Canine gestation is of 9 weeks or 63 days on average from the day of ovulation. Errors are often made when it comes to predicting the exact date of ovulation. Indeed, a male’s sperm is able to live for 10 days in the female’s uterine tubes and fertilize the eggs at any time during their lifespan. A pregnancy has three stages of development before the dog gets into active labor:
- Initial Gestation – embryos make it through the uterine horns
- Visible Growth – growth in the developing fetus
- Fetal Development – fetal development should be complete by around day 58
Puppies born before the 58th day of pregnancy are considered premature. A premature puppy is a puppy delivered preterm before he or she could complete their development. Many premature pups go on to live very normal happy lives while some do struggle with some occasional health problems.
Just a side note to remind you that you will not be able to confirm your female dog’s pregnancy using a human pregnancy test. Human tests only work thanks to a hormonal pregnancy marker only found in humans, not in dogs. There are pregnancy tests available for dogs but they are not as convenient and generally require a veterinarian.
Unsuccessful matings between two dogs happen just like they do in humans. Not every mating will result in a pregnancy but if you get the timing right, the female is generally going to be confirmed pregnant. Failed matings may happen here and there; it should not worry you at first. These unsuccessful breedings especially occur at the beginning of a dog’s life: during the first few heats of the female, or during the teenage years of a stud. With more time, maturity starts to make both dogs a lot more fertile and ready for parenthood. There are plenty of tips to follow and implement to increase the fertility of the stud and the female.
Signs of labor can vary from bitch to bitch but she will usually be restless, isolated and get off her food the last hours. The drop in her rectal temperature will confirm that the labor is on its way.
Normal labor and delivery in dogs have three stages:
- The Bitch’s Body Prepares For Delivery
- The Delivery Of The Puppies
- The Passage Of The Placenta
In some rare cases, it is highly recommended to call your vet to seek real medical advice if you witness alerting signs. We’re detailing them all in our bestseller, The Dog Breeder’s Handbook. On top of these possible emergencies, you need to remain attentive and look out for some symptoms of sickness a few hours or days after the delivery.
Canine dystocia, which is a general term used to describe birthing difficulties in dogs and miscarriages, may happen for the entire litter, or just for one or several puppies within a given litter. There are many types of canine dystocias in dogs and the most common are the following:
- uterine insufficiency (or inertia)
- gestational diabetes
- uterine infection
- birth canal and reproductive tract issues
- malpresentation of a puppy
- defects in fetus or puppy
- dead fetus
Most pregnancy difficulties in dogs are invisible to us humans: they happen and we do not even notice them. Female dogs are exceptionally resilient beings when it comes to going through their term! However, during the last weeks and days of a canine pregnancy, puppies are larger and made of harder tissues and bones so any complication will be difficult to hide and ignore. Emergency cesarean sections may be required and you must be able to prepare your dog and yourself for it.
Some female dogs correctly mated and even show clear signs of pregnancy while in fact, she is not pregnant at all. This is called a pseudopregnancy, false pregnancy or phantom pregnancy. It is emotionally hard on the entire family as everything seems to fall in place only to later discover there was no pregnancy in the first place. In some other situations, the problem could be fetal resorption in which the female dog absorbs one or many of her own puppies.
Common causes of dystocia in dogs are an inappropriate breeding age (too senior, too young), obesity, brachycephalic and toy breeds, environmental stress, and breeds with known birthing difficulties like English Bulldogs, Frenchies or Boston Terriers.