The dog pregnancy calendar is 63 days or 9 weeks long on average. It starts at the point of ovulation, and ends with the puppies’ birth. By counting from the point of ovulation, the stages and milestones of a dog’s pregnancy can be predicted with uncanny accuracy. Today we take a closer look at each important stage of the dog pregnancy calendar, and how it differs between breeds and sizes of dog. We’ll share a week by week guide to canine pregnancy, with tips for how to care for your girl and what to expect when she’s expecting!
We’ll also look at the birth itself, signs it’s imminent like a drop in appetite or even body temperature, and share information for owners with breeds like Bulldogs that may need a cesarean section rather than a natural birth due to conformational features like a large head.
On average, pregnant dogs give birth 63 days after they ovulate. Large breeds are more likely to give birth slightly early – from day 58 onwards. Small breeds are more likely to have long pregnancies, which last up to 64 days. But overall, you can see the amount of variation in the dog pregnancy calendar is nothing like what we’re used to witnessing in humans!
The length of pregnancy is measured from ovulation exactly because it is so reliable and consistent. Both eggs and sperm can live for several days after being released. So measuring pregnancy from date mating took place creates a wider margin of error.
Dog Pregnancy Calendar
Use these links to navigate to specific weeks of a dog’s pregnancy calendar. Or start from the beginning to learn everything there is to know from the point of conception onwards!
Timing Ovulation In Dogs
Starting your dog’s pregnancy calendar on the day they ovulate is all well and good, if you know when they ovulated! If you’re planning a pregnancy for your girl in advance and she’s not yet come into heat, you can purchase ovulation testing kits for dogs online. These aren’t the same as ovulation testing kits for humans!
If you think your girl might be pregnant as the result of an unplanned mating, it’s a little trickier. Your vet will still be able to use the date the mating took place as a rough indicator of when the pregnancy began. But there’s still a margin for error of up to a week either way.
The Importance of Accuracy
A one-week-either-way margin of error creates a two week window during which your girl could give birth. This makes planning the birth challenging. It’s harder to recognize premature labor, or judge whether she’s gone overdue.
Some breeds are more likely to need cesarean sections to deliver their puppies safely. Scheduling one for the right time depends upon knowing the exact date the pregnancy started. So, knowing exactly when a dog’s pregnancy began is an important part of making sure all her puppies arrive in the world safely at the end.
Pinning It Down
If you don’t know exactly when your dog’s pregnancy began, your vet can use an ultrasound scan or x-ray to confirm the pregnancy and estimate how far along it is. This way, they can work out the start date retrospectively.
Once you have your start date, you can start using our canine pregnancy calendar to chart all of the events and milestones which lead up to the birth. Let’s go!
Week 1: Days 1 to 7
There are two remarkable things about the first week of the dog pregnancy calendar. Firstly, a female dog’s eggs can survive for 6 days after ovulation. So even though the dog pregnancy calendar starts at the point of ovulation, if she doesn’t mate until day 6, she could easily spend most of the first week of pregnancy not actually pregnant at all.
And secondly, that first point doesn’t affect the due date! Research indicates the eggs fertilised ‘late’ divide more quickly in order to catch up with eggs fertilized on the day of ovulation.
So whether a litter is conceived on day 1 or day 6 of pregnancy, they will be at the same stage of development by day 11, and ready to be born by day 63!
Week 2: Days 8 to 14
Depending upon exactly when mating took place, at the beginning of this week fertilized eggs are either dividing like the clappers to catch up, or really taking it rather easy. But did you know that they’re not actually anchored to anything yet?
Just like in humans, fertilization takes place right up inside the fallopian tubes. After all, two microscopic cells are far more likely to bump into each other in a tight tube, than drifting around a comparatively roomy uterus. So, for the remainder of this week, fertilized eggs will continue dividing, and also migrating down the fallopian tubes, towards the uterus.
What Changes To Consider
For mom, life can pretty much carry on as normal in this time. But if you haven’t already given thought to her pregnancy diet, now is the time to do so.
Pregnancy places enormous metabolic demands upon a female dog’s body. During pregnancy she needs a nutritious diet which contains 29-32% animal proteins, and at least 18% fat, including sources of omega fatty acids 3 and 6.
Week 3: Days 15 to 21
This week of the dog pregnancy calendar, the embryos complete their epic journey into the uterus and attach to the uterine lining, where the placenta begins to develop. A female dog’s uterus is divided into two ‘horns’. The embryos end up equally divided between them and spaced along them.
When the embryos embed themselves in the uterine wall, it triggers a cascade of hormones through their mom’s body. These hormones can make her feel a little out of sorts and unwell. If your girl is going to experience any morning sickness, it will be this week and next. It’s also at this point that the pregnancy can be captured on a sonogram for the first time.
Continue taking your girl out for walks. But let her set the pace. If she works, competes, or takes part in dog sports, put these on hold while she is pregnant.
Week 4: Days 22 to 28
From week 4 of pregnancy onwards, a female dog’s weight gradually starts to increase – along with her appetite! Pregnant dogs need up to 50% more calories than usual to support the growth of a litter full of puppies and prepare for feeding them after the birth.
By the end of this week, the puppies’ heartbeats can be seen during an ultrasound scan. A vet will be able to feel the pregnancy by feeling your dog’s tummy. So this is the time (around one month after a planned mating) to arrange a veterinary consultation to confirm whether pregnancy has been achieved.
Your vet will also discuss any risk factors which mean your dog needs extra check ups during her pregnancy, or help giving birth. Risk factors for dogs giving birth include:
- Being an older mom.
- Small litter size – small litters have space to grow quite big in the womb, which can lead to difficulties getting out again.
- Body shape – dogs like Pugsand French Bulldogs have big heads and narrow hips, which make it hard for puppies to fit through the birth canal. In the UK, over 80% of French Bulldog litters need to be delivered by cesarean section.
Week 5: Days 29 to 35
This week your dog reaches the halfway mark of her pregnancy. Inside her body, levels of the hormones relaxin and prolactin are beginning to increase.
Relaxin softens and relaxes the cervix and the ligaments around it, in preparation for birth. And prolactin stimulates milk production. You can buy pregnancy tests for dogs which work by detecting the increase in relaxin around this time. But of all the ways to confirm a dog’s pregnancy it is the last to work and the least reliable.
If you can afford to have the pregnancy confirmed by a vet, this is immeasurably better for your girl, and the safety of her puppies.
Week 6: Days 36 to 42
At the beginning of this week of the dog pregnancy calendar, puppies’ limbs start to take shape and become visible on a sonogram. But, none of their bones have begun to harden and calcify yet. So there’s still nothing to see on any x-ray.
They don’t have any fur yet. But their skin is starting to build up the patterns of pigment which will give them their markings later. From the outside, your girl is starting to look obviously pregnant too. If you haven’t already given thought to where she’ll give birth, this is the time to set up a whelping box and make it as comfortable as possible.
Week 7: Day 43 to 47
If a pregnant dog is x-rayed towards the end of this week, the first calcified bones will just be starting to show now – namely the skull and spine. X rays from this point onwards are typically the most reliable way of predicting how many puppies are in a litter.
On the outside, your girl’s nipples are getting noticeably darker, and more prominent due to the development of the mammary glands behind them. They’re also more eye-catching because she’s starting to shed the fur from her tummy in preparation for the birth. This is normal, and it does grow back!
Week 8: Days 48 to 56
It’s the final straight! From day 54 onwards, unborn puppies’ pelvis and limbs start to calcify enough to be visible on an x-ray.
And some researchers have reported accurately predicting unborn puppies’ sex using ultrasound between 55 and 58 days. But, it’s only possible in the smallest litters, and there’s only a week to wait now anyway!
Signs Your Female Dog Is Due To Give Birth
In these final stages of pregnancy, your girl’s appetite might start to drop off again. This is normal, but she should still be gaining weight. From the beginning of week 8, start watching your girl closely for signs that she is preparing to give birth.
One of the most relied upon indicators that labor is imminent is a drop in body temperature. Some vets recommend taking a pregnant dog’s temperature two or three times a day from week 8 onwards to establish a baseline. In around 80% of dogs, a drop of 2-3F is detected a few hours before labor begins.
Week 9: Days 57 to 63, and beyond
By the end of the dog pregnancy calendar, unborn puppies are pretty wriggly! This week, you might even be able to see or feel them moving in your girl’s stomach.
The earliest date that an unborn puppy’s teeth can be seen on an x-ray is day 58 of the pregnancy calendar. So, an x-ray which detects teeth is a sure sign that birth will take place within the next four days.
If your girl shows no signs of going into labor on day 63, call your vet to confirm the timetable for the next few days. Not giving birth on day 63, or even 64, is usually fine if there’s no sign that she’s struggling, and her body temperature hasn’t dropped yet.
But by day 65, intervening to get her puppies out might become a rather urgent matter, and one you should prepare for in advance, not on the morning of day 65!