Dog Breeding Gestation and
the Dog Breeding Process

Guide to dog breeding gestation, pregnancy diagnosis and care of the breeding female dog all the way up to canine whelping time.

Proper pregnancy care is an important component of the dog breeding process, so we’ll cover this crucial topic as well!

Calculating When She is Due to Whelp

In dog breeding gestation (pregnancy) lasts approximately 63 days from the date of ovulation.

Only in very rare cases does the duration of pregnancy stray more than one or two days either side of this norm.

However, unless you have used blood progesterone assays to pinpoint the exact timing of ovulation, you will only have a general idea of when whelping time is due.

If you have a good idea of when your bitch first successfully mated, you can use a whelping calculator to work out your due date – your head!

Just count exactly 9 weeks (i.e. the 63 days of dog breeding gestation) from the date she first mated and viola! you will arrive at your expected whelping date. Also mark the 5 days before this due date as a period to watch her very closely.

You can learn how to pinpoint the exact day she’ll whelp by reading my “Success Secrets of Dog Breeding Professionals” eBook.

Signs of dog breeding gestation

A pregnant bitch will show an increased appetite, and her weight and nipple size will both increase. She may also become more cuddly and sooky!

However, these signs will also be apparent in a bitch undergoing false pregnancy – which is quite common in the breeding female dog.

In the pregnant dog:

Week 4 – Her breasts begin to fill out and she may have a clear vaginal discharge.

Week 5 – Her tummy starts to swell noticeably and she starts to gain weight.

Week 6 – Nipples thicken and darken, tummy gets bigger.

Dog breeding gestation - 6 weeks pregnant


This bitch is about 6 weeks pregnant –
note thickened and darkened nipples.
Click on image to view original Flickr source.
Week 7 – Now very obviously pregnant. Tummy hair may start to fall out.

Week 8 – Milk can be squeezed from the nipples.

Week 9 – Nesting behavior evident.

There are several techniques available for diagnosing pregnancy in the bitch, of varying accuracy. Each are specific to a particular stage of her pregnancy, but none can accurately detect any but the most advanced pregnancies.

For this reason, I shy away from worrying about pregnancy diagnosis at all. She is either pregnant or she isn’t! If she is… she’ll have pups, if she isn’t… then she won’t. There is little to gain in the dog breeding process by knowing beforehand!

However, if you really want to know, here’s what’s available…

Veterinary tests for dog breeding gestation

Unlike the situation in humans, pregnancy in the bitch is not signified by the presence of a specific hormone. So a simple blood or urine test to confirm a viable pregnancy is not available.

Further, it is not uncommon up to day 38 of pregnancy for a bitch to reabsorb one or more (even all) pups in the litter (due to placental insufficiency, fetal genetic disorders, or fetal damage from toxins or infectious agents).

As such, the number of pups detected by any methods used before then may exceed the actual number of live pups born

Day 26 to 35

A veterinarian can usually confirm a pregnancy through abdominal palpation (by feeling through the abdominal walls) at 28 days. But in an overweight or tense bitch this can be difficult. And feces in the intestine can feel a lot like pups in the uterus, so this method is not particularly accurate.

After 28 days a blood assay of the hormone Relaxin can be used to confirm pregnancy but will not tell you how many pups there are or whether they are alive or not.

Day 26 – 63

Ultrasound can confirm the presence of living puppies, but is not very accurate for telling how many there are.

Day 45 plus

X-rays (radiography) can confirm both pregnancy and the number of puppies present. However, with less than 3 weeks to go till she whelps, what’s the point?

Once pregnancy is confirmed, you should talk to your vet about special feeding requirements and about what to expect during pregnancy, labor, and after birth.

You should also be briefed on how to recognize and respond to an emergency.

(All this, including how to trouble-shoot dog breeding problems causing failure to get pregnant, is covered in detail in my Successful Dog Breeding Guide eBook.)

Caring for the Pregnant Breeding Female Dog to Whelping Time

In the first 3 weeks

The first trimester of dog breeding gestation is, as in humans, a period of high vulnerability for the fetuses to damage from a range of possible insults.

Avoid giving your bitch any medications or exposing her to chemicals of any kind during the first 3 weeks of pregnancy.

Infectious agents can pose a similar threat so avoid contact between your bitch and other dogs or possible sources of infection during this critical first trimester.

Maintain moderate exercise and a normal feeding regime

From 3 to 6 weeks

From about week 4 or 5, start providing a small extra high protein meal to her each day (I favor a hard boiled egg or cottage cheese).

At week 5 treat her with a good all-wormer to protect her puppies from intestinal parasites.

Maintain moderate exercise (nothing strenuous though!).

From 7 to 9 weeks

Build up to double the extra protein ration (e.g. from one egg a day to two in a Miniature Schnauzer sized dog).

And by the time she whelps her daily normal food ration should be 35% to 50% more than usual. Divide it into more frequent (but smaller) meals to avoid the discomfort of pressure in the abdomen.

As whelping time is approaching, you should introduce her to the whelping box.

Exercise should be maintained but become more gentle as whelping time approaches.



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