Can Dogs Give Birth Prematurely?

Canine gestation typically lasts for 63 days, although it is perfectly normal when dogs birth their litters within five days of this time. Premature birth in dogs is uncommon but it does occur occasionally. If your dog is pregnant and approaching birth, be aware of the signs of whelping:

  • Lowered rectal temperature (below 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Loss of interest in food
  • Preparing an area for birthing by scratching

Most dogs can give birth without assistance, but premature pups will need immediate attention in order to survive. Pups born prematurely will have difficulty suckling and may require human assistance to eat. Mothers may even reject premature pups, leaving them vulnerable to their environment. In this case, make sure that the pups are situated in a box with a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit and several moist towels to approximate the mother's cleaning routine. If these conditions are not maintained, the pups may die from exposure.

As premature pups grow, ensure that they are transferred to their mother's care as soon as they can suckle on their own. Premature pups should be fed their mother's colostrum (also known as first milk) if possible, or, failing that, blood plasma from their mother. This provides them with important antibodies to defend against common diseases. Pet stores and veterinary offices carry a variety of milk replacement formulas for additional feeding needs. With the proper preparation and care, pups born prematurely can develop into healthy young dogs.