Questions and Answers About Dog Pregnancy

pregnant dog lying on side
A pregnant dog. Jane Burton/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Do you think your dog could be pregnant? What should you expect while your dog is pregnant? Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about the stages of a dog's pregnancy, also called gestation.

How Long is a Dog's Pregnancy?

Pregnancy in dogs typically lasts 63 days (about nine weeks). The duration of a dog's pregnancy can fall anywhere from 58 to 68 days.

Though estrus (heat cycles) can vary from breed to breed, the normal gestation period falls within the same range for all dogs, regardless of breed.

What Are the Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs?

  • Most dogs will show no signs of pregnancy in the first several weeks. It will be difficult to determine if your dog is pregnant early on. Signs generally appear in the second trimester (about three weeks in).
  • Nausea and vomiting (morning sickness) are uncommon, but may occur in some dogs around days 21-25 due to hormonal changes.
  • Some weight gain may be noticed as early as 21 days into the pregnancy. By day 35, weight gain tends to become more noticeable and will continue through the pregnancy.
  • The dog may develop a clear or mucoid discharge from her vulva around 30 days into the pregnancy.
  • The teats (nipples) may become more prominent (more erect and pink) around days 25-30 due to an increase in blood supply. Then, around day 40, the mammary glands usually begin to enlarge. A mild, clear discharge may come from the nipples.
  • Enlargement of the abdomen is typically noticed around 40 days into the pregnancy. As the pregnant dog comes close to full term, you might even notice the pups moving in her abdomen. 

NOTE: Signs of pregnancy may differ from dog to dog (and even between pregnancies in the same dog). Be sure to involve your veterinarian along the way. Contact your vet if you have any concerns about the signs your dog shows.

How Will I Know If My Dog Is Pregnant?

If you suspect that your dog could be pregnant, you should contact your veterinarian's office to schedule an appointment. Plan to visit the vet about three weeks after the suspected day of conception. At that time, your vet may perform an ultrasound or take x-rays, depending on which technology is available (ultrasound is the preferred method in the early stage). Your veterinarian may also want to check blood levels for the presence of relaxin, a hormone only present in pregnant dogs. This test should be done between days 21-25 of suspected pregnancy. Later, around day 45, your vet may recommend x-rays so they can count the number of puppies before she gives birth.

What If The Pregnancy Was an Accident?

It will take some effort on your part to take care of a pregnant dog and prepare for the birth of the puppies (whelping). It also takes time and dedication to help raise the puppies. You may not be ready for these challenges, and there is no shame in that. The truth is, there is a problem with canine over-population. Animal shelters euthanize healthy dogs every day. If your litter is not wanted, please consider spaying your pregnant dog (and thus terminating the pregnancy). This can be done safely and humanely, but it's best and safest to do early on in the pregnancy. Talk to your vet if you need help making the right decision for you and your dog. 

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.