There are puppies on the way! Puppies! Your dog is pregnant, and soon there will be 5, 6, or even 10 little bundles of joy bouncing around your house, spreading furry cuteness.
But for the two months before their arrival, hormones, instincts, and a rapidly distorting body will transform your easy-going girl into Fierce Mama Dog. No, she won’t become a raving lunatic, but she will start to focus on the little beings she will have to care for and protect. And she will have to endure the discomforts pregnancy is bound to bring.
Everything You Need to Know About a Dog’s Pregnancy
A dog’s pregnancy lasts about 63 days or two months. The exact timeline depends on the breed and the size of the litter. It may be hard to tell that the dog is pregnant during the first few weeks. Your veterinarian can detect fetal heartbeats toward the end of the first month. In that second month, the puppies’ development accelerates, and Mama Dog’s nipples enlarge and may leak a little milk.
As delivery time (whelping) approaches, she may lose her appetite and start panting. Your dog’s temperature may drop. Then, contractions will start. Finally, right before the third month begins, the puppies are ready to make their grand entrance. Unless there is some complication, mama dogs do not need your help delivering their puppies. Your dog knows what to do. So relax, be there for her, and watch the miracle of life unfold.
Physical and Mental Changes in a Pregnant Dog
Physical Signs of Pregnancy
It’s hard to tell if dogs are pregnant during the early stages. They may have symptoms that seem wrong, but they are perfectly normal during pregnancy. A vet can diagnose your dog’s pregnancy through abdominal palpitations, ultrasound, hormone tests, and X-rays.
Physical signs of a dog’s pregnancy include increases in appetite, weight, and nipple size. Eventually, they will have a swollen belly. Pregnant dogs may seem less active than usual and may even experience morning sickness.
Pregnant Dog Behavior Changes
Naturally, as your dog undergoes significant physical changes during pregnancy, her behavior will change, too. In addition to being less active than normal, you will notice instances of nesting behavior. This is her way of preparing a safe, comfortable place — a nest — for herself and her newborn puppies. She will scratch the floor and collect food and other necessary things for whelping. Her mood swings may be a bit out of character, as she becomes either easily irritated or unusually clingy.
All those hormones can make her defensive. This is especially true of stray dogs and dogs otherwise left on their own most of the time. They dig their own dens and become protective of their puppies and their established territory.
Caring for Your Pregnant Dog
You’re Still the Pack Leader
Your dog is going through a significant change in her life as she is about to be responsible for several little lives. Naturally, she will be following her instincts throughout the process. But you are still her pack leader.
Just because your dog is pregnant, you don’t need to let all the rules go out the window. You can still exercise obedience and expect her to follow your commands. Despite her instincts taking over, she still needs to perceive you as the pack leader.
Prepare a Whelping Box
At some point, pregnant dogs start to display nesting behaviors. This is the right time to help your dog create a space just for her and her puppies, away from the usual hustle and bustle. A whelping box is such a place. This box has sides that are easy for the mother to step over but high enough to keep the puppies in, and it’s roomy enough for them to move around.
You can buy a whelping box, but a kiddie pool can do just as well. Line the floor with newspaper or training pads, as giving birth does get messy. Add some towels and light blankets for comfort. After introducing the box to your dog, she may want to add a few things and put her own finishing touches to the box — maybe including your favorite T-shirt!
Mama Dog Still Needs Exercise
Pregnant dogs need to stay in good health, and that means exercise. As her pregnancy progresses, vigorous exercise won’t be a good idea for your dog. But walks are still great for her. They will need to be shorter, as she will tire more easily. She can still enjoy playing with you, but she shouldn’t get too excited, especially late in the pregnancy.
Ensure Appropriate Levels of Food Intake
Good nutrition is essential for a pregnant dog. After all, she’s eating for 5 or 10 at a time, so she needs enough dog food to preserve a healthy weight after delivery! As often recommended by veterinarians, you should gradually increase your dog’s food intake by between 35 and 50% in smaller, more frequent meals.
Avoid dietary supplements unless recommended by your veterinarian. Too much of something can cause problems for your dog, her unborn puppies, or both.
Keep an Eye Out for Dog Pregnancy Complications
Normally, your dog will handle whelping on her own quite well. However, some complications require the help of a veterinarian. Watch for signs of trouble, such as excessive pain, contractions 45 minutes or longer without a birth, too much time passing between births, shivering, collapsing, or bloody fluid before the first puppy.
Learn More About Pregnant Dog Behavior With K9 Basics!
Caring for a pregnant dog can be an exciting time for you and your family. But it can be stressful if you’ve not dealt with it before. You will certainly have many questions as you strive to provide for her needs.
We can help! After you’ve taken her to the vet and received great medical advice, contact us at K9 Basics. Our team of expert trainers will help you understand and manage the behavior changes your dog will be going through. We will help you maintain your role as pack leader while you provide the care and comfort she wants and needs from you. Once you are confident in what you need to do, you can truly enjoy this special time with her and the new puppies soon to be running all over your home!
Give us a call at (866) 592-2742 or, if you’re from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New York, visit us at 131 Kenilworth Road, Marlton, New Jersey 08053, to learn more about our dog training services. Also, browse our blog and social media for various topics about dogs and their lives with us!
- Meyers, Harriet. “Dog Pregnancy: Signs, Care, and Preparing for Puppies.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 21 Apr. 2022, www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeding/dog-pregnancy-care-prep/. Accessed 12 Jan. 2023.
- “How to Care for Your Pregnant Dog.” EverydayHealth.Com, www.everydayhealth.com/pet-health/how-care-your-pregnant-dog/. Accessed 12 Jan. 2023.
- “Pregnant Dog Care Tips.” Rau Animal Hospital, 6 Sept. 2019, www.rauanimalhospital.com/resources/blog/dogs/pregnant-dog-care-tips. Accessed 12 Jan. 2023.