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When Can You Feel Puppies Move In a Pregnant Dog

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Puppies can be felt moving in a pregnant dog's womb using palpation at around six or seven weeks along in the pregnancy.
  • By six weeks, the puppies are 45mm or larger and have sex organs.
  • Palpation should be done gently by placing the flat of the palm against the bitch's belly and waiting for the pups to change position.
  • It is important not to poke or prod the mother's belly with fingers as it can be harmful to the pups.
  • Most owners feel the puppies moving from six weeks onwards, and by seven weeks, it might even be visible under the skin.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Practicing small pets and equine veterinarian and junior teaching assistant in Veterinary Medicine.
Published on
Saturday 24 October 2020
Last updated on
Monday 6 November 2023
when can you feel puppies move in a pregnant dog
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When researching the puppies’ growth, you’ll probably find yourself wondering the answer to this exciting question: when can you feel puppies move in a pregnant dog?

Your dog is expecting, and naturally, you have a lot of questions and are excited about the process. Understanding how the puppies develop in the womb, and how puppies move in the womb, is important not only for your dog’s health but also for your peace of mind as well.

When Can You Feel Puppies Move in the Womb?

Using palpation, we can feel puppies move at six or seven weeks along in the pregnancy. At six weeks, the developing puppies are 45mm or larger and have sex organs. By seven weeks, the pups are even larger and their bones are almost completely ossified. This doesn’t mean that the puppies are strong enough to withstand frequent palpation, however.

If you feel for the puppies, place the flat of your palm gently against the bitch’s belly and wait patiently for the pups to change position. Don’t be tempted to poke or prod the mother’s belly with your fingertips as this can be harmful to the pups. You must also be careful to not stress the mother too much by feeling her belly. If she refuses to let you touch, don’t force her to comply.

Canine Gestation Week-by-Week

Your dog’s pregnancy is an exciting but nerve-wracking thing to experience. In order to be fully prepared for the arrival of the pups, it’s helpful to be aware of what normal puppy development entails, and gives you peace of mind knowing what changes are coming week by week. But when can you feel puppies move in a pregnant dog? Read on to find out!

Week 1

The first week of development begins when a sperm cell penetrates an egg cell. Once a sperm cell successfully penetrates the egg’s outer surface, chemical changes occur in the egg’s surface to prevent other sperm cells from entering. The resulting cell is known as a zygote. Soon, the zygote divides through a process called mitosis. Through mitosis, each cell doubles by dividing into two cells. Each daughter cell of this process is called a blastomere, and division occurs about once every twelve hours. The process is known as the germinal period.

Week 2

By the second week a blastocyst forms. The blastocyst consists of blastomeres arranged to form a fluid-filled, spherical structure. It contains an inner cell mass known as the embryoblast, surface cells called trophoblasts, and a cavity known as a blastocoele. The blastocyst is carried by cilia in the fallopian tubes towards the uterus, where it implants itself into the uterine lining. This marks the end of the germinal period.

Week 3

week three dog pregnancy
The blastocyst undergoes gastrulation during week three.

In the third week, the implanted blastocyst undergoes gastrulation, the reorganization of the embryo. Gastrulation gives rise to an embryonic disc and forms three germ layers: the ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm.

From here, the notochord forms. A notochord is a flexible rod made up of cartilage-like material. The notochord is important because it marks here the vertebral column will form. A process called neurulation begins here. This begins in the region of the future brain and progresses towards the spinal cord. Somitogenesis also occurs in the third week. Somites give rise to muscle, tendons, cartilage, and dermis later on.


Week 4

At four weeks, the fetus is most vulnerable to damage and defects as it undergoes organogenesis. Organogenesis is the process wherein the ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm develop to create the internal organs of the puppy. As well as this, the fetus develops a head, eyes, and its first vertebrae as well as its ribs. As a bonus, the developing fetus triples in size. It can also now be seen in ultrasound at the veterinary surgery!

Week 5

During the fifth week, the fetus looks a lot more like a real puppy. This is because organogenesis ends at five weeks, leaving the fetus fairly resistant to any interference with development. The fetus grows from 18mm to 30mm. It develops distinct toes, nails, and whiskers. This is an exciting age for your puppies as a vet can palpate your dog’s abdomen to feel for the litter!

Week 6

At six weeks, the fetus has sex organs and develops into a male or female. The puppies also develop obvious markings and skin pigmentation. As well as this, it should grow to be 45mm or more. This is an exciting age for your pups as you may be able to feel them moving at home. However, don’t be alarmed if you can’t feel them yet! Most owners find that they can feel the pups moving starting from week seven.

Week 7

At seven weeks, you might be able to see the puppies moving. They should also be felt moving in your dog’s womb too. However, the pups aren’t quite ready to be born yet. Although they are nearly fully developed, seven week old pups in the womb will continue to grow and their skeleton continues to harden. Most vets recommend X-raying for puppies starting from week seven. However, because the skeletons are not completely mineralized yet, an X-ray is not always 100 percent accurate.

Week 8

By eight weeks, the puppies can be born at any time from now onwards! It is also at this point that the bitch begins lactating. Lactation should begin about a week in advance of the birth, so be sure that you are well prepared for the big day. The puppies continue to grow at this stage, but their skeleton and organs should be fully developed and ready to function as a newborn puppy. Because the skeleton is fully ossified, a vet can conduct an X-ray to tell you exactly how many pups your bitch is carrying.

week eight dog pregnancy
Puppies can be born anytime during the eighth week.

Week 9

The wait is finally over. At nine weeks, your puppies will be on their way, fully developed, and ready to come into the world! In preparation for the birth, the bitch undergoes several hormonal changes. These include an increase of cortisol, growth hormone, and oxytocin.

The increase of oxytocin stimulates Prostaglandin F2α (PGF) production which induces labor. When labor begins, the puppies undergo some changes too. Fluid in the lungs dries up so that they can expand and fill with air. After this, the pressure in the lungs drops, and blood can flow through them normally. The pups will be born covered in membranes that need to be cleaned away to prevent suffocation.

Common Questions

Still wondering when can you feel puppies move in a pregnant dog? Our Frequently Asked Questions should address your questions and concerns. If in doubt, always ask your vet for advice.

At what stage can you feel puppies move?

At five weeks, vets can palpate your bitch’s abdomen to feel for moving puppies. To do this, a vet will gently press on the surface of the abdomen to detect swellings in the uterus. While palpation can help to confirm a pregnancy, it cannot confirm the viability of the puppies, how many there are, or any other information about them. It can also be difficult to palpate for pups in a large dog, in dogs with just a few pups, and in nervous dogs. In nervous dogs, the uterus may not be accurately felt due to a tense abdomen. Abdominal palpation should be done by a vet as an inexperienced owner can hurt the puppies when feeling for them.

For owners, it’s usually from six weeks onwards that you can feel the puppies. You might feel the pups if you rest your hand on your dog’s belly. Don’t be alarmed if you can’t feel them yet – some owners find that they don’t feel any pups until the next week. By seven weeks, you might even see them move under the skin as well as being able to feel them.

Can you feel puppies at 3 weeks?

It’s unlikely that you will feel puppies at three weeks. At three weeks, the embryo has only just implanted itself in the uterine lining and just starting to develop its notochord. However, don’t be too disheartened – an ultrasound can be done as early as three weeks!

Using ultrasound equipment, uterine vesicles as small as 1 to 2mm can be visible from days 18 to 20. The fetus’s beating heart can be seen flickering by days 23 to 24 but may not be detectable until day 25. The earliest reliable pregnancy diagnosis comes on day 25 due to the clearer view of the heart. So, while you can’t feel the pups just yet, you can still get a glimpse into their development.

How do you know if there are still puppies inside?

In many cases, there are no obvious signs of miscarriage. Typically the only way to be sure that your dog is still carrying is to get an ultrasound, X-ray, or palpation by your vet. If a miscarriage is suspected, your vet might try progesterone level monitoring as abnormal progesterone can indicate a failing pregnancy.

Later-term miscarriages are more likely to come with clinical signs. Abnormal vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, and fever are signs of a miscarriage or dangerous infection. In addition, some dogs going through a miscarriage might still deliver stillborn puppies. If you suspect that your dog has lost her puppies, contact your vet right away. Your bitch may need help delivering the puppies as well as treatment for any infections that arise.

Can you hear puppies in the womb?

The puppies’ heartbeats can be heard using a stethoscope starting from week seven or eight. A stethoscope is a widely available and inexpensive option for listening to the puppies’ heartbeats. For the best experience, use the stethoscope in a quiet room when your bitch is still. If she has eaten anything recently you will pick up digestive noises, making it more difficult to pick out the sound of the puppies. If your bitch has long hair you may pick up the sound of fur rubbing against the stethoscope as well. It can take a lot of practice and patience to use a stethoscope, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear those tiny heartbeats right away.

Your stethoscope, when used correctly, should pick up small ticking sounds. These are what your puppy’s heartbeat sounds like when in the womb. In puppies, the fetal heart rate should be greater than 220 beats per minute. Fetal heart rates between 180 and 220 beats per minute may suggest moderate fetal distress. This makes any heart rate under 180 beats per minute an indicator of severe fetal distress. If you suspect that something is awry with the litter or your bitch, always contact your vet for advice as soon as possible.

signs of miscarriages in dogs
More often than not miscarriages have no obvious signs.

When can you feel puppies move in a pregnant dog? Breeders should feel the puppies move starting from week six or seven. Any palpation before this time should be done by a vet to prevent injury to the fragile puppies.

One comment on “When Can You Feel Puppies Move In a Pregnant Dog”

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