Congratulations! Your doggie is pregnant and you are going to be the proud guardians of some adorable puppies. If this is the first time that your dogs have conceived, you may be wondering just how long it will take until these furry bundles of joy arrive. The answer might surprise you because dog pregnancies are pretty short. However, they are just as complex as ours with notable symptoms and stages of development. So, how long will your dog’s pregnancy last and what can you expect?
How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?
Typically, a dog will gestate for about 63 days, so the canine pregnancy is a much faster process than our own: 9 weeks as opposed to 9 months. The reason that this is so short is that it doesn’t take long for the embryos to develop into puppies that can survive outside the mother’s womb. The more complex and larger the animal, the longer the pregnancy. For example, a massive elephant with its slow metabolic rate can be pregnant for 95 weeks while a tiny mouse that needs to reproduce quickly gestates for around 20 days.
9 weeks can seem like a long time on a calendar but they will fly by. There is also the fact that you might not even realise that the dog is pregnant until a couple of weeks into that gestation period. Symptoms don’t always show in the first three weeks. During this 9 week process, they will progress through three trimesters as the puppies develop. You can learn more about these below.
A 63 Day Gestation Period Is Not A Guarantee
The length of a dog’s pregnancy could be as short as 58 days or as long as 67, and it is difficult to determine precisely when they will give birth because:
- The date of mating isn’t necessarily the date of conception
- Different dog breeds gestate for different time periods
- Litter size can affect pregnancy duration
The Date Of Mating Isn’t Necessarily The Date Of Conception
Another thing to be aware of here is that you can’t always determine a due date based on the date of mating. Even if you witness your dogs mating, there is no guarantee that the puppies will be born 63 days later. A dog’s sperm can remain fertile within the bitches reproductive system for a few days, giving it a greater chance of success when it reaches the egg. That egg is viable for 48 hours after ovulation. Therefore, you could witness a successful mating between your two dogs and find that the fertilisation of the egg didn’t occur for another two days.
Different dog breeds gestate for different time periods
The duration of your dog’s pregnancy might depend on its breed. Some larger breeds might be close to the 63-day mark or a couple of days earlier while smaller dogs hold on a little longer. There is no strict rule per breed
Litter size can affect pregnancy length
The number of puppies in the litter also makes a difference. Smaller litters aren’t competing for space and nutrients as much. They are less likely to put stress on the uterus and trigger earlier labour. So, if you have determined the size of the litter via an x-ray, you might be able to narrow down the date a little easier.
Is There Any Way To Get A More Accurate Idea Of The Due Date?
Breeders looking for a more accurate idea of the status of the pregnancy can turn to hormone testing: a common tool for keeping track of the pregnancy which involves (1) smear tests of vaginal discharge, and (2) blood tests. If you aren’t a professional breeder, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about regular testing and monitoring on this level. However, it is still important to understand the stages of a dog’s pregnancy so that you can provide the best possible care.
The Three Trimesters Of A Dog’s Pregnancy
In the first month, the embryos travel into the uterus and embed themselves. Dogs tend not to show symptoms around this time as the embryos don’t usually attach until around day 16. From there, it will slowly develop and a heartbeat should be detectable by the end of the fourth week. At this point, your dog may exhibit signs of increased appetite, enlarged nipples and even morning sickness.
The second month sees a rapid change as the embryos develop important features and become puppies. Curiously, features like claws and toes appear around days 35-40 while the skeleton forms on day 45. Your vet should be able to get a good idea of the litter size by day 50 as each puppy becomes more developed with its own fluid sac. At this point, your dog will exhibit behavioural changes, weight gain and more frequent urination. The abdomen should be enlarged and firm between days 45 and 50 with the potential for visible movement on day 50.
In the third month, at around day 58, the puppies will alter their position in preparation for labour. This process could start quickly depending on the litter size and stress on the mother. Or, it could be another week or so until they are born. Your dog may exhibit nesting behaviour, become restless and lose their appetite.
While the gestation process and development of the puppies is complex, it is all over before you know it. It doesn’t take long at all for those embryos to turn into healthy little pups. Remember that the 63-day pregnancy is just a guide and it could be a little longer or shorter. You can use x-rays and hormone tests to predict a date but you won’t know for sure. Pay attention to the signs and take care of your dog along the way.