A lot of dog owners wonder how long does a dog’s gestation last and when is considered a premature puppy. Also, breeders never really know if they can help induce a female dog’s labor.
This article succinctly addresses these concerns and questions a lot of our audience has. We have more in-depth articles on canine pregnancies, labor, and how to know if a female dog is pregnant. Yet, we realized that we needed a shorter and more to-the-point article to soothe your worries and answer your interrogations.
How long is the duration of dog pregnancy?
The duration of dog pregnancy is 58 to 68 days. On average, dogs are pregnant for 63 days which is equivalent to 9 weeks. The length of dog gestation actually depends on several factors that will affect its exact timing of delivery.
Understanding the duration requires an understanding of how female dog heat cycles work. A female dog has four stages, the proestrus, the estrus, the diestrus, and the anestrus cycle. The dog gestation period is divided into three trimesters. Each of these sections last about 21 days. Generally, breeders can calculate the duration of dog gestation by keeping track of these cycles as well as the breeding period. Do not use the date of the confirmation of the pregnancy by the vet as the starting date!
During the first month a dog pregnancy, around the 7th day, the embryos are sent to the uterine horns and this is when the embryos are embedded in the uterine lining around the 16th day. By the 22nd day, the fetus will begin to take its shape and a few days later a heartbeat can be detected. In the second month, the fetus begins to grow quickly and is the time where vets can begin to see the eyelids, toes, and claws. By day 50, X-rays will be able to determine how many puppies are present in the litter. By the beginning of the 3rd month, the dam is ready to whelp and by day 58, there will be a considerable amount of movement in her belly.
When is a puppy considered premature?
A puppy is considered premature when it is born before 58 days, although there are cases in which puppies were born within a couple of days prior to this number with no harm.
Generally, it is the premature contractions that cause a litter to become premature. This will inevitably cause the dam to go into an unexpected early delivery. Preemies are defined as a puppy that has been delivered sooner than the expected date, which is around day 63 of her pregnancy. Remember that there are many other birthing problems that may occur and you must prepare for these. Read our article on dystocia and birthing problems in dogs.
Can I induce labor in a female dog?
Yes, dog breeders and owners can induce labor in a female dog to initiate the beginning stages of whelping and to decrease discomfort in the dam. This can be done in a number of ways.
First, dog breeders can help hasten the time by stimulating the nipples of the pregnant dam which will stimulate the hormonal system. Once this hormonal system is provoked, her hormones will go into action and begin the development of the first stage of labor. You can also administer oxytocin to the dog, however, the nipple stimulation also acts in generating the oxytocin naturally in her body. Ultimately, oxytocin induces contractions in a dog.
There are other things you can do to help speed up the process. The first thing you should do is set up a comfortable space in the home where you plan for her to whelp. You can start by gently massaging her tummy area but not too hard. Encourage the dam to exercise by walking around as this will stimulate the body to release. Additionally, herbal remedies such as raspberry leaves tend to work great in these situations. You can also provide more calcium as this provides aid in creating stronger contractions.
What are the first signs of a dog going into labor?
The most common signs that appear first when a dog is going into labor are panting, restlessness, loss of appetite, and a sudden drop in body temperature.
In general, dogs do not go straight into labor without exhibiting some of these common signs first. Thankfully, these symptoms may greatly prolong the situation long enough to give a breeder time to attain help or bring the dog to the clinic. Make sure you know what symptoms to pay attention to. If your dog seems to be struggling, you may need to call your vet for an emergency cesarean section.
Drop in body temperature
A whelping dog’s temperature will normally drop between 101 degrees Fahrenheit and 102.5 degrees. This is a sign that tells you she is in the beginning phase of her labor. A temperature that reaches below 100 degrees Fahrenheit means she is due to give birth at any time within 24 hours.
The temperature in a bitches body is a major factor to consider when to determine the duration of dog pregnancy. Obviously, this is something that dog owners need to monitor on a regular basis as she may not show strong signs of low temperature. About two weeks prior to her due date, begin checking her temperature regularly about once a day and try to do it at the same time each day.
Loss of appetite
This sign may be easier to spot. Most dog owners know their dogs pretty well to tell when there is a change of appetite. You already know her eating schedule and you already have a good idea of how much she eats and can eat in a given setting.
Female dogs are intuitive and aware of their bodies. When they sense they will go into labor soon, they will not feel hungry and know that having a full belly before delivery is not conducive to her healthy state. Watch out for signs of eating much less or not eating at all. Also, some dogs experience vomiting and this may be another cause of a loss in appetite.
The length of dog gestation may sometimes be determined by watching out for signs in the dam’s behavior. If your dog is normally a chill, laid back type of dog, you will easily spot out a change in this when she becomes more restless than usual.
These are known as physical signs to watch out for that dog is going into labor soon. These symptoms may include pacing around from one end of the room to another. She may look confused, yet cannot sit still. Restlessness is quite normal before giving birth, so make sure you watch for this.
Another common physical sign is panting. Very similar to the other symptoms of extreme restlessness and pacing back and forth, notice how she reacts when she is walking around. A dog who is about to go into labor will begin to pant heavily. This proves to the dog owner that her body is working overtime as it is being prepared to give birth. Dogs certainly will feel drained and tired much more easily.