Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets,
and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

Wondering if you have a pregnant dog? Already have one and are worried about
the delivery? Read on to discover the signs of pregnancy in dogs and learn
about the delivery process.

Wondering if you have a pregnant dog? Already have one and are worried about
the delivery? Read on to discover the signs of pregnancy in dogs and learn
about the delivery process.

Gopal Aggarwal, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Creative Commons

Pregnancy in Dogs: Fear and Happiness

The pregnancy of a pet is either met with fear or greeted with yaps of
happiness. Often, it is the former, considering the difficulties that both
pets and pet owners face. The gestation period is trying for human mothers, so
we can imagine how tough it is for our dogs.

What are the common signs of canine pregnancy? How do we help her through this
difficult period and ensure that she remains healthy? How does a baffled owner
handle his/her pet’s post-pregnancy needs?


buzzle, CC-BY via Creative Commons

Early Signs of Canine Pregnancy

Sudden Changes in Appetite

Owners should monitor their pets’ appetites for sudden changes. Dogs, like
humans, may show variation in their appetites. These changes can be erratic,
just as they are for pregnant women. Pet owners may find their dogs eating
less than usual, but the opposite is entirely possible, too.

Bearing these possible changes in mind, owners should watch for shifts in
their dog’s diet and try to accommodate.

Changes in Behavior

If a normally active pet suddenly becomes sluggish, the presence of pups might
be weighing her down. She might also be slow to come when called.

Some animals might suddenly be more affectionate during this time, while
others do the exact opposite and wish to be alone. Watch out for subtle or
extreme changes in behavior.

Changes in the Dog’s Body

Your dog might have enlarged nipples, even in early pregnancy. Dogs that have
given birth before may have drooping nipples.

The Presence of Relaxin

Relaxin is a compound that dogs produce when they are pregnant. If a
veterinary test confirms its presence, be prepared to welcome new fur-kids
into the home.

Signs of Canine Mid-Pregnancy

Increased Appetite

By the fourth week of gestation, your dog will have reached the middle stage
of her pregnancy. During this time, you might notice her eating more to feed
the little ones growing within her. If she is wolfing down her food or begging
for more, it is likely that she is pregnant.

Behavioral Changes

The same changes described earlier might also be applicable during the middle
stages of her pregnancy. If she did not show any behavioral signs in the early
stages, she might start doing so now by either being more affectionate or by
avoiding you.

Physical Changes

By mid-pregnancy, your dog might be growing slightly more padded. Her nipples
will enlarge with milk and may begin to produce a milky discharge from time to

Let a Vet Listen to Her Belly

A vet will be able to derive the status of the puppies’ health by listening to
her belly for their heartbeats. She may also feel them as she presses on the
dog’s belly.

A dog in labor.

A dog in labor.

Gopal Aggarwal, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Creative Commons

Scroll to Continue

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Late Pregnancy Signs

Changes in Size

By this time, your dog will look unmistakably pregnant. She will have an
enlarged belly and find it hard to maneuver. Note that some dogs do not carry
a full littler so their bellies will not be as large.

Changes in the Belly Area

You will begin to feel the puppies moving around in the mother’s womb.

Changes in Behavior

At this stage, your dog will have found a place to nest if you have not
already provided one for her. Notice, too, that she will become agitated just
before birth.

A retriever looking after her pups.

A retriever looking after her pups.

local, CC-BY via Creative Commons

Stages of Canine Birth

Stage 1: Contractions

Like women, canines also experience contraction of the uterus. The
contractions stop when the cervix is open and the puppies are ready to come
through the cervical canal and into this world.

Stage 2: Passing of the Pup

The pups slowly come into the world. You should not be concerned unless it
takes more than four hours, in which case she could have delivery problems
like dystocia, which I shall discuss later.

Stage 3: Passing of the Placenta

Stages two and three alternate with each other because each pup is wrapped in
its own placenta.


Gopal Arggawal, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Creative Commons

Caring for Your Dog Before Pregnancy

Caring for a pregnant female can be overwhelming, especially for an owner who
is encountering canine pregnancy for the first time. There are little things
we can do to ensure that our pets are more comfortable.

Ensure That She Rests

Let your dog rest for as long as she needs to, as carrying a litter of 6
scrambling pups is definitely exhausting.

Feed Her Adequately

During the early stages of pregnancy, feed her a normal diet. Foods high in
digestible protein are essential. Your dog’s weight will begin to increase by
about 15-25%. Good-quality puppy food will help her and her pups during
lactation and during the last few weeks of her pregnancy.

Remember not to give her too much food because overfeeding her will result in
the growth of fat deposits and will not help her or her puppies.

Avoid Contact With Other Dogs

Unfortunately, your dog has to be a little anti-social during this time,
especially with male dogs. Any excitement might trigger disturbances with the

Follow up With Veterinary Appointments

Make sure that you follow up with the vet’s appointments to ensure that your
dog is in good health during gestation.

Make Sure That She Does Not Jump

If your dog is anything like my dog Cloudy, she will be active and will jump
around or onto high places or shelves. For her safety and the safety of her
pups, make sure that she does not do this.

Give Her Clean Water

Give her filtered or boiled water. Do not give her water straight from the tap
as any bacteria that is present can be harmful.

Keep Her Clean

Make sure that you clean and brush her regularly. Clean her teeth and keep her
free of parasites.

Give Her a Place to Birth

She will find her own place if you do not make one, but I suggest you dedicate
a comfortable nook or room in your home for her to give birth. This area
should be safe and inviting.

Post-Pregnancy Dog Care

Heat Source

Create a heat source for the puppies. They must have adequate warmth.

Ingesting Milk

Ensure that the newborns ingest their mother’s milk 12 to 16 hours after
birth. Their mother’s placenta does not contain enough antibodies, so they
have to suckle their mother’s milk to get the required amount.


Nala CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Creative Commons

Common Problems in Canine Pregnancy

Dogs face a myriad of problems during the painful stages of birthing. When we
spot them, we should call for a vet immediately.

1. Dystocia


  • Small cervical size
  • Uterine inertia or the inability of the uterus to contract and push the puppies out.
  • Large puppies
  • Abnormal position of the pups (they should emerge head or rear legs first).
  • Birth defects in puppies that cause certain parts of their bodies to be larger than normal.

Signs of Dystocia

  • The pregnancy has lasted more than 70 days.
  • The dog has been in the first stage of labor for a long time without producing a puppy. (Stage one normally lasts six to twelve hours).

  • Strong contractions have extended for over an hour without a pup born.

  • Prolonged resting phase continues for over 4 hours with more pups to be born.

  • Vaginal discharge is foul.
  • The mother-to-be vomits excessively or is extremely lethargic.


Please consult a veterinarian for proper treatment of your pet.

  • Sedatives may be administered to calm a nervous mother.
  • Medication can be administered to stimulate contractions of the uterus if uterine inertia is suspected as being the cause.
  • After prolonged labor, the mother may have low blood sugar or low blood calcium. In this case, your veterinarian will give calcium and dextrose injections, which can help strengthen uterine contractions.
  • If passage birth is not possible, your veterinarian will deliver the young dogs via cesarean section.


Call your vet if your pet experiences a huge blood flow after whelping.

2. Pup Retention

A female may, because of uterine inertia or related problems, retain pups and
their placenta.


  • Persistent vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness
  • Green vaginal discharge

3. Post-Whelping Problem: Eclampsia (Milk Fever)


  • Low blood calcium (smaller breeds are more at risk).


Eclampsia is a very serious disorder, but fortunately, the signs are fairly
easy to recognize.

  • Nervousness or restlessness.
  • A stiff gait when walking.
  • Fevers (puppies have a body temperature of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Affected mothers often develop muscle tremors.
  • The respiration rate (number of breaths per minute) increases.
  • Seizures or death may occur without treatment.

Seek veterinary attention immediately. A vet can confirm eclampsia with a
blood test.


Appropriate calcium supplementation is necessary to prevent eclampsia. Do seek
a vet’s advice for proper administration.

Why Is It Important to Know How to Help Your Dog Through Its Pregnancy and


Vets May Not Be Accessible

If you live in an area where a veterinarian is not easily accessible, knowing
how to help your pregnant female dog through her less-than-comfortable period
of gestation is imperative. Sometimes you cannot get a vet appointment in
time, so you will need to know what to do in the vet’s absence.

My maternal grandmother once owned a group of Pekingese. She did not
understand much about veterinary care for her pet. When one of her Pekingese
became pregnant, she whelped the puppies with no assistance. Fortunately, the
puppies came into this world very healthy. Other inexperienced owners may not
be so lucky. We adopted one of the pups in the litter, which we named Spook,
and he lived a good many years.

Pregnancy Is Potentially Life-Threatening for Our Dogs

We know that human mothers face risks while giving birth, and the same is true
for our canine fur-kids. In fact, risks and complications are far higher for
mother dogs because they whelp a litter of 6 or so at once. The risk is also
high for young puppies, so we must ensure that they the get proper care.

They Need Our Support

Like humans, female dogs have maternal instincts, and they usually know right
away what they need to do to take care of their puppies. However, new mothers
might need a little guidance, especially with issues like cleanliness and
finding proper breeding spots. Pet owners should help out with such matters.


I strongly advocate sterilizing your pet if you do not intend to breed your
female. If the intention is to breed, ensure that you are ready to keep them
or that homes are available for the puppies before the decision is made.
Spaying/neutering your pet reduces the number of unwanted animals in shelters.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
veterinarian immediately.

© 2013 Michelle Liew


Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on July 12, 2013:

Thanks, Lisa! Glad that everything was ok for you and the cockapoo. Must have
been an interesting group of pups!! Thanks for sharing!!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2013:

Yes, it is sad, and the dog is actually suffering too. Thanks for sharing,

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2013:

Paws up, Linda! Pawlute!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2013:

Thanks, Audrey!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on July 10, 2013:

Paws up for this hub! Very interesting and informative!

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on July 10, 2013:

This is a very interesting article! I used to have a dog (when I was a
teenager) that got pregnant because we didn’t get my brother’s dog fixed right
away, and I enjoyed supporting her through her pregnancy, and seeing her give
birth. It was amazing. But I definitely agree that it’s a good idea to get a
pet fixed if breeding is not a plan, because pets will find a way! Not to
mention it is sad to see a dog needlessly in heat.

Thanks for sharing this informative article with us. I love the dividers!

Have a wonderful day.

~ Kathryn

Liz Rayen from California on July 10, 2013:

Hi Michelle! I really love this hub! My baby girl that I have now has been
“fixed”, however I do remember that several years back, my cockapoo got
pregnant by a much larger dog and the vet warned us that she may have a hard
time delivering. Needless to say, I did follow quite a few things on your list
to help her be more comfortable, and when it came time for delivery, she did
require my assistance. She was fine and had 4 healthy pups. I really enjoyed
reading all the information you have presented. It’s so useful and I will
definitely share this. Well done my friend!—Lisa♥

Audrey Howitt from California on July 09, 2013:

What a great hub Michelle!!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on July 09, 2013:

Just came back to reread and reshare. This is such a great informational

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 22, 2013:

Hiya Carly!! No worries, definitely don’t mind being a doggy midwife if it can
help keep her safe. Thanks so much for sharing!!

Carly Sullens from St. Louis, Missouri on June 21, 2013:

Great explanations. You are like a doggie midwife and should have your own
show on PBS. 🙂

Seriously, I learned so much. Voted up and shared.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 20, 2013:

Thanks, Mary. Love my dogs!

Mary Craig from New York on June 20, 2013:

Michelle, you are a font of knowledge! This is such a comprehensive hub I am
sure it will be very helpful to many.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 19, 2013:

Aw!! It’s lovely to see them being proud mums! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 19, 2013:

Do, Vinaya! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 19, 2013:

Thanks, Bill! Think those laws are very good, we don’t want little fur balls
running around and ending up in shelters!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 19, 2013:

Hi Mary!!I know. It can be heart breaking. Thanks for the share, Mary!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 19, 2013:

It is, especially if one has no choice but to deliver the puppies on one’s own
, Dianna! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 19, 2013:

Thanks, J9!! I guess mammalian pregnancy is pretty similar for most people or
animals who experience it. Thanks for sharing!

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on June 19, 2013:

Great informative hub!..During our stay in the Grenadines some time ago, we
ended up with all the strays from the neighbourhood.

On New Years morning, we found three tiny little puppies in the garden under a
vine, the mum whom we had named Steinway, was as proud as punch as she
followed us back to the house, my husband carrying the pups in a cardboard
box, happy memories. Voting up and sharing.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on June 19, 2013:

We have never raised a female dog because we always thought we cannot provide
her enough care. However, we are thinking to get one this time. Thanks for
sharing your expertise.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 19, 2013:

Great information for a dog owner….we have two females but there is very
little chance of them becoming pregnant….leash laws and fenced in backyards
pretty much rule out that possibility. 🙂

Mary Hyatt from Florida on June 19, 2013:

Good info here, Michelle. My family went through a heart breaking experience
when our Shih Tzu became pregnant ( an accident), had four puppies without any
problem and died 6 days later (I wrote a Hub about that). Your information may
save another dog’s life by stressing the proper care for a pregnant dog.

Voted UP and will share.

Dianna Mendez on June 19, 2013:

This is a wonderful detailed post on helping a dog during pregnancy. It’s of
things to watch for, but so needed.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on June 19, 2013:

Some of this sounds similar to human pregnancy, but so much is truly common
sense, too. And for what isn’t you really covered the gamete. Thank you for
writing this and sharing. I sure this will help many with female dogs who are
pregnant or could become pregnant. Voted and shared, too!!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on June 19, 2013:

On helping a pregnant dog through her gestation period.