How Long Before a Dog Has Puppies?

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How Long Before A Dog Has Puppies?Much like people, a female dog must go to doctor’s appointments once it becomes pregnant and will need veterinary care its whole life. If you suspect that your dog is pregnant, you’ll want to provide it with as much help as you can and prepare it as a first-time mom to her puppies. In this article, we provide you with a comprehensive guide for your dog’s pregnancy while answering the question, “How long before a dog has puppies?”

Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs 

During the first weeks of pregnancy, dog owners might not notice any behavioral changes in their dog but a pregnant bitch may become tired, may vomit, or it may even eat less. As the pregnancy progresses, you may notice physical changes like more prominent mammary glands or that your pooch is starting to gain weight. Later in the pregnancy, a lot of dogs will show nesting behavior such as rearranging pillows or making a safe place out of blankets

Other signs of a dog pregnancy may include the following: 

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight gain

It’s also important to remember that color changes and mammary development can also take place in dogs that aren’t pregnant as a result of normal changes in their hormones.

How to Tell if Your Dog Is Pregnant

There are a few ways to confirm the early stages of pregnancy, which include the following: 

  • Abdominal X-rays can be done as early as 45 days of pregnancy
  • An abdominal ultrasound can be done around 25 to 28 days after conception
  • Blood tests are available for determining pregnancy, but they are considered inaccurate 
  • Some vets may palpate (feel) your dog’s abdomen to check for pregnancy but this will also be unreliable and may be unsafe for the development of the fetus. 
  • Some dogs may suffer from morning sickness like humans 

Make sure to discuss each method with your vet for the right way to determine your dog’s pregnancy. Whether your dog is pregnant or not, her hormone levels will be very similar after the first heat cycle. Because of this, pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy can occur, which allows nonpregnant dogs to experience symptoms such as maternal behaviors and lactation. 

Because these changes are related to their hormones, they will usually go away on their own without any medical intervention. If you’re not planning to breed your dogs, you can prevent unwanted pregnancies through spaying. 

How Long Before a Dog Has Puppies?

The dog gestation period (length of pregnancy) lasts for 63 days upon ovulation or a little over two months. Your dog’s ovulation can be monitored through the luteinizing hormone and hormones progesterone, which a reproduction veterinarian can perform. When the day of ovulation is determined, your veterinarian will be able to give you an accurate potential due date within a three-day window. 

If you don’t ask for the timing of your dog’s ovulation, your dog’s due date can’t be accurately determined and may range from 58 to 68 days after breeding. Your vet should perform an examination of your dog to see if it’s fit and physically able to carry the pregnancy. A pregnant female should also be examined by your vet during the second trimester and the end of your dog’s pregnancy to do health tests, pregnancy diagnosis, and to plan for whelping. 

Preparing for Dog Birth 

Many dogs will be able to give birth to their pups naturally, but some breeds, such as French Bulldogs, and English Bulldogs, along with other short-nosed breeds won’t be able to whelp naturally. At times like this, a planned caesarian section through veterinary assistance will be needed, so you’ll need to work closely with your veterinarian. Dogs that can give birth naturally will need a whelping box — towards the end of your dog’s pregnancy it’s best to create a comfortable and quiet place for the birth.  

It’s also essential that you keep your mother dog away from other dogs three weeks before she’s due and three weeks more after giving birth to prevent herpes virus. While this virus will rarely cause worry in adult dogs but it can be fatal to puppies. Your dog’s temperature will also drop below 100°F when she’s ready to give birth — the most accurate method to determine the body temperature is to take the rectal temperature.        

Dog Birthing Process 

Your dog will go through three stages during the labor process, where it will experience contraction in the first stage of labor which can last as long as 12 hours. Her puppies will be born around 30 to 60 hours apart but can also be delayed for up to 2 hours if your mother dog takes a break. Below is a breakdown of what happens during each stage. 

Start of Contractions 

The first stage comes as a relaxation of the cervix as well as intermittent contractions but you probably won’t see contractions throughout the process. Your dog (especially first-time mothers) may be restless at this time, panting, digging, and even vomiting. It may lower its food intake or refuse to eat altogether — the beginning of labor may last up to 6-12 hours.      

Giving Birth 

The second stage of labor involves stronger uterine contractions and the eventual birth of the first puppy. The next puppy and the ones after it will usually be born every 30 to 60 minutes, with 10 to 15 in between while the mother strains. Some puppies will be born tail-first but this is normal for dogs.

It’s also normal for your dog to have a break while giving birth, but it’s vital that you know when to show concern and call your veterinarian. Signs to look for include the following: 

  • Your dog has been struggling to give birth for over 30 minutes
  • She has taken a break for more than four hours
  • Fetal membranes are present in the birth canal but no puppies within 30 minutes
  • If your mother dog is experiencing extreme pain
  • If all of the puppies aren’t born within twenty-four hours


In the third and final stage of the pregnancy, the expulsion of the placenta including the amniotic sac will take place. These will have a greenish-black color and shouldn’t have a foul odor — the membrane should also pass no more than 15 minutes for every puppy. As such, your dog will alternate between the second and third stages of birth after each of the newborn puppies.  

What To Do After the Birth of Puppies?

The puppies will be born with a birth sac that the mother will usually remove, but if she doesn’t, you’ll need to remove it yourself to help the puppy breathe. Help your puppies take their first breath by wiping away fluids from their nose and opening their mouth. You should then stimulate each of the dogs’ bodies by stroking them gently using a clean towel. 

If the mother doesn’t cut the umbilical cord, you might need to do it — you can break it around one to two inches from the pup’s body, then tear it off gently using your thumb and first two fingers. You can also purchase medical tools such as scissors and clamps before their birth to help you with the birthing process. Alternatively, you can also call your vet if you’re unsure of how to do this process.

Ensuring a Successful Pregnancy

Below are a few things to consider if you want to ensure that your momma dog has a safe and successful pregnancy. 


Your dog’s belly should be checked for parasites through a stool sample during the pregnancy since internal parasites can spread to unborn puppies inside the womb as well as newborn pups. Never use over-the-counter (OTC) dewormers for pregnant or nursing mothers because these can be dangerous. Instead, talk to your vet about the right medication they can prescribe if they see parasites within the stool sample. 


Ideally, pregnant dogs shouldn’t be given vaccinations, so ensure that your dog is always up to date with her tick, flea, and heartworm shots before she gets pregnant. However, there are a few instances when a female dog needs to be vaccinated since the entire litter of puppies will be born without their own immune system. Instead, they will rely on their mother’s milk production, called colostrum during the first 24 hours of their nursing. 

Having high levels of antibodies to pass on is the best way for mothers to protect their puppies. If she’s not updated on any of the core vaccines, your vet may recommend vaccinating your dog if they see that the benefits outweigh the risks. Speak to your veterinarian during the pre-breeding exam to see its vaccination status.   

How Many Puppies Per Litter?

The litter size will depend on the breed. Typically, large breeds will have large litters; the number of puppies can range from six to eight but may also reach higher numbers. Small dogs, on the other hand, may produce one to five puppies. 

Dogs that give birth to only one to two puppies might not be able to give birth on their own and may need a C-section. Your veterinarian may need to take an X-ray in the last week of the dog pregnancy to count the litter of puppies to be expected. This can clarify how pet parents should prepare for the new additions to their family.  

Postpartum Care

After your dog has delivered all of her babies, it’s time to care for the new members of your family and ensure that your momma dog is also happy and healthy. 

Provide a Safe and Comfortable Space

Your dogs should be kept in a clean and quiet area of your home, where they can rest and grow in peace. Provide them with a heat lamp to help them maintain a normal temperature, especially during cold winter climates.   

Feed Your Dog a High-Calorie Diet  

Even if your dog still has a loss of appetite, be sure to give her small meals with a higher calorie count as long as she’s nursing her little ones. It’s also important to give her access to fresh water and food whenever she needs it. 

Monitor Her Nursing

Because newborn puppies need to nurse every one or two hours, your dog will need to stay with them at all times for the first one to two weeks. If your dog doesn’t seem to be producing milk, or won’t let her puppies nurse, you’ll need to contact your vet since this serves as their puppy food.

Call Your Vet if Your Dog is Sick

At the first sign of illness, be sure to call your vet immediately and quickly let them know that your dog is nursing to get safe medications. This is also necessary if your dog is weak and tired, has redness or swelling in her mammary glands, or stops eating. 

Puppies are a Precious Gift!

Giving birth to puppies is an exciting time for your mother dog, and seeing her nurse them and care for them is a good sign that the babies are happy and healthy. However, there are still a few things to think about, such as whether or not you’ll keep all of the puppies. If you aren’t able to take care of all of them, make sure that they get the best care possible by placing them in foster homes where they will get the love and affection they deserve.