Gestation or the term of a pregnancy in dogs starts from the first time they are bred, or fertilized, and lasts until the puppies are born. This period can vary based on the breed or size of the dog but usually is about 9 weeks. Unlike humans, female dogs can have menstruation cycles throughout their entire lives and can have puppies at any age after their first heat.
Puberty begins in a female dog from between 6 to 24 months of age. She mates when she is in heat or estrus. During the estrus cycles, dogs discharge a bloody fluid, which is why it is thought to be a menstrual period. When the fluid becomes less bloody, dogs are ready to be impregnated, this can last a few hours to a few days. Between breeds, the estrus cycles vary. Some breeds are known to have a one to two-week average, others three weeks, while others still can have it for only two days.
There are four stages of the estrus cycle:
During which bleeding through the virginal begins. The approximate time for this is about four days to a week, and you may realize that your dog needs to pee frequently. Even though male dogs can be sniffing her out, she will not mate them during this particular period. An extra sign is a swollen valve, which may not be noticed with smaller dogs or those that are hairy.
This is the time when your dog is actually on the heat. Pregnancy might occur at this stage, so it’s advisable to keep your dog away from others if you really don’t want more puppies in your home. The main noticeable sign at this stage is that her vaginal discharge turns to color yellow rather than bloody. If you do not want your dog to mate in your absence, restrain her or even smear some menthol on her tail to counteract the hormone that attracts other male dogs. In addition, you can try giving her some extra care and try to avoid activities which will heighten her anxiety.
Metestrus or Diestrus Stage
If your dog is actually pregnant, then the signs will automatically start to show, and approximately after sixty days, she will give birth. Nevertheless, fake pregnancies also occur, therefore do not panic instantly if you think your dog is carrying the next generation.
This is the longest lasting stage, about 5 months when the female dog starts to prepare for the subsequent heat cycle.
It is usually hard to predict if your dog is pregnant or not, even if conception was 5 weeks prior. There is not a standard pregnancy test for a dog’s urine or blood that can be done at home. It’s generally advised to take your dog to the vet to confirm a pregnancy. A pregnancy is usually detected by X-ray 45 days or so after fertilization.
Noticing Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs
A decrease in appetite is often one of the first symptoms you may see in your dog. She may have morning sickness and begin eating less in the first few weeks of becoming pregnant.
Your dog may feel exhausted and may show a sudden decrease in activities as she experiences hormonal changes.
Your dog’s nipples may enlarge and may be a sign of pregnancy progression. Breast material will begin to develop under the nipples, which will eventually increase to prepare for milk production.
Two to three weeks after gestation, your dog may show an increase in her appetite. Her nipples may become swollen and darken in color. Your dog may begin to gain weight and her abdomen may become thicker, which can be seen about four weeks into the gestation period.
Late Term Signs
There will be definite, noticeable growth in the abdomen, which will vary based on breed, size, and how big the litter is she’s carrying.
You will begin seeing and feeling the puppies move during the last stage of pregnancy.
White fluid may begin coming out of her nipples, signaling she is ready for lactation.
Behavior and the Gestational Period
Just as in humans, a female dog may show changes in her behavior while she’s pregnant. The farther the pregnancy progresses, the more these changes may be seen. She may become restless, anxious, and may want to be left alone or go to an isolated area. With the growing belly, she will become uncomfortable and may become aggressive. You should not let children play with a pregnant female dog as she may lash out at them. It is also not unheard of for a pregnant dog to tear clothes, papers, or drapes trying to make a “nest” to give birth in.
You should have your vet check her a week before her due date to anticipate any problems that may occur during whelping (the act of labor). Whelping occurs in two stages. Stage I lasts 6-12 hours. She’ll have contractions, but you won’t see them. You may notice her restless and panting. During stage II, the fetuses begin to move through the birth canal. Your dog will be obviously straining at this point.
Good Diet for Pregnant Dogs
It is imperative to give your pregnant dog a nutritious and well-balanced diet to ensure her health, and the health of the unborn puppies. This diet needs to incorporate large amounts of proteins, such as lean meats (other than pork), eggs, and liver during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Be sure to give your dog increasing quantities of food more often, in small meals, especially in the latter weeks of pregnancy. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water as she will likely drink much more while she is pregnant. You may also talk to your vet about special diets or dog foods if you like.
During a normal pregnancy, short walks, moderate exercise, and short periods of play time can keep her active and healthy. It is not recommended to allow strenuous exercise or too much rest during this period. Be a responsible owner. Be sure to give your dog a little extra love, attention, care, and respect during this time.
If everything goes smoothly, your dog will deliver from the comfort of your home. Here’s what you need to do:
Provide a whelping box where she can lie until she delivers. This will prevent her lying down and accidentally killing her puppies. The box should be relatively small, with sides 6-8 inches tall. Line the floor with plastic, then paper, and then a flannel layer on top. Tack the flannel to the sides of the box. This ensures it won’t smother the puppies if your dog paws at it.