Breeding dogs can be a very expensive and emotive experience, which is why it is best to leave it to experienced breeders and specialists. If you think your bitch is expecting puppies, here are some handy tips for you to find out.
Key facts about dog pregnancies
Fertile seasons: if your bitch is entire (hasn’t been spayed), she is likely to come into season once every eight months, although this can be affected by the seasons of other entire bitches that she is with. A season can last for up to three weeks.
Gestation period: typically 63 days (or about nine weeks) post conception but this can vary either way. This is generally the same for all dogs, regardless of their breed.
Litter size: Varies widely depending on the breed. Smaller breeds tend to have 3-4 whilst larger breeds on average have 5-8 puppies. Nonetheless, this is very dependent on the individual.
Weaning time: a bitch will begin weaning her puppies from as little as three weeks after birth, and is likely to have them fully weaned by about 8 weeks.
How do I know if my dog is pregnant?
There are some physical and some behavioural signs that you will see if your bitch is pregnant, but dogs can also have phantom pregnancies. A phantom (or pseudo) pregnancy is when a female dog shows a lot of the signs of being pregnant, but doesn’t produce puppies. This can occur about a month or two after she has been in heat, which is why it can be mistaken for a real pregnancy, as the symptoms occur at a similar time as they would if she was in whelp.
If you think that your dog may be pregnant, these are some key traits to look out for:
- Enlarged nipples – milk production can occur even in pseudo pregnancies
- Vaginal swelling and discharge
- Tiredness and appearing calmer
- Nesting behaviours
- Changes in appetite
- Firmer stomach than normal, and gaining weight rapidly about a month into the gestation.
What to do
The only way to really be sure if your bitch is pregnant before her giving birth is to take her to the vets. Your dog will have a blood sample taken for a pregnancy test if she is early on in her gestation, or have an ultrasound – very much like a human pregnancy.
Your vet is the best person to give you specific advice for your own dog’s pregnancy. The most important things are to keep her happy, relaxed and in good health for this exciting experience!