A dog gestation period, aka dog pregnancy, is roughly 63 days post-conception, though this can vary between individual dogs and breeds.1
This is short compared to humans, so the earlier you know where your dog is in the gestation period, the better. Knowing sooner can help you and your veterinarian make informed decisions about your dog’s care.
If you’re concerned about becoming an accidental pet grandparent, it may be helpful to get the answers to some common questions related to your dog’s pregnancy. We’ve got you covered.
For dogs, the sexual drive is instinctual. Dogs have their first estrus cycle (commonly referred to as being “in heat”) around 6 months of age, and typically go into heat every 6 months after that. When that happens, even the best-trained pup may seek out a dog to mate with.
If you have a female dog that hasn’t been spayed, she could become pregnant and leave you with a litter of puppies to care for. With a short gestation period, and estrus cycles that typically happen a couple of times a year, your dog has the chance to become pregnant again quicker than you may be ready for. Spaying your dog can be a good way to prevent accidental pregnancies from happening.
Unfortunately, there currently isn’t an at-home test to determine dog pregnancy. However, there are some signs to look for that could indicate your dog is pregnant:1
- Physical: Some visible signs of pregnancy may include an increase in nipple size and a swollen belly. She may also tire more easily.
- Dietary: In the early days of her pregnancy, your dog may vomit and show a decrease in appetite for a short while due to changes in hormone levels. After that, your dog may have an increase in appetite.
- Behavioral: Your dog may demonstrate more nesting behavior, act more affectionate, or become more irritable than you may usually see.
To know for sure, you’ll need to talk to your vet. They can use diagnostic tests — such as blood tests to check hormone levels, palpation tests, X-rays, or ultrasounds — to confirm a pregnancy. These tests can also help determine which stage of the dog gestation period she is in and if there are any potential complications.
Once you know your dog is pregnant, you and your vet can work together to figure out how far along she is in the pregnancy so you can plan her care. During a dog pregnancy, there are three stages (or trimesters) prior to labor.2
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, you might notice some of these changes in your dog:2
- Slightly enlarged nipples
- More tired and lethargic
- Increased appetite
- Clear vaginal discharge toward the end of this stage
- Changes in behavior such as being more affectionate
During this stage, most vets recommend keeping your dog on her regular diet and routine.1 You can take her out for regular walks, but don’t encourage her to over-exert herself. It may be a good idea to switch your dog to a food made specifically for gestation and lactation, depending on what her diet currently is.3 It’s encouraged to ask your vet what they recommend.
During the next stage of pregnancy, your dog may start to show more visible signs of pregnancy like:2
- Noticeable increase in appetite in the beginning of this stage
- Increased belly size and weight gain of 20% – 50%
- Increased urination
- Vaginal discharge that is clear and odorless
- Decreased appetite toward the end of this stage
- Visible puppy movement in the belly toward the end of this stage
During this stage, you can take your pup out for shorter walks if she desires — she may need to relieve herself more frequently — but continue to avoid vigorous exercise. After the sixth week of pregnancy, gradually start increasing her food intake until she’s eating up to one and a half times more than normal in her last 3 weeks of pregnancy.3 Large meals can cause discomfort so increase her caloric intake by feeding her smaller meals more often throughout the day.
This is the home stretch, as puppy development is almost complete around day 58, and puppies will begin to move toward the birth canal at the beginning of the third month.2 During the final stage of gestation, you may see these changes in your dog:1,2
- Breasts and nipples enlarge and may leak small amounts of milky fluid
- Increased abdomen size that may sway when walking
- Appetite loss as she prepares for birth
- Restless and unsettled behavior
During the final days, it’s probably a good idea to keep walks to a minimum and avoid any strenuous exercise. Your dog may start looking for a safe place to deliver her pups. Creating a whelping box (a place where your dog can deliver her puppies) can be a good idea around this time if you are able to have the puppies at home. You may also want to talk with your vet so you know what to do (and what not do) during the birthing process.
If your dog stops eating and her temperature drops, it’s usually a sign her due date has arrived and she’ll be ready to deliver in the next 12 – 24 hours.2 Your dog’s waist may narrow as the puppies move into the birth canal and she may start panting or pacing. It’s okay if she doesn’t want to eat, but keep a water bowl nearby to help her stay hydrated.
Once she’s displaying signs of being in labor, you may want to call your vet to make sure everything is running smoothly and get ready for the puppies to arrive.
Your dog may need routine vet check ups throughout her pregnancy to make sure mama and her puppies are doing well. These may include ultrasounds that can cost $300 – $6004 and X-rays that can cost $150 – $250.5
If your dog isn’t healthy before she gets pregnant or becomes ill during her pregnancy, your vet may need to treat her so she can safely deliver puppies. Just the vet visit can cost $50 – $250 depending on where you live.6 Any diagnostic testing and treatment costs will be added on top of the exam cost.
Assuming all goes well, your dog should be able to deliver her puppies at home. However, if there are complications at any point during the pregnancy, you may want to bring your dog to the vet. Emergency care could cost you $150 – $1,500 depending on where you live and what care your pup needs.7
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs can have an average of 5 – 6 puppies per litter, which can add up to a lot of vet bills.8 If you plan to keep the puppies, they’ll need their vaccinations, which could cost around $90 or more per puppy. On top of that, it’s recommended that the pups receive additional early preventive care to make sure they’re healthy.
If you don’t want your dog to have more puppies, you may want to consider having her spayed. You may also want to have the puppies spayed or neutered, which could cost $50 – $500 for each dog.9
Want to care for a growing pet family? You may want to consider investing in pet insurance with MetLife Pet. Our dog insurance policies may be able to provide your pets with coverage for care before, during, and after pregnancy to help offset your vet bills.10 We also have optional preventive care plans that could cover things like spaying and neutering procedures to help you avoid future dog pregnancies.10,11 Get your free quote today.