Canine gestation is just the scientific term for dog pregnancy. The gestation period begins from around the day or mating and lasts until the puppies are delivered or “whelped”.
Gestation lasts from 58 to 67 days on average, or about nine weeks, depending on the dog’s size (smaller dogs typically have a little shorter pregnancy), the size of the litter and how soon fertilization occurred after the breeding took place.
Females will usually come into heat (or season) every 6 months. Regardless of what age a female is bred they can only be bred when they are in “heat”. Heat is when a female is bleeding and soon to be receptive to a male’s attentions. Standing Heat is when bleeding stops and a female will flag and will let a male mount her. Flagging is when the female will lift her rear and put her tail to the side if you touch her rear or if a male sniffs her. Standing heat usually occurs 10 days after you see initial bleeding and will last up to 16 days after initial bleeding is seen.
When a Breeding takes place, you will generally know the male has made entry, when he is breeding and lifts his rear leg. The Male remains joined inside female, as his bulbous glandis swells inside the female, locking them together for a few seconds to hours. The male will try to lift his back leg over the female so he is more comfortable, rear to rear. After they separate, they can tie again right after or several times a day. However, sperm quality will be less the more time he breeds within a few hours. Most breeders will separate them for 24 – 48 hours to let sperm build up and male to rest.
Within a few days of the mating, the sperm reaches the eggs and fertilization occurs. Breeder’s know she will give birth around 60-65 days after initial breeding
The fertilized eggs make their way to the uterus for implantation.You may notice behavioural changes in your dog. She may become moody or more affectionate.
Some females will get morning sickness and may have some discharge, which is all normal.
Implantation has taken place and the embryos begin to develop.
Your dog may begin to display mood swings, appetite changes and breast tissue development.
Week 4Foetuses can be felt (Palpation) by a Vet in the uterine horns around day 28, and can also be seen by ultrasound.
The spinal cords are developing, and the foetuses are beginning to grow facial features.
The bitch’s uterus will shortly fill with fluids to protect the foetuses. After this, it will be weeks until the puppies can be felt again.
After day 30 in the foetus, unborn pups eyes begin to form.
Your dog’s appetite will likely increase, so offer her slightly more of her food.
The foetuses develop their sex organs and begin to look like actual puppies. The leg buds lengthen and develop toes.
The dam’s belly will begin to look noticeably swollen as the pups take up more space.
With less room for full meals, it’s time to begin serving smaller meals more frequently.
Pups continue to grow and pigmentation develops. The eyes now have lids and remain sealed until approximately ten days after birth.
The bitch is noticeably more uncomfortable at this point. She may vomit occasionally due to the extra pressure against her stomach.
There may be clear fluid discharge from her vulva. This is normal.
Puppies are well-developed, and now begin attaining size in preparation for birth.
You may be able to see/feel the puppies’ movements in your bitch’s abdomen.
Her mammary glands are well developed and probably contain a bit of colostrum or “first milk”.
Your dog is noticeably tired and may begin search for a place to whelp. Time to set up a whelping box.
Week 8The pups have fur and are now crowded in the uterus.
You may notice a lot of activity as they get into position for the coming birth.
Your bitch may begin digging the bedding in the whelping box. This is natural nesting behaviour.
Begin taking twice daily temperature readings. (the temperature drops as whelping begins).
Labour begins. Dam’s usually start shivering, panting and looking for a place to whelp around 12 hours prior to puppy being bornIt is important during this time that you redirect her to her whelping box and not in your bed. ALWAYS toilet her on a lead outside and bring a flashlight and towel.
Allow your bitch to feed freely as she is able.
The pups are ready for birth, and may be quite still as they rest in preparation for the marathon to come.
Your dog may appear uncomfortable and restless or anxious.
You should remain with the bitch during her labour and deliveries, and ensure pups are all cleaned up, warm and ready to nurse (whelping can take up to 24 hours & is usually always during the night! A puppy must be warm BEFORE allowed to nurse otherwise the organs will shut down and puppy will not live.Finally the pups are clean, dry, warm and enjoying their first taste of mother’s milk.
Puppies will be nursing for the next 3-4 weeks.