Posted on 18 Mar 2020 in Puppies, Darwin, Dogs

Pregnancy and Whelping in Dogs

Whether planned or unplanned, there are a few things to consider if you are thinking about breeding your dog.

Before any responsible breeding, it's important to consider the following:

  • Complications with pregnancy and breeding can be costly. Emergency caesarean sections and complications with mother or puppies can add up to many thousands of dollars.
  • Is you dog suitable for breeding? It's important to ensure that she is in full health and both the father and mother have no known genetic disorders that could be passed down to their offspring.
  • Have all breed-specific health clearances performed - check with your veterinarian and national breed club.
  • Have you considered that spaying and neutering will prevent some health problems that you risk by keeping your dog intact?
  • Have you carefully selected responsible buyers for your puppies?
  • Can you be present for 24 hours a day for the first three weeks of the puppies life if hand-feeding is required?
  • Are you willing to keep the puppies and properly socialise them before they find their forever homes?
  • Is your bitch over two years of age?
  • Is she up to date with vaccinations?

Diagnosis: Your dog should be checked by a veterinarian at around Day 45 of gestation. At this time, we can take an x-ray of her abdomen and confirm how many puppies she is expecting, so when whelping comes, you can be sure no one is left behind. Ultrasound can confirm pregnancy from 25 days onwards but counting the puppies is not as easy.

Nutrition:A high-quality adult food is sufficient for the first 2/3 of the pregnancy. Around Week 3 of gestation your dog may experience some appetite loss. Mild gastrointestinal upset and nausea may also occur. Appetite typically returns to normal after one week.

In the final 1/3 of pregnancy, energy requirements increase. Gradually increase the amount fed for pregnancy and lactation by 25-30% prior to whelping. Feeding smaller meals more frequently on a puppy food is the best way to supply adequate caloric intake and nutrients. These are balanced diets and don't generally require supplementation. By lactation, she should be eating 250-300% more than her normal diet to maintain her current energy requirements.

Exercise: Regular exercise is important during pregnancy. Short walks and swimming is best.

Parasite control: Intestinal parasites can be transmitted from mother to foetus during gestation. We can advise you on the safest worming and flea control for your bitch and her puppies at her vet check.

Whelping: It is a good idea to keep track of your dog's breeding date so as to know when to expect what. The gestation period for dogs can range from 58 - 68 days.

A comfortable area such as a whelping box should be set aside for giving birth and raising the puppies. Your dog should feel safe here and be able to come and go as she pleases, while the puppies remain confined.

When her due date is approaching, monitor your dog's temperature as it will drop within 24 hours of labor.

In the first stage of labor, your dog will appear restless and may pace, dig, shiver, pant or even vomit as contractions begin. This is all normal. Make sure she has adequate water available. This stage lasts 6-12 hours.

During the second and third stages of labor, puppies will be born. Expect one pup every 45 to 60 minutes with 10-30 minutes of hard straining. It is normal for your dog to take a rest partway through delivery and she may not strain at all for up to four hours between pups.

When puppies are born, they are covered in a membrane that the mother will lick and bite away. If she fails to do this, you need to do it for her and rub the babies in a towel to clean them, taking care not to pull on the umbilical cord.

When to call your veterinarian:

30-60 minutes of strong contractions occur without a puppy being produced.This where it is important to know whether she has delivered the entire litter that was counted on the x-ray.

More than 4 hours pass between pups and you know there are more inside.

She fails to go into labor within 24 hours of her temperature drop.

She is obviously in extreme pain.

Greater than 70 days of gestation have passed.

It is normal to have vaginal discharge. It should be odourless and may be green, red or dark brown. Small amounts may persist for up to 8 weeks after giving birth.

It's important to watch the new mother and her puppies closely over the following weeks.

Serious complications that can occur after whelping include:

Metritis (inflammation of the uterus).

Eclampsia (dangerously low levels of calcium in the blood due to the high demands of lactation)

Mastitis (inflammation of the mammary glands)

Agalactia (not producing milk)

If you suspect any of these conditions or have any concerns, consult your veterinarian immediately. 


Freshman, J (2013) Breeding Information for People Who Want to Breed Dogs,

Brooks, W (2019) Birthing Puppies,

Lively, K & Mays, A (2010) Management of the Pregnant Bitch,

Photo by Judi Neumeyer on Unsplash

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