Pregnant English bulldog

When your dog is pregnant, take her for walks but limit any strenuous activity.

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When can you feel puppies move in a pregnant dog?

By Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

There is a lot that one can expect during a canine gestation. As the weeks go by you'll know when you will be able to feel puppies move in a pregnant dog. Here's a week-by-week guide to what to expect.

If you have never had a pregnant dog before, then you don’t know how wonderful, yet tiring, canine pregnancies can be. Indeed, quite a lot goes on at the same time. That is why you need to follow very closely the development of the pregnancy. Then, soon enough, you will be able to feel puppies move in your pregnant dog. It’s such a magical moment. This article will show you the development of the pregnancy week by week.

The approximate duration for a dog’s pregnancy is 63 days. Nevertheless, this can vary by several days. Dog pregnancies last between eight to nine weeks. So, if you have a pregnant dog, use this canine gestation calendar to know exactly when your dog is due and when you can feel puppies move in your pregnant dog.

Weeks zero to one: fertilisation takes place

In this period of time, breeding takes place and, within a few days, fertilisation occurs. You might be wondering, is my dog pregnant? But, of course, you won’t be able to tell when the egg is fertilised by the sperm. This can only be done with a blood test or ultrasound scan by a vet after week three.

Week two: implantation of the egg in the uterus

In this week, the fertilised egg will make its way to the uterus for the implantation phase. From now, you might notice behavioural changes in your dog. These are the first signs of pregnancy. For example, your dog can get moody or hyper-affectionate, or start to mother her toys.

Week three: embryos continue to develop

If you are wondering how long until you feel puppies move in a pregnant dog, you’ll still have to wait a little longer. In this week, the embryos develop further. Your pet will show signs of mood swings, an increase in appetite and the beginning of the mammary gland development phase.

From three weeks after mating, you can confirm whether your dog is pregnant with a blood test or ultrasound scan at the vet’s. Having said that, you might already suspect that your dog is pregnant from the changes you’re seeing.

Week four: foetuses form

Foetuses are more developed versions of embryos. Now they are well on their way to looking like little puppies. In week four, foetuses can be seen in an ultrasound scan. Before that, the vet will have only been able to see little black structures in the uterus. At this point, your dog has been pregnant for at least 28 days. In the ultrasound, your vet can point out the formation of various anatomical features. But you still won’t be able to feel them move.

Week five: sex organs appear

Foetuses develop their sex organs at the start of week five. Finally, they look like little puppies. If an ultrasound is done, you can easily see leg buds and toes, but don’t expect to know whether they are boys or girls. That is very difficult to tell.

Furthermore, your dog’s belly will look more swollen, since puppies start to grow at a faster rate now. At this point, you need to start serving smaller meals, but more often, to your dog. These meals need to be high in energy and calcium for the developing bones of the puppies. A puppy food, or food specifically for pregnant dogs, is ideal.

Week six: puppies begin to get their coat colour

As puppies continue to grow, the next step is pigmentation. Then, they form eyelids, which will remain sealed until after birth. In this period, your pet will be more uncomfortable and may occasionally bring up her meals due to the extra pressure to her stomach. This is why meals should be offered little and often to ensure your dog gets all the calories she needs.

Week seven: when you can feel puppies move in a pregnant dog

Now the puppies are well developed and begin to reach the necessary size for birth. If you were still wondering when you’ll be able to feel puppies move in a pregnant dog, now is the time. If you are patient, you can even see the puppies’ movement in your dog’s abdomen.

But how do you feel puppies and palpate a pregnant dog? Simply, place your hands on each side of her abdomen and apply very gentle pressure inwards. You should be able to feel hard lumps in her lower body, which are the developing puppies. This should all be done very carefully though and if your dog is not happy, do not persist. Also, her mammary glands will finally develop. This is the perfect moment to start searching or building the whelping box.

Week eight: puppies get their fur

Puppies finally get their fur after week eight. Also, you will continue to notice a lot of movement inside your dog’s belly. Make sure you have the whelping box ready because your pet will start to look for a nesting place.

Weeks eight to nine: whelping preparation

The puppies are getting ready to come out. If your dog is ready to give birth, she can appear uncomfortable and anxious. Follow the instructions of the video at the bottom of this page and take a rectal temperature every 12 hours. When the temperature drops below 36°C after two consecutive readings, labour is almost due. This is the first sign that your dog is going into labour.

How can I care for my dog during gestation?

It is important to take great care of your dog during these nine weeks. For that, follow this list of advice.

  • Maintain a balanced diet. There’s no need for special supplements, but a higher-calorific and calcium content is advantageous. This can easily be achieved by switching her to a puppy food or food for pregnant dogs.
  • If your dog feels hungrier as weeks go by, give her more food according to the quantity indicated by a vet. Increasing the frequency of meals, so she eats more regularly in the day, is better than increasing the volume of the meals.
  • Limit any strenuous activity. Taking your pregnant dog for walks is vital to keep her fit, but don’t let her charge around or jump over things.
  • Veterinary check-ups throughout the pregnancy are very important to make sure the puppies are developing normally.

Now you know exactly when you will be able to feel puppies move in a pregnant dog and what to expect in her developing pregnancy. Just remember that pregnancy is not simple, and your dog requires extra attention and care during this time. It is best left to experienced breeders, as things can easily go wrong and this can result in costly veterinary bills. Experienced breeders will also have the best access to the top genetics to help improve the bloodlines of the breed.

When should I go the vet?

If your dog is about to give birth, knowing when things are going wrong is essential, as waiting too long might result in death of puppies or even your dog. If your dog has had a temperature drop over 24 hours ago and no puppies have been produced, or she has a dark or green-coloured vulval discharge, or has been straining hard for 30 minutes with no puppies, these are all indications that she might need a caesarean section, and needs emergency veterinary treatment.

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