How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

Author WDF Staff


Arriving puppies are an exciting and welcoming news dog breeders, and owners love hearing. Sometimes, the wait can seem incredibly long, and we are eager to meet the puppies coming to a new world. We can be pretty impatient, but luckily, the gestation period in dogs is a lot shorter than in humans. If you want to find out how long are dogs pregnant, stick with us a little bit.

Dog gestation period

The dog gestation period (dog pregnancy) lasts between 58 and 68 days. The average gestation period for dogs is 63 days. Compared to humans, the dog gestation period is relatively short. It totals up to 9 weeks, which is a fairly short time. We need to prepare our home for the puppies to arrive and make sure there is a clean, safe place for the whelping to happen.

Heat cycle in dogs

To get the full understanding and a clear answer to the question “How long are dogs pregnant?” we should first understand the heat cycle. Different breeds have different heat cycles. Smaller breeds, like the Pomeranian, can go into heat every 4 months. Large or giant breeds like the Great Dane or Tibetan Mastiff will go into heat once every 12 months.

The heat cycle is split into four stages, and it lasts between 18 and 21 days. The stages of heat cycles are:

  • Proestrus
  • Estrus
  • Diestrus
  • Anestrus

Dog owners and breeders that want to breed their dogs need to know a lot about it. If you are a dog owner and you’d like to learn more about dog mating, check out this article - Dog mating - an owner’s guide.

The second stage, Estrus, is when dog mating should happen. In this stage, female dogs are receptive towards males, and the chances of a successful impregnation are the highest. Vets can perform vaginal swabs and blood tests to ensure the dog is paired at the optimal time.

golden retriever mom and puppy

Confirming dog pregnancy

Humans can go into their closest drug store and get a pregnancy test that will let them know if they are pregnant or not. Unfortunately, dogs cannot do the same. Dog owners and breeders need to take different steps to make sure their dogs entered the gestation period. There are four ways to confirm dog pregnancy:

  • Hormone tests - Hormone tests are reasonably accurate. Vets will search for the hormone called relaxin, which is only released from the placenta.
  • Palpitation - This is the cheapest way to confirm a dog is pregnant. Between the 21st and 35th days of the dog gestation period, fetuses developed and formed small fluid-filled sacks. The vet can feel them in the pregnant dog’s belly.
  • X-ray - Exact X-ray scans can be made after the 42nd day of the gestation period. It is a bit long to wait to get a confirmation, but X-rays are an excellent way for a precise puppy count.
  • Ultrasound - Ultrasound could confirm pregnancy sooner than X-ray. Between the 25th and 35th day of the dog gestation period, the vet can look for the fetus’s heartbeat sounds.

Gestation period for dogs

Inexperienced owners can easily get confused about dog gestation periods. The answer to the question “How long are dogs pregnant?” can elude them. The best thing to do is ask a vet for help. They can perform a hormone test and confirm the length of the pregnancy.

This can become confusing because the sperm can survive in the female dog for several days. Her eggs can be fertile for more than 48 hours, so making exact gestation period predictions can be problematic. There can be several days difference between mating and the actual beginning of the gestation period for dogs. The exact gestation length based on hormone tests is; 

  • 56-58 days from the first day of diestrus
  • 64-66 days from the initial rise in progesterone
  • 58-72 days from the first time the bitch allowed breeding

Stages of the dog gestation period

Because the gestation period for dogs is relatively short, puppies develop rather fast inside the womb. The dog gestation period is divided into three stages; Month one, month two, and month three. Each of these stages brings specific changes, and here is what you should know about them;

Month one

In the first month, fetuses travel to the uterine horns. Around the 16th day, they attach to the uterine lining, and by the end of the first month, the vet should detect heartbeats with an ultrasound. Pregnancy symptoms are pretty rare in the first three weeks, but the ones you should look for are;

  • Increased appetite
  • Subtle nipple enlargement
  • Unusually affectionate behavior
  • Clear vaginal discharge
  • Reduced activity
  • “Morning sickness”

Month two

The most significant fetal development happens in the second month. Eyelids, paws, claws, skeletons, and coats form, and the vet should confirm the exact number of puppies by the 58th day. Some of the signs during this time of dog gestation period are:

  • Increased weight
  • Increased appetite
  • Urination
  • Enlarged belly
  • Behavioral change
  • Visible puppy movement
  • Decreased appetite (after day 45)

Month three

Puppies are fully developed by the 58th day, and the mother is getting ready to whelp any day now. She will start looking for a place to whelp, and in the last few days of the dog’s gestation period, the puppies will move into whelping positions. Some of the signs you should look for are:

  • Loss of appetite (around 60th day)
  • Reduced waist as puppies move to the whelping position
  • Body temperature drop up to 24 hours before whelping
  • Unsettled behavior
  • Panting, shivering, and digging

These are all signs puppies are on the way. Make sure you prepared everything for the whelping process. If you are not sure how to do that, check out this article that will tell you all about whelping preparations - Dog Pregnancy: Signs, Diagnosis & Preparation.

World Dog Finder team

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