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A dog's pregnancy cycle

Female dog and puppy kissing advice
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Congratulations, you're about to become a grandparent to a litter of adorable little puppies. So here’s what to expect in the coming few months.

By Ashley Murphy

Updated on the 29/11/2019, 14:44

How many weeks is a dog pregnant for?

A bitch is only fertile during her heat cycle, which comes around every six months or so. The pregnancy lasts between 58-65 days, which is about 8-9 weeks. The average litter is 5-6 pups, although this can vary quite dramatically among the different breeds. Unsurprisingly, smaller dogs have smaller litters, while larger breeds, such as the bullmastiff, can produce up to 13 pups per litter!

The early stage of a dog's pregnancy

Week one

Fertilisation has taken place, and now its time to begin the countdown. Just like human mums to be, pregnant dogs can suffer from morning sickness. This is due to changes in their hormonal balance, and it usually settles down in its own time.

It's also important to examine your dog for any infections that may have been transmitted during mating. If you see any light pink discharge then take them to a vet. Don't worry - this is fairly common and very treatable.

Focus on maintaining their usual feeding and exercise routine, although you may want to introduce a few nutritional supplements.

Week two

The cells are beginning to develop and tiny little puppy embryos descend into the uterus.

Week three

The foetuses are still less than a centimetre long! As your dog begins to transfer her nutrients to the foetuses, you may notice an increase in her appetite.

Week four

The face, the eyes, and the spine are beginning to take shape, but the foetuses are still less than two centimetres in size. Mum's teats may begin to swell, and you might notice a pink discharge coming from the genital area. Again, don't worry; this is perfectly normal. Week four is one of the most important stages in their foetuses development. It's a time when they’re most at risk of developing defects or deformities. Make sure mummy gets lots of rest, and limit any boisterous play or activity. It's also a good idea to talk to a vet. They’ll give you advice on diet and supplements.

Week five

By this stage, the foetuses are less at risk and they're starting to resemble tiny little puppies. By now they have toes, whiskers, and the male and female sex organs are beginning to develop. You will notice your dog getting heavier and it will be the right time to increase her food rations. But try not to increase the portions - spacing out the extra food over a longer period of time is better for mum and her pups. Also, if you take your dog for an ultrasound, you'll be able to count how many puppies are on the way!

The later stages of your dog's pregnancy

Week six

By week six, there's no mistaking that your dog is pregnant. Her tummy will be getting bigger on a daily basis and the nipples will begin to darken. It's time to let your dog eat as much as she wants, and up the multivitamins too. Start preparing an area for your dog to give birth. It needs to be warm and comfortable. It's also a good idea to encourage your dog to start sleeping in her new bed.

Week seven

We’re getting close! Your dog will start shedding hair from her belly. This makes feeding much easier and its nothing to worry about - the hair will grow back! By this time, the pups are almost fully formed. Again, let your dog eat as much as she wants!

Week eight

The pups could arrive any day now, but they would prefer another week in the womb. Let your dog get lots of rest - any strenuous activity could lead to the onset of labour. Mummy will start “nesting”, which means she'll be spending more time in her bed preparing for the births. If you look closely, you might be able to see the pups moving around in her stomach.

Week nine

The puppies will be showing up any minute now. Mum needs to be set up in her bed or whelping box. She’ll likely be a bit quieter than usual. Let her be - she's preparing herself for the big day.

Looking after mum and her new puppies

Most new mums have a strong maternal instinct so let nature do its thing. Mum will know how to feed them, clean them, and keep them safe. But you still need to keep an eye on the new arrivals. Make sure that all the pups are getting a good feeding and give them plenty of time and space to bond with their mother. Try not to touch or play with the puppies too much. It’s also advised to get your dog checked by a vet within 24 hours of giving birth.