A guide to dog pregnancy

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There are few sights more adorable than a litter of puppies, but obviously dog pregnancy isn’t all cuteness and cuddles. How will it affect your insurance? Here, we give you the low-down on the various dog pregnancy stages and what to do before, during and after your dog gives birth. 

How long are dogs pregnant for?

The dog gestation period is about nine weeks – far shorter than for human beings. You should ensure your dog receives regular veterinary care to monitor their health needs throughout their pregnancy. 

What are the typical dog pregnancy signs?

There are often no visible dog pregnancy signs in the first few weeks. Your vet will need to carry out a test to confirm whether your dog is pregnant, although your pet will need to have been pregnant for around 21 days for the test to work. Some of the most common dog pregnancy signs include:

  • Morning sickness
  • Light pink discharge from the vagina
  • Lethargy and tiredness.

The signs of swelling are not always obvious, especially if your dog is pregnant for the first time. There are also behavioural symptoms; for example, your dog may experience changes in their appetite, and appear clingier and more comfort-seeking in their manner. 

Stages of dog pregnancy

The dog gestation period goes by fast, so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the week-by-week milestones for a dog pregnancy. 

  • In just 22 days, the foetus begins to form, and you can get an ultrasound at around 25 days to confirm the pregnancy.
  • From day 32, the dog’s toes and claws begin to emerge, and birth defects become less likely.
  • In the second month, the foetus begins to develop rapidly and you can request an X-ray to reveal the number of puppies in the litter.
  • During the latter stages of dog gestation, at around day 60, your dog will become restless as they experience a loss of appetite and their body temperature drops. When the puppies move into the birth canal position, your dog may look thinner.
  • Finally, the sign of visible discharge together with a change of behaviour – including vomiting and panting – will indicate that your dog is ready to go into labour.

What to do before your dog gives birth

When the dog pregnancy cycle is coming to an end, you should build a comfortable ‘nest’ where they can give birth in a warm, dry and quiet place, free from disturbances. Fill a large cardboard box with clean blankets or towels – you can even include a few familiar toys to relax your dog. And remember, the box should be high enough to prevent the puppies from escaping. Some expectant dogs have been known to drag the nest to a preferred location, in which case you should avoid putting it back if possible to keep your dog calm and relaxed.  

How to support your dog during labour

In the latter stages of dog pregnancy, the prospect of puppies may be exciting, but you will need to make preparations to help your pet through a challenging experience. Your dog will begin to strain during the first contractions. When you first notice clear fluid as your dog’s water breaks, the first puppy should emerge shortly afterwards, with the remaining puppies arriving at roughly ten-minute intervals. It’s sensible to have your vet’s out-of-hours number in case your dog gives birth at night, and to be sure you have transport available in case you need to visit the surgery at short notice. 

When all the placentas have been delivered, the last of the dog pregnancy stages will be over. Ideally, you will know beforehand how many puppies are in the litter, which means you can judge when your dog has finished giving birth. 

What you should do with the litter

Make sure you have a basket for the puppies and ensure they can stay warm if the mother needs some alone time. During the pregnancy, you may need to assist with cleaning the puppies if the mother is occupied; for example, you can rub the puppies with a clean cloth, remove the placental membrane and, if necessary, cut the umbilical cord using clean scissors if the dog is still giving birth. Once the labour is over, you should give your dog some well-deserved food and drink, remove any soiled towels and ensure the doggy family have some peace and quiet as they get to know each other.

How to prevent dog pregnancy

If you’re not ready for the pitter-patter of newborn puppies in your home, you can always prevent a dog pregnancy by getting them neutered. Dogs can even get pregnant while they are still puppies – they reach sexual maturity at between six and seven months – so you should think about neutering them at an early age if this is your intention. Neutering can also reduce any sexually-charged behaviours in your dog and make them less vulnerable to some diseases. Your dog’s fertile period, when they’re ‘in heat’, occurs roughly twice a year for a three-week period. During this time, your dog may be approached by male dogs, so keep them on a lead if you want to avoid the risk of mating or aggressive encounters. 

Please note there is no cover for any injury/illness/treatment resulting from or relating to breeding or whelping. For exclusions relating to pregnancy please see our key documents.