Week by Week Pregnancy Guide for Canines

If you are a breeder and your female has successfully tied with a male, familiarizing yourself with normal signs of pregnancy is important. Although female dogs are completely capable of carrying puppies, and have been doing so for many years, owner intervention is needed in the event something goes wrong with the pregnancy. Understanding week-by-week development of your female’s pregnancy will help you understand what is normal and what is not.

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Monitor your pregnant dog to make sure the pregnancy is progressing well.

Weeks One to Three

Fertilization occurs during your female's first week of pregnancy. She may exhibit signs of morning sickness and behavioral changes. Feed her normally and give her regular exercise. During week two, the embryo enters your female's uterus. She may still experience signs of morning sickness, but it is suggested that you continue feeding and exercising her regularly. By week three the embryos are implanted into the uterus.

Weeks Three to Six

As your female enters her fourth week of pregnancy, the puppies begin to develop rapidly. Vaginal discharge that is clear, enlargement of the mammary glands and enlargement of the abdomen is typical during this stage. At this stage it is best for you to make sure she avoids doing too much physically such as jumping, running and rough housing.

Your dog's abdomen will begin to swell noticeably, and her weight will start to increase during the fifth week. If you have not done so yet, schedule an ultrasound to check the development of the puppies. By this time it is best to add approximately 25 percent more to her daily food intake and to continue increasing her intake by 25 percent each week from now until delivery. You may even give her protein- and calcium-rich foods such as cottage cheese and eggs. Upon entering week six, you will notice that your female's nipples have darkened and become very swollen in preparation for the arrival of her puppies.

Weeks Seven to Nine

Your dog will shed fur, particularly around the nipples as she moves into week seven. Around this time, prepare a whelping box and contact any interested puppy buyers. Continue to keep your dog's activity relaxed. Her food intake needs to be increased by another 25 percent. By the time your female reaches eight weeks, milk can be gently squeezed from the nipples. You will be able to feel the movement of the puppies in her belly. As your dog moves into her ninth -- and typically final -- week of pregnancy you will notice that her belly is very large, and she will display signs of nesting. She may restlessly paw at corners trying to find a safe place to have her puppies.

It is important to take your female's temperature at least three times a day and notify the vet to be on standby in case any emergency situations arise. Pregnancy in dogs typically lasts 59 days. However, it is inadvisable for you to leave your female alone after day 56 because like humans, the length of pregnancy differs in all dogs. Have whelping supplies readily available, but be aware that your female will be able to handle most of the process of birth on her own.

Postpartum Care

Once the puppies are born, make sure that your female is producing colostrum, which is a think milky substance, and that each of the puppies is getting some. At this stage, vaginal bleeding or discharge is normal. It is important for you to take your dog and her puppies to the vet within the first six hours of birth to ensure that the puppies are healthy. This also ensures that your dog has not retained a placenta or a puppy, which can cause serious health problems for her.