Breeding dogs can be a very expensive and emotive experience, which is why it is best to leave it to experienced breeders and specialists. If you think your bitch is expecting puppies, here are some handy tips for you to make sure, as well as some useful information on dog pregnancies.
Key facts about dog pregnancies
Fertile seasons: if your bitch is entire (hasn’t been spayed), she is likely to come into season once every eight months, although this can be affected by the seasons of other entire bitches that she is with. A season can last for up to three weeks. If your dog is on heat, but you don’t want her to become pregnant, keep her on a lead on walks and ensure that your garden is escape-proof to stop her from jumping over a hedge or fence to get to a mate. Gestation period: A dog’s gestation period is typically 63 days (or about nine weeks) post conception but this can vary on either side. This is generally the same for all dogs, regardless of their breed. Litter size: The number of puppies a dog will have can vary widely depending on the breed. Smaller breeds tend to have 3-4 whilst larger breeds on average have 5-8 puppies. Nonetheless, this is very dependent on the individual and even a vet may not be able to predict the exact number your dog will have. Weaning time: A bitch will begin weaning her puppies from as little as three weeks after birth, and is likely to have them fully weaned by about 8 weeks.
How do I know if my dog is pregnant?
There are some physical and some behavioral signs that you will see if your bitch is pregnant, but dogs can also have phantom pregnancies. A phantom (or pseudo) pregnancy is when a female dog shows a lot of the signs of being pregnant, but doesn’t produce puppies. This can occur about a month or two after she has been in heat, which is why it can be mistaken for a real pregnancy, as the symptoms occur at a similar time as they would if she was in whelp. If you think that your dog may be pregnant, these are some key traits to look out for:
- Enlarged nipples – milk production can occur even in pseudo pregnancies
- Vaginal swelling and discharge
- Tiredness and appearing calmer
- Morning sickness
- Nesting behaviours
- Changes in appetite
- Firmer stomach than normal, and gaining weight rapidly about a month into the gestation
However, bear in mind that signs such as changes in appetite or weight gain can also be symptoms of something else, so the best thing to do is to check with a vet.
What to do
The only way to really be sure if your bitch is pregnant before her giving birth is to take her to the vet. There are several ways a vet can check whether your dog is pregnant. One way is to gently feel your dog’s tummy. Your dog can also have a blood sample taken for a pregnancy test if she is early on in her gestation, or she might have an ultrasound – very much like a human pregnancy. Later on in your dog’s pregnancy the vet might ask you to return for an X-ray – this is a good way to check on the puppies’ progress and also see how many are in her tummy. Towards the end of pregnancy, you should be able to see and feel the puppies moving around inside your dog’s tummy. Regular vet check-ups will ensure that both your dog and her pups are in good health. Your vet is the best person to give you specific advice for your own dog’s pregnancy. The most important things are to keep her happy, relaxed and in good health for this exciting experience!