Puppies are so adorable. They are little bundles of joy that can brighten up your day. When a female dog is showing a characteristic bulge in its abdomen, it is natural for its owners to ask if there are puppies on the way. However, the real question is how long are dogs pregnant?
Understanding a Dog’s Reproductive Cycle
To find out how long do dogs stay pregnant, let us examine the stages of the canine reproductive cycle.
This is the first stage of the dog’s reproductive cycle. Female dogs at this stage will already begin secreting pheromones into the air. Male dogs can sense these substances and start approaching the female dog. You can see a bloody discharge from the vagina of the dog. You may notice a bit of swelling, too.
First-time dog owners may interpret these signs as an indication of the dog’s readiness to mate. However, the female dog is not yet ready. It will reject the advances of male dogs. It can snap and bite them.
This stage will last about 9 days; although some dogs may have a shortened proestrus stage of about 7 days.
This is the stage when the female dog is more receptive to a male dog. We can think of this stage as the 1-day ovulation period in humans. It is a time when fertilization can take place, resulting in pregnancy.
There is one difference, though. Whereas humans have a very short window to fertilize an egg cell, dogs have a much greater window of opportunity. The estrus period can be as short as 3 to 4 days or as long as 7 to 11 days.
Breeders often take their female pets to the veterinary clinic for blood tests and vaginal smears. This is to make sure that they observe the correct timing of the mating process. Other breeders do not bring their dogs to the veterinary clinic.
Instead, they look for telltale signs of canine ovulation or estrus. These include a change in the color of the vaginal discharge from dark to light. There is also a reduction in the amount of vaginal discharges as well as a very visible enlargement of the vulva. One can also notice the vulva to have a softer consistency.
On the 14th day of the dog’s reproductive cycle, it can start going into diestrus. Everything returns to normal. The vulva returns to its normal size. The vaginal discharge becomes darker until there is no longer any discharge. The female dog will also no longer “accept” male dogs.
This is the stage where the dog goes into a complete absence of any signs of doggie menstruation. You will not see any sign of vulvar swelling or vaginal discharges during this period. It lasts for as long as 6 months; although it is not uncommon that some dogs may have an anestrus period of 5 months or 7 to 8 months.
A Dog’s Gestation Period
It is safe to say that the human reproductive cycle of 28 days is equivalent to about 6 months for a dog. The 1-day ovulation period in humans is also equivalent to about 12 to 20 days in dogs. Because of these differences, it is safe to assume that the dog gestation period is also different from those of us humans.
Gestation is that length of time needed for the fertilized egg cell to turn into a baby or a puppy. If we are going to look at the reproductive cycle of humans and dogs, our canine friends often have longer reproductive cycles. Does this also translate to how long are dogs pregnant?
Humans can stay pregnant for about 40 weeks, give or take 1 to 2 weeks. Dogs have a gestation period of about 60 days, plus or minus 3 days. They may have longer reproductive cycles. However, dog gestation period is shorter by about 30 to 31 weeks.
Like humans, canine gestation occurs in three stages that correspond to the three trimesters of human pregnancy. Each human trimester has 3 months. Canine trimesters have 3 weeks each. Let us look at what happens in each of these canine trimesters.
Fertilization can occur anywhere during the estrus period of dogs. Right after fertilization, the zygotes move towards the dog’s uterus and get implanted to the lining by the 16th day. The zygotes begin to differentiate into many cells to produce embryos on the 22nd day. On the 28th day of canine gestation, veterinarians can already detect the heartbeat of dog embryos using an ultrasound device.
As far as the female dog is concerned, there are no signs and symptoms that will make its owner think that it is pregnant. This is unless the owner is aware of the dog’s reproductive cycle and its period of mating. In such cases, the pet owner can look for some presumptive signs of dog pregnancy. There can be an increase in appetite and a reduction in the dog’s daily activities. You can also notice a slight enlargement of the nipples. Vomiting may also be present.
The first trimester is a time of rapid organ development. As the puppy embryos move into the second trimester, they begin developing other organs. They already have eyelids by the 32nd day. One can also visualize their paws by x-ray on the 35th day. Claws start to form on the 40th day.
You can also see more probable signs of canine pregnancy. There is a noticeable increase in the pet’s appetite as well as a 20 to 50 percent increase in its weight. There can also be increased frequency of urination because of the pressure of the growing uterus on the urinary bladder. You may also notice an odorless and colorless vaginal discharge.
The last trimester of a dog’s gestation highlights the completion of the organ systems. The puppies now have a fully-developed skeleton and coat by the 45th day. On the 50th day, x-ray imaging can already reveal how many puppies are in the litter. The puppies are almost complete by the 58th day. They can start moving into their whelping position, ready to exit through their mother’s birth canal.
The dog’s abdomen firms up around the 45th to the 50th day. There is also decreased appetite beginning on day 45. You may notice puppy movements through the dog’s abdomen on the 50th day.
As the dog enters the last few days of its gestation, you will notice its waist to become slimmer. This occurs because the puppies are already within the birth canal. The dog may no longer want to eat on the 61st to 62nd day.
It is wise to check your dog’s temperature starting on the 58th day. If there is a sudden drop in the dog’s body temperature, you can expect it to go into labor within the next 12 to 24 hours. Other indicators of an impending labor include increased restlessness, shivering, digging, panting, and pacing. Your dog may already have its “nest” ready around this time.
A Dog in Labor
Canine pregnancy is never complete without the delivery of the litter. There are three stages of labor in dogs.
- Stage One
This can occur anywhere between 12 and 24 hours before the actual delivery of the puppies. The uterus will begin to contract with increasing intensity and frequency. However, these contractions are never visible through the dog’s abdomen.
What you can look for are certain signs that may signal impending delivery. These can include a change in the dog’s behavior and disposition. There can be restlessness, panting, loss of appetite, and vomiting. The dog can also display intermittent nesting behaviors as well as reclusiveness. You may also see a clear discharge coming from its vagina. These are all indications that labor is progressing and the puppies will be out soon.
- Stage Two
This stage can last as short as 1 hour or as long as 24 hours. Stage 2 always coincides with Stage 3. Whereas Stage 2 refers to the delivery of the puppies, Stage 3 is more on the delivery of each placenta. When a puppy is delivered through the dog’s birth canal, the placenta also follows.
Each puppy delivery will last about 30 to 60 minutes. It is important that the delivery of each puppy should never take longer than 2 hours. It can be a veterinary emergency if it takes longer than 2 hours to deliver a puppy. That is why it is important to know how many puppies are in the dog’s womb prior to labor. This will give you an idea if there are still any puppies left that you have to wait for.
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- Stage Three
As already mentioned, Stage 3 occurs right after each delivery of a puppy. If there are 3 puppies, then you can also expect three placentas coming out of the dog’s birth canal.
How long do dogs stay pregnant? On the average, dog pregnancy can last from 57 to 63 days. It culminates in the birth of the litter and your gift of adorable puppies.