Canine Pregnancy Calendar
There’s nothing quite as exciting as expecting a newborn, except maybe expecting numerous newborn…puppies! There are many things to prepare for a dog who is expecting. The gestation period is considered to be from the time that the dog mates until the time the puppies are born. Typically this is 58 to 67 days, though size does factor into it, and smaller dogs tend to have a shorter gestation period. The following is a guide, by week, to the changes going inside the mother as she prepares for birth:
Mating to one week: Breeding takes place and the sperm fertilizes the egg
Two weeks: The egg reaches the uterus for implantation. Slight behavior changes may be noted in the dog.
Three weeks: The embryos have implanted in the uterus, and they begin development. The mother dog may, at this time, have some breast tissue development, one of the first physical signs of pregnancy.
Four weeks: Spinal cords begin to develop in the fetuses, and the puppies begin to have facial features. Puppies at this stage can be seen on ultrasound. The mother dog’s appetite will increase, and her diet should be change accordingly.
Five weeks: The puppies develop their sex organs, and their legs lengthen. The mother dog may be uncomfortable and may even vomit due to the increased pressure in her abdomen.
Six weeks: Pigmentation develops in the puppies, and their eyelids form and seal until approximately ten days after birth.
Seven weeks: Puppies become approximately the size they will be when born. The mother’s breast tissue should become more fully developed, and she will begin to make colostrums, or breast milk. She will be noticeably tired.
Eight weeks: The pups become crowded, and one can feel and see the movement of the puppies. The mother will start digging in her whelping box in preparation for the birth.
Eight to nine weeks: The puppies could become still before the birth. The mother, however, will become more restless until the birth. One can take a rectal temperature of the mother. When her temperature drops to 97º F the birth should occur within 24 hours.
There are things that can be done to be sure that the mother and puppies are cared for before this momentous event. Naturally, the mother’s food will need to be increased, and the food content should be checked to be sure that she is getting the proper vitamins. Two of the vitamins her food should contain are calcium and zinc. A dog should continue with her regular exercise throughout pregnancy unless the heat is excessive. She should not over-do it. Normally it is best to isolate the mother from other animals during the last three weeks of pregnancy. This will keep her healthy and prevent her from catching any canine viruses from other dogs. It will also help to maintain the safety of the puppies should they be born without supervision. It is not necessary for someone to be around during the birth of the puppies, as most mothers know to break open the birth sac and clean the puppies. However, sometimes it may be necessary to intervene and assist the mother if she appears to be struggling. The umbilical cords will need to be cut. It may be helpful to call the vet if the labor and birth takes place during office hours.
Watching the growing pregnancy and subsequent birth can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. Though animals do, in fact, go through this process completely on their own in the wild, our domesticated animals may need us to keep them comfortable and safe. No need to stress too much, though, as mothers know always exactly what they’re doing! Just enjoy the beauty and wonder of birth. Following are some sites worth checking out dealing with pregnancy and birth in domesticated dogs.