocalizes constantly and is far more agitated. Sleeping is becoming a problem for both you and your pup.
You’re probably getting close to the point where it’s time to breed your dog. To test this, scratch her at the base of her tail. A female that moves her tail to the side and pushes back into your hand is in standing heat and ready to mate. Similarly, if you notice that your female dog is walking with a swing in her hips and a high-up tail, this is an indication that she would welcome the attentions of a male dog.
After the breeding has occurred, you’ll want to be on the lookout for the first signs of pregnancy. These are often very minor during the first few days and weeks of gestation. You’ll have to observe your pup closely to spot the signs. Often, one of the earliest symptoms is a decrease in appetite. Think of it as being like doggy morning sickness. Don’t become alarmed if your dog doesn’t show any interest in eating for a day or even two. This can be quite normal. However, three days without any food at all may be a cause for concern. At this point, it may be wise to call the vet for an opinion.
Other dogs experience quite the opposite. They show a definite increase in appetite. Your dog may eat more quickly than usual, and then beg for more. It’s all right to feed her slightly more than you have been, but take care not to overload her at one meal. Instead, consider feeding her two or three small meals throughout the day. This helps to keep her satisfied and helps her body provide the nutrition that her growing puppies need.
Changes to watch out for
You’re also likely to notice that your dog doesn’t have the same level of energy that she did just a few weeks earlier. This is especially marked considering the near-frenzied activity levels that your dog probably displayed while she was in heat. This lethargy is probably a welcome change for both you and your dog. Everyone in the house should be able to start sleeping better now.
This is the point at which your pup will probably start manifesting some physical changes as well. The most notable of these is the growth of the nipples. The nipples often also change color as they become enlarged. An unbred female will have very small nipples with the flesh beneath them appearing flat. As gestation begins, breast material develops under the nipples, causing them to grow larger. Their coloration also changes from gray or light pink to darker pink or red. This is the result of increased blood flow to the area. It’s not uncommon to see these changes begin about two weeks after breeding occurs.
Many dogs display behavioral changes as their pregnancies progress. It’s impossible to tell how your pup will react to her pregnancy until it is happening, and some dogs have even been known to display quite different behavioral alterations from one pregnancy to the next. Some dogs become more affectionate with their people. Others become needy and clinging because they don’t seem to understand the physical changes they are undergoing. Some dogs actually become more standoffish, turning grumpy and aloof. These pups may just want to be left alone to deal with their pregnancy in their own way.
The good news is that there isn’t a great deal for you to do for your pregnant dog. She’ll handle most of the changes on her own. However, it won’t hurt to get her to the vet after you notice what you believe are the initial signs of pregnancy. This verifies that your dog is actually pregnant and that she has not developed an illness. One of the most important things you can do for your dog while she is pregnant is ensure that she receives proper nutrition.
It’s important to make sure that your dog gets enough food and the right nutrients throughout her pregnancy. Malnourishment is the leading cause of neonatal puppy mortality, so good food definitely makes a difference. Good nutrition is particularly important during the latter stages of pregnancy, so it’s a wise idea to start your pup on the right path early on and then check and double check that she’s getting the right food and in the proper amounts as her gestation progresses.
Seek out a dog food that is easily digestible and formulated for performance. Although she is likely not as physically active as she used to be, her body is undoubtedly working hard to bring a litter of puppies into the world, making this high-quality diet a necessity. Look for a food that features at least 29 percent protein and approximately 17 percent fat. Low fiber content and lots of soluble carbohydrates are important to prevent blood sugar problems, particularly later in the pregnancy. Calcium should be present in amounts of one to 1.8 percent and .8 to 1.6 percent phosphorus should also be included.
There’s no need to drastically increase the amount of food your pup eats in the first few weeks of her pregnancy. An amount equal to about an additional 10 percent of her daily intake is sufficient. As the weeks go by, the amount of food she eats will likely increase to between 15 and 25 percent of what she was eating pre-pregnancy. This is the time at which most fetal growth is occurring, making the extra calories essential.
While getting lots of good food is important, it’s just as important to help your pup maintain a healthy weight. This means not going overboard with the feeding, but it’s also important to keep her active. Regular, moderate exercise is the key to maintaining her health. Don’t let her do anything too strenuous. Working dogs should be given some time off and so should show dogs. Avoid any kind of strict training regimen in favor of walks and fun runs around the yard. This helps her maintain muscle tone and avoid putting on excess weight which can put a great deal of strain on her bone structure and joints.
You may also want to make certain that your pregnant pup has a particularly comfortable place to rest. Give her an extra fluffy bed to lie down on, preferably one that is large enough to accommodate her growing belly. As the probable day for whelping draws near, fix up a bed in safe, warm, comfortable spot for the big event to occur. Line the bed with towels and introduce the area to your pup a few days or a couple of weeks before the birth becomes imminent. This encourages your dog to seek this quiet, comfortable spot when labor begins.
With a gestation period of approximately less than two months, you don’t have a great deal of time to prepare for a litter of puppies. Fortunately, your dog will take care of most of the hard work. Your awareness of her needs for nutrition, exercise and a quiet place to give birth can help to ensure a safe, healthy pregnancy for all.