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Put out the flags and start knitting puppy-sized bootees. Your dog is having puppies! But once that initial excitement has subsided, it’s only natural for a pet parent to start worrying. A thousand questions crowd into your mind about what’s normal and what’s not. And it’s surprisingly difficult to find an accurate guide as to dog pregnancy timeline symptoms. Whether it questions about when can you feel puppies move in a pregnant dog, or about dog pregnancy stages day by day;  this article is your guide to what to expect when your dog’s expecting.

Behavioral Signs of a Pregnant Dog

Individual dogs react differently to pregnancy. Some behave normally and there’s no clue to their changed condition, whilst others lack energy, are clingy, or seek solitude. Much of this depends on the individual’s character and her dependency on the pet parent’s reassurance. It’s useful to know what’s normal for your dog and recognize any change. A PetPace collar is a perfect tool for this, as it records past and present behavior patterns for a direct comparison. The doggy equivalent of morning sickness happens around midway through pregnancy, at day 30 – 35 onwards. Her appetite may dip due to nausea and she may vomit. But it’s important to know, in the non-pregnant dog these signs can indicate a serious womb infection, so if she hasn’t had the pregnancy confirmed, do so now. In the latter half of pregnancy, the growing womb slows the mother up. She will rest more and need smaller meals, as the puppies squash her stomach. Pressure on her bladder means she needs to pee more often, so make provision for plenty of comfort breaks. As the time for birthing approaches, some dogs like to dig. Don’t stop her as this will cause stress. Instead, set up a comfortable, secluded whelping area with lots of pillows and towels where she feels safe and secure. Last, but not least, your first clues that the puppies are about to arrive are restlessness and a drop in the mother’s body temperature. The beauty of a PetPace collar is that it monitors behavior and vital signs and significant changes in multiple parameters are expected as birthing approaches.

Dog Pregnancy Stages: Day by Day

Follow your dog’s progress and know what to expect with this dog pregnancy timeline symptoms chart.

Week 1: Days 0 – 7

Your dog mated and now…nothing. No shooting stars, no big signs, she acts casual like nothing has happened. Her estrogen levels decline but the pregnancy hormones have yet to click in. Life carries on as normal, and so should she.

Week 2: Days 8 – 14

The pregnancy hormone, progesterone, starts to rise. First, in our canine pregnancy timeline, you may notice her coat becomes more plush and glossy, as the hair enters a growth phase all at the same time. If she’s going to get moody or sleepy, now is the time, but she may act as normal. No need to increase the size of her food until Week 6! Overfeeding and weight gain in early pregnancy increase the risk of birthing complications.

Week 3: Days 15 – 21

Watch out for that first physical sign of pregnancy, pinked-up nipples. This is where her nipples enlarge, become more obvious, and take on a rosy glow. It’s a tad too early to be certain she’s pregnant – so don’t hold your breath. She’s fine to exercise as normal, just don’t go mad, especially in hot weather.

Week 4: Days 22 – 28

Exciting times and the first chance to confirm pregnancy. The vet can now see developing fetuses on an ultrasound scan. The tiny pups now have a spinal cord and are developing facial features. But don’t be tempted to feel her belly for the babies; Rough handling could damage the womb and lead to miscarriage.

Week 5: Days 29 -35

From day 28 a blood test will confirm pregnancy. Also, there’s a window of opportunity between days 28 – 35 when a vet can feel the pups before they become cushioned in the fluid. The female can still exercise if she wants to, but don’t overexert her.

Week 6: Days 36 – 42

Ease up on exercise now. Walk her but gently, and let her set the pace. NOW you change her food: Switch from regular food to a puppy food, for the increased calories, protein, vitamin, and mineral content. Her body shape may change, with the hint of a pregnant belly and enlarged mammary glands. Now, entering the final third of pregnancy, she may start to dig or nest. She may suffer morning sickness and vomit occasionally. Also, some females develop a plug of white mucus at the vulvar lips. This is normal. If however the discharge is bloody, discolored, or smells, see a vet immediately.

Week 7: Days 43 – 49

The puppies now have a skeleton which can be seen on x-ray. Your vet may suggest radiographing the mother to check how many puppies she’s carrying. This information may become useful when she goes into labor and you need to monitor that all the pups are coming out. From now onwards you may get the impression of her belly moving, as the puppies wriggle inside. Her breasts are distinct and can be seen in silhouette The mother tires easily and needs to urinate frequently.

Week 8 – Days 50 -56

The pups are well grown and taking up a lot of space in her tummy. The mother may start nesting behavior, which includes digging. Offer small meals but often, as her stomach is compressed. Let her rest and take gentle walks, and give plenty of comfort breaks.

Week 9 -Day 57 – 63

For a pregnancy of average length (63 – 65 days) this is the final week. Do puppies move a lot before birth? Yes. The puppies are large and active, causing rippling of her flanks. This makes the mother uncomfortable and restless.   Keep an eye on body temperature, as a drop means whelping should happen within 24 hours.

Week 10: Days 64 – 70

Some breeds, such as French bulldogs, have longer pregnancies than others. Don’t panic, but do contact your vet. Put a plan in place for when to go ahead with a cesarean if the pups haven’t put in an appearance.

Frequently Asked Questions of Dog Pregnancy

How long is the average pregnancy in the dog?

Actually, there’s quite a spread of due dates for dogs. A healthy pregnancy lasts anywhere from 58 – 71 days, with an average of 63 – 65 days. Indeed some breeds, such as French bulldogs, are acknowledged as having longer gestation periods than others. As a rule of thumb, if the mother gets to 65 days without the puppies arriving, notify your vet who will guide you from there.

Is the mother allowed to play ball?

In the early stages of pregnancy, the mother can carry on as normal, provided the weather isn’t hot. Heat stress or exhaustion is difficult for any dog to deal with, and could potentially cause miscarriage in pregnancy. As the mother’s physical shape changes, so her exercise should become more sedate. Keeping her fit is a great idea, but stick with steady lead walks, rather than anything more exerting.

When can you feel the puppies move in a pregnant dog?

You may be able to see and feel movement, from around 7 weeks. A puppy in the womb has a different type of placenta to a human baby. The end result is the fetal puppy is cushioned by not one, but two, bags of fluid or fetal sacs. This makes it difficult to feel each puppy as an individual inside the equivalent of a water-filled balloon. However, as the puppies get larger, especially for large litters, you do an impression of the mother’s belly heaving and wriggling, as the puppies change position within the womb.

How to Feel for Puppies in the Womb?

Place the flat of your palm against the mother’s belly or flank. Wait patiently for the puppies to move or change position. Never prod the mother’s abdomen with your fingertips, as this could be harmful to the puppies. Remember your vet is trained to gently palpate the abdomen in a safe way.

Should I give a vitamin and mineral supplement?

No. A good quality dog food (a puppy food for the final third of pregnancy) provides everything the mother needs. In fact, giving a calcium supplement during pregnancy increases the risk of a serious complication called milk fever or eclampsia. Giving a calcium supplement fools the body into thinking there is an excess of calcium in the diet. This then shuts down the body’s mechanisms for absorbing and retaining calcium, putting the mother into a state of calcium ‘shut down’. Then when she’s nursing greedy puppies that quickly use up the calcium in her bloodstream, she’s unable to mobilize calcium from her bones, putting her at risk of milk fever. Milk fever is potentially life-threatening and can cause seizures. When you’re out and about, a PetPace collar can alert you to unusual behaviors and give an early warning for eclampsia.

When do I increase the mother’s food allowance?

Whilst it’s tempting to feed the mother for five (or six, or seven) it’s a mistake to do this too early. The early weeks of the pregnancy are all about fluid accumulating around the tiny developing fetus. The mother doesn’t need extra calories and increasing her ration will cause undue weight gain. An overweight mother dog going into labor is more likely to have complications. Therefore, the right time to increase her ration is in the final third of pregnancy. This is also the time to change to a good quality puppy food for its raised protein and calorie levels. Don’t forget the mother’s stomach is compressed by her developing pups. Therefore, feed little and often so that she takes in enough food over the course of the day.

Can I bathe an expectant mother dog?

Yes, but with care. Be extra careful lifting her in and out of the bath, and make sure she doesn’t slip. If her belly is very large or she’s in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, then best to leave her be and bathe her once the pups are weaned.

PetPace as Midwife

The next best thing to having a vet hold your dog’s paw through pregnancy is a PetPace collar. This comfortable monitoring device constantly measures the pregnant dog’s heart and respiratory rate, temperature, HRV, position, and activity levels. If an abnormal pattern develops, such as she becomes restless or distressed, PetPace immediately notifies your smartphone. So you always know how the mother-to-be is, even when you can’t be home.

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