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5 Exciting Signs Your Pregnant Dog is Ready to Give Birth

If you’re awaiting the arrival of puppies, there are some key clues to help you know when the time is near.

This post is going to help you watch for those signs so that you know what to expect. Dogs have a way of wanting to hide somewhere private when the time comes.

For the safety of the mom and her puppies, it’s best to have her nearby. That way, if she runs into any problems during delivery, you’ll be able to step in or contact a veterinarian asap.

Do you remember the first time you realized your dog was pregnant? If you didn’t intend to breed your dog, you might have been a little shocked to suddenly discover the telltale signs of pregnancy.

In some cases, dog owners only realize their dog is pregnant when they are almost due! Even without being a dog expert, you can quickly tell when your dog is expecting.

Dog Pregnancy Signs

Dogs attain sexual maturity (puberty) between 7 and 10 months of age. Unlike teenagers, it’s a little more difficult to notice these changes. The problem with that is the fact that they could cause an wanted pregnancy or become pregnant.

Signs of Puberty in Male Dogs

When male dogs reach sexual maturity, you’ll notice him lifting his leg to mark his territory. He may begin mounting other dogs. Unfortunately, the mounting behavior can extend to humans and furniture.

Sometimes male dogs will go through a bit of a personality change during this time. He may seem restless or a little overactive. That just means he’s growing and he needs more exercise.

In addition to the onset of puberty, he may be getting his adult teeth at this point. This is when he needs a good dental-safe chew toy to keep him from chewing things like the furniture.

It’s a little easier to determine sexual maturity in male dogs.

Signs of Puberty in Female Dogs

When your female dog is in “season” or in heat, you may notice a slight change in personality. She may appear down in the dumps or could suddenly become irritated with other dogs.

Females usually have heat cycles twice a year. However, there are some female dogs who only come into heat once per year. You can expect that to take place at around the 6 month mark.

Physical signs that your female dog is in heat include:

  • Her vulva (external genitalia) become swollen
  • She spends considerable time cleaning that area.
  • She will have red discharge from the vulva. This will continue for up to a month. The color and consistency of the discharge will gradually change from bloody red, to water, and then to colorless.
  • Increased urination
  • Excessive coat shedding begins about 4 to 6 weeks before the start of the heat cycle. The amount will depend on the dog breed.

Signs Your Dog is Pregnant

Your female dog can get pregnant when mounted. Although it can occur at any time during the heat cycle, she is most fertile from days 7 to 18.

Signs of pregnancy in dogs can include:

  • morning sickness
  • increased appetite
  • irritability
  • weight gain
  • change in nipple size.

A blood test on the mother dog is the best way to be sure of the pregnancy and how many weeks she is pregnant.

It will also help detect a false pregnancy and monitor any abnormalities.

It is always a good idea to go to the vet periodically for check-ups with or without pregnancy. A doctor’s visit also helps you learn how to care for your bitch and what to expect as the weeks progress.

How Long is a Dog Pregnant For?

The gestation period for a dog is anywhere between 58 and 68 days or approximately 9 weeks. During that time a lot of changes occur.

When you monitor your dog’s heat cycle, it is easy to know when she gets pregnant. It is also not difficult to manage the pregnancy if you take care of the essential things like nutrition, exercise, and cleanliness.

These three factors will keep your dog in good health and lead to healthy puppies.

dog pregnancy facts

Caring for a Pregnant Dog

Once you hit the two-thirds mark of the pregnancy (around 6 weeks), ensure you give your dog healthy food at all times and increase the food quantities gradually.

Since her appetite is also rising, increase the number of times she eats, but do not give a large portion at one sitting.

Regular exercise also helps the mother to be strong enough for delivery. However, do not give vigorous exercise when she is nearing her whelping date.

In addition to good nutrition, you may want to continue her deworming medication. Check with your veterinarian to ensure the oral or topical solution used is safe for pregnant dogs.

Deworming helps prevent roundworms and hookworms which can lead to serious health issues in the mother and her pups.

Signs of Whelping

It’s time!

Whelping is the time of delivery for dogs. The dog gestation period is 62 to 64 days, which is approximately two months.

At times, this short period makes a dog’s pregnancy hard to notice, especially if you don’t spend a lot of time with her. However, the following symptoms will show you that your dog is due.


When the mother dog is pregnant and nearing delivery, she will prepare a place for her puppies to be born.

The habit is a natural psychological action and is compared to a human mother shopping and preparing for her coming baby.

Many dog owners also report that their dogs are more affectionate near their birthing day. Even the toughest of dogs become calmer and less violent at this time.

She will primarily look for somewhere comfortable, soft, and where she deems safe.

Low Energy Levels

Like humans, the closer the dog is to whelp, the more tired she will feel.

You will notice your dog sleeping a lot more than before and not interested in activities. This inactivity may start a few days before she gives birth, and she will mostly sleep in the whelping box.

Monitor the mother making sure she is still active, even for a few minutes. Taking her for a routine walk outside would be a great help. It is also advisable to ensure her sleeping place is warm and comfy since she will spend most of the day there.

Loss of Appetite

Many dogs may stop or reduce eating a few days or hours to the day they give birth. It is, however, essential to ensure they always have food nearby so that they can take a bite whenever they want.

Get your dog some nutritious food to keep her and her puppies healthy and robust.

Once the uterine contractions start, your dog will not need food, but keeping her water bowl nearby is vital as she will get thirsty.

Decreased Rectal Temperature

Once you mark your dog’s approximated due date, checking her rectal temperature is an excellent way to confirm if she is about to start birthing.

Research shows that the average temperatures should be approximately 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit and may drop to 99 degrees or below.

This change happens between eight to twenty-four hours before delivery which may be approximately about when the first contractions of some dogs occur, and therefore the dog owner should be on standby.

Belly Movement

You can see and feel the puppies’ movement inside the mother’s belly at the very end of a dog’s pregnancies.

Like the kicking of a human fetus, the puppies inside move around, and you can notice the motion.

The movement is a good sign of healthy puppies, and one should be concerned if there is no fetal movement.

Once you can see or feel the puppies moving around in their mother’s tummy, you know that the weeks of pregnancy are almost over. Heavy panting by the bitch is expectable, especially a few hours to whelping.

How Do You Prepare And Participate In The Birth Process?

Prepare the Location

Get a whelping box when the pregnancy is still in its early stages. This will ensure your dog gets used to it and will make it her nesting place. Failure to do so may cause the dog to give birth in some of the most unexpected places, like closets or outside.

The box should be low enough for the mother to get in and out comfortably but high enough to keep the puppies inside.

The container should provide enough space for the mother and her puppies since you never know how big the litter will be. It also keeps the wind away from the newborns ensuring they do not get chilled.

An added heat lamp placed high above the dog corner would be a great help in keeping the newborn puppies warm.

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Buy a Good Whelping Box & Supplies

The whelping box below is made for professional breeders, but can be used by anyone.

Sizes: S, M, L, and XL

Price based on size

The MagnaBox Professional Whelping Box is simple to clean and keep clean.  FDA approved, HDPE plastic (a common material for kitchen cutting boards) is UV resistant and will not rust, stain, or discolor.

Unlike wood and other plastic whelping boxes, the MagnaBox whelping box has no cracks, crevices, porous or painted surfaces to retain contamination. 

whelping box

Shirley K’s Whelping Dog Box

This whelping box is more affordable for the average dog owner. The box requires no assembly due to its one-piece, molded plastic construction. The material is very easy to clean and sanitize.

You’ll need to buy or provide a good quality dog liner for the whelping process.

Shirley K's Whelping Box for Dogs

Comfort and Presence

Every dog desires to have someone close by to pat them, talk to them and show them support.

Once the contractions start, be close by and keep encouraging your dog. Dogs give birth to a litter, so be ready to stay by her side for some hours, depending on how many newborn puppies you will get.

During the first stage of labor, your dog may experience the most pain and discomfort, and therefore, having you there helps calm them down.

Clean Towels

Always have a clean towel with you to help clean and rub the puppies and also keep them warm. If the mother does not clean the puppies, you should pick each as they come and rub them with the clean towel until they produce a sound.

Dental Floss

When whelping is over, you may need dental floss and a sterile pair of scissors to cut the umbilical cord. In most cases, the mother will do this herself naturally.

If you think there’s any chance you could find yourself in this position, get medical advise long before the mother gives birth so that you’re prepared

Lining for the Birthing Time

Line the box with newspapers for easy cleaning and have paper towels in place. A lot of fluids get spilled during birth, and therefore it is good to use what is easily disposable.

Once the water sac comes out, you will know that the first puppy is in the birth canal, and they should come out within an hour. Have enough newspapers, since what you start with may need changing when they get soaked.

Avoid having the puppies lie on a cold or wet surface at all costs.

Emergency Vet Number

Dog pregnancies are mostly not complicated, but it is a good idea to have your vet’s phone number for any eventualities. Below are some of the reasons to call your vet:

  • Extreme pain and discomfort for the dog. The moaning and behavior of the dog will distinctively show.
  • Shivering or collapsing of the mother. This occurrence is a sign of a complication, and the bitch should get immediate medical help.
  • If your dog gets tired and takes more than two hours before the first puppy comes out since the contractions started. The dog might be exhausted thus has no energy to push out the puppies. This case is typical with older dogs, especially if they are giving birth to a large litter.
  • In case she produces dark green vaginal discharge before delivering the puppy.
  • If the newborns are not nursing.
  • Breech presentation. In this occurrence, the tail and hind legs appear first instead of the head. Here it would be best if you had a vet’s assistance to do delivery to avoid suffocating the newborn.
  • The body temperature drops, and there are no signs of contractions for more than 24 hours
  • If there are no signs of whelping after the 64-day mark.

It’s a good to seek the advice of an expert such as a whelping assistant.

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Puppy Food

Owners of pregnant dogs should ensure they buy puppy food as early as possible. Quality food increases milk production after birth. Preparing in advance also calls for you to buy the food in bulk since you do not know the number of puppies you will get.

whelping dogs


Birthing should not be a complicated process at all, as long as your dog is healthy.

When you see the signs of approaching the end of the pregnancy term, prepare the place and yourself. It’s a good idea to notify your veterinarian that the mother is due in case you have to call for emergency assistance.

Getting enough rest before your dog starts delivery is crucial because the process takes time. If there are six puppies, it will take a minimum of six hours since each young one comes at their own time. Therefore, prior resting and having watch shifts are important things to help you be there for your dog.

Always be ready with a towel to clean up the babies if the mother does not lick the fluid herself. Usually, the mother licks each puppy when it comes out to remove the sac and allow breathing.

Your work will be to ensure they are breathing correctly. When the time to suckle comes, ensure all puppies are breastfeeding properly.

Line them across the mother’s belly, each of them at their nipple. Finally, when all the work ends, ensure the mother gets enough rest and feed her nutritious meals to regain her strength.

American Kennel Club

Guide Dog Foundation – Sexual Maturity

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