Pregnancy dog (How long are dogs pregnant?)

Your dog is pregnant? How long the pregnancy goes, what you should know exactly and many helpful tips we have compiled for you in this article. In addition, we have for this article Advice from veterinarian Emin Jasarevic obtained. Note: This article is written for the german country.

Dogs pregnancy and suckling
Table of Contents

How long is a bitch in heat?

The time of sexual maturity of a bitch depends on her breed. The larger her breed, the longer she will wait for sexual maturity. This is about six to eighteen months.

However, sexual maturity does not mean that your bitch is ready for pregnancy. In the early stages of heat, the birth canals are not yet fully developed. As a rule, your bitch will now come into heat every six months.

During heat, the vulva becomes more perfused and she secretes a bloody fluid. The bitch's behavior toward the male dog also changes. About two days before her ovulation she becomes ready for covering. 

During the actual ovulation phase, her vaginal discharge is clearer and more mucous. Thus, the mating by the male dog is facilitated. During this phase, the bitch's porgesterone level also increases. This hormone helps prepare the body for pregnancy.

How is pregnancy detected?

Your veterinarian can determine if your bitch is pregnant by the following ways:

  • Relaxation test
    The hormone relaxin is formed only during pregnancy. It continues to be produced only when the fetuses are alive in the uterus.
    Hormone testing can take place from the 24th day after fertilization. With this method it is possible to distinguish a false pregnancy from a real pregnancy.
  • Ultrasound examination
    With a high-tech ultrasound machine, pregnancy can be diagnosed as early as day 18. It becomes more reliable from the 25th day.
  • X-ray examination
    X-ray examination can give a definite diagnosis of pregnancy only after the 42nd day. 

How long does it take?

The gestation period of a bitch is about 61 to 65 days depending on when she ovulates. Variations may occur depending on when she was mated.

The sperm of a male can survive in the uterus for six to ten days.

If she is mated five days after her ovulation, the birth can follow in 57 days. If she is mated five days before her ovulation, then that is about 68 days.

Should a bitch be covered even earlier, the pregnancy can last even up to 72 days.

Everything explained in 5 steps


1. the first five to six weeks

In the first phase of pregnancy, only inconspicuous changes take place. 

At the end of the first month the mammary glands enlarge. The teats become pink to dark. Sometimes it may happen that the Hair around the teats fall out. 

From about the 30th day of pregnancy, a transparent or whitish mucus oozes from the vagina.

At the beginning of pregnancy you do not have to pay attention to so many things and the amount of food can remain as usual.

From the 35th day the bitch is slowly gaining weight. She can end up with twice as much weight as before pregnancy. However, this depends very much on the number of fetuses and their breed.

2. the last third

It is only externally noticeable from the last third of pregnancy. 

The circumference of the abdomen increases. In some quadrupeds enlargement of the abdomen is not so pronounced. The uterus and vulva thicken.

At this stage it is possible, listen to the heart sounds of the fetuses. 

The appetite of the pregnant bitch increases. Now is the time to switch to a food for pregnant and lactating bitches. In this phase it is especially important that you feed your pelt nose according to her increasing energy needs.

About a week before birth, the mammary glands begin to produce milk.

3. shortly before birth

Ten to six days before the due date, you should take your bitch's temperature daily. 

The body temperature should be approximately between 37 and 38 °C.

Just before the birth is about to happen, the temperature drops to
36.5 to 37 °C.

Other accompanying symptoms of the upcoming birth are:

  • frequent urination
  • Licking the vulva
  • Nesting behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness, stress
  • Scratching on the floor or in the dog bed
  • Trembling or panting

4. birth

You will be able to clearly see the onset of labor. Also, from the vagina of your bitch will excrete a clear discharge. In the next 20 to 30 minutes, the first puppy should be born.

The litter between puppies usually lasts 20 minutes. However, it may take more than an hour before the next puppy is born. If the rest period to the next litter is longer than two hours, notify your veterinarian.

After the birth of the puppy bitch cuts the umbilical cord itself. She unveils the puppies from the amniotic sac and licks them. This not only frees them from the amniotic sac and cleans them, but also stimulates their breathing.

After each litter comes an afterbirth. Normally the bitch eats the afterbirth, because it contains a lot of proteins and nutrients. They help the bitch to regenerate after the stresses of pregnancy.

5. after birth

You can tell by your bitch's behavior if the birth is over: 

First she starts to clean herself. Then she lies down on her side and stretches her legs. At the same time, the puppies lie on their teats and suck the "first mother's milk" - the colostrum.

The colostrum contains important nutrients for the new arrivals. It stimulates the first bowel movements of puppies. Also, the first milk contains 95 % of antibodies, which is necessary for strengthening the immune system.

The "first milk" is different in appearance from the later breast milk. It is yellowish and somewhat stickier. That is why it is sometimes mistaken for pus.

6 precautions you should take

1. keep calm!

The first rule you should never underestimate is:

Always keep calm! 

Even though this is an enjoyable experience, this time - especially the birth itself - is an extremely stressful one for your charge. Additional stress and restlessness of their caregivers would be an additional burden for them.

During the birth, you should hold back as much as possible and not intervene unnecessarily. But stay with your pelt-nose during the birth. Thus, you can support them with your presence and intervene immediately if there are any unwanted complications.

2. prepare whelping box

pad for puppies

From the 40th day you should prepare a whelping box. For this you can use a cardboard box or make one out of wood. It should be big enough for your bitch and the puppies. Also calculate a free space for your bitch, in case she wants to rest alone.

The box should be high enough so that the puppies do not break out of the box to go on a little expedition in your home.

Choose a quiet and warm place. It is important that no drafts can reach the puppies! The puppies need an ambient temperature in the first week
from 28 to 32 °C. 

Some bitches like the litter box to be where they get their food. They feel secure in these places.

You can put her bed in the box or by the box. Putting a few of her toys in the box will help her get used to the box faster.

If she drags the box to another location, you should accept her move.

Pad the bottom of the box and cover it with a puppy pad. It is also useful to have sheets, covers or towels handy for the birth.

3. change of diet

In the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, your four-legged friend can get her normal food.

From the 4th week you should start the change. She should get a feed with more energy and protein.

The future mother will have more appetite than usual from the 4th week.

There are numerous dog foods offered for pregnant bitches. Generally, they are marked with the following designation: "for gravid or lactating bitches". or "for pregnant and lactating bitches". They contain more protein and energy.

Alternatively, you can switch to puppy food:

Choose puppy food that is suitable for the size of your bitch. Some varieties have information about the feeding amount of pregnant and/or lactating bitches.

Otherwise, you should follow this rule of thumb:

  • Dosage for small dogs with small numbers of puppies: increase energy intake to 30 % compared to maintenance requirements (normal amount of food).
  • Dosage for large dogs: increase energy intake up to 50 %.

You should give her food two to three times a day and always have enough drinking water ready!

Your dog may eat less than usual during the last week of pregnancy. On the day of birth and the following day she will probably not eat at all. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

During the suckling phase, energy requirements should be regulated as follows: 

For each pup she sires, the energy requirement must be 25 % higher than the maintenance requirement.

As soon as the puppies start eating complementary food, you should lower the mother's ration.

About six to eight weeks after birth -. the day before weaning - you do not give your bitch food. Thus, the milk production may stop.

On the day of weaning you give her only 25 % of the maintenance requirement. In the following days you can slowly adjust the amount of food to the maintenance requirement.

4. keep diary

Information like

  • Body temperature
  • Date of birth
  • Onset of labor
  • Birth times of the individual litters
  • Number of puppies
  • Puppies sex 
  • Puppies weight
  • Ambient temperature
are important for tracking the gestation, birth and puppy stages.
To be able to distinguish the puppies from each other, you should put a ribbon on them. You can label the ribbon with their names or numbers.
In addition, you can discuss with your veterinarian which information might still be important. So you have everything at a glance.


5. measure temperature

From the first trimester, you should take the temperature rectally. If you do not know how, you can ask your vet. He will surely give you the necessary tips and show you how to do it. Or you read here to.

It's good to record your body temperature in a diary.

If the temperature has dropped to 36.5 - 37 °C, the birth is imminent. Within 12-24 hours the birth should begin.

6. have the telephone number of the veterinarian ready

Usually bitches manage their birth themselves without any problems. 

However, you should always have your vet's phone number handy in case of complications. Also, it would be good if you get a phone number from your vet with which he can be reached at night. Because the birth can also take place at night.

What should I do if my bitch has difficulty giving birth?

In the following situations you should contact your veterinarian immediately!

  • Green vaginal discharge before the first puppy is born
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Bitch has been pushing for about 20-30 minutes, but can not litter
  • After a litter the next puppy does not come after 2 hours yet
  • High fever
  • Symptoms of exhaustion

Describe the situation very precisely to your doctor. Your veterinarian will pass on the necessary instructions or pray you to bring the bitch and her already born puppies to the clinic.

Can bitches become false pregnant?

Yes, four to nine weeks after heat, bitches can become false pregnant. This is not a cause for concern. 

After the body determines that the bitch is not pregnant after heat, the progesterone level drops rapidly. This rapid decrease can sometimes be registered by the organism as a birth. 

In the process, the body ensures that the prolactin level rises. Prolactin, on the other hand, stimulates the mammary glands.

It becomes problematic when, in addition to the physiological phenomena, psychological behavioral changes appear.

Your dog can start building a nest. Toys, other objects such as shoes, slippers and the like can be used for building her nest. Some of the bitches are aggressive at this stage. 

She might even be looking for her caregivers (Caution with children!) snap when any of the toys or items are taken away from their supposed nest.

Normally, this will take care of itself. However, it would be good to consult your veterinarian. He can prescribe your bitch calming preparations or hormones to overcome this phase more easily.

How many puppies can a bitch give birth to?

How many puppies a bitch can give birth to on average depends, among other things, on age and breed.

There is a study on this that was published in 2011. The researchers analyzed over 10,000 litters of 224 breeds. They found that the average number of litters is about 5 - 6 puppies.

Small breeds were 3 - 4 puppies, whereas the average for large breeds was about 7 puppies.

The record is 24 puppies. A Neopolitan Mastiff named Tia gave birth to the puppies by Caesarean section on November 29, 2004.


Are pregnant bitches allowed to walk?

If your dog is pregnant, she should continue to walk regularly. 

Thus, she prepares herself perfectly for the arrival of her little ones. Actually, it is nothing more than pregnancy gymnastics for bitches.

However, you should avoid intense training or even obedience training during the walks. Because this can be exhausting or stressful for them.

In addition, the pregnancy phase can be uncomfortable for your bitch. She also gets tired more quickly. Especially in the last period before birth. 

Therefore, the walks should be kept rather short, but take place more regularly. Recommended are 3 to 5 short walks a day.

However, if your furry friend has any ailments or illnesses, it is highly recommended that you discuss the walking schedule with your veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions

The gestation period in females is 63 days on average. However, it can vary between 59 and 67 days. In a large litter, the gestation period is usually less.

Typical signs of pregnancy in a bitch are swollen and reddened teats, vaginal discharge and in some cases loss of appetite or refusal of the usual food.

The number of puppies in a litter depends mainly on the breed and size of your dog. Small breeds have on average 4 puppies and large breeds 7.

After the onset of labor, the birth usually lasts around 6 hours. But it can also go up to 12 hours. The first puppy should be born 1 to 2 hours after the onset of labor.

Bitches usually come into heat about every 6 months. The heat lasts between three and four weeks. During this time, your bitch will have a bloody discharge from her vagina and her vagina and teats will be swollen.

Veterinarian’s Recommendation

Beautiful times are waiting for you. With lots of laughter, joy and love...

Another little tip: Put your favorite shoes in the shoe closet right after you get home. Oh yes, you'd better keep the bathroom door closed. Loved ones like to have a little toilet paper party in the apartment.

Rest assured. As soon as you make the necessary arrangements, your worries will no longer be able to take you by surprise. For your part, more than half is already done.

Enjoy this time with your bitch and her offspring. You become a bodily witness and companion of one of the greatest wonders of nature 😉

Picture of Geprüft vom Tierarzt Emin Jasarevic
Veterinarian Emin Jasarevic

I am a veterinarian and writer on animal health topics. Animals are my passion, and it is my personal goal to create medically accurate articles and videos to educate pet owners as much as possible.

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