Gestation Period for Dogs

The gestation period for dogs can be an exciting or stressful time for their owner, depending on whether or not the puppies were planned for. If you can't find homes for puppies, consider getting your dog spayed, as this will not only stop more unwanted puppies from coming into the world, it will also increase your dog's health, preventing her from developing some kinds of cancer and other diseases. If you have planned to have puppies, however, you should learn as much about the gestation period for dogs as you can. 

The Beginning of the Gestation Period

All dog breeds have the same gestation period, of around 60 to 64 days. However, larger breeds tend to come to maturity later in life, and may not start their estrus cycle until they are one or two years old. Smaller breeds may start cycling as early as five months. However, your dog will not be fully mature at the time of her first cycle, and you should check the breed standard for the right time to begin mating her.

Once your dog has been mated it can be impossible to tell whether or not she is pregnant for another five weeks or so. After four weeks, you can try taking her to a vet to have her abdomen examined, and he or she may be able to tell you if fetuses are present. There are also expensive ultrasound tests that can be made if you want to know how many puppies there will be.

After five weeks your dog's nipples will begin to enlarge and darken. This will continue for the rest of the pregnancy.

The End of the Gestation Period

At week six or seven your dog will start to "show" and her stomach will continue to get bigger for the remaining weeks. She may need to urinate more frequently than usual. At week eight, she may begin to excrete fluid from her nipples. As long as this fluid is whitish or clear, this is normal, but if it is discolored you should take her to the vet in case she has a mammary infection.

Her appetite will also begin to increase around this time. You should provide her with the best food possible, preferably very high in protein. You should also make sure she is aware of the whelping box, which must be warm, well constructed, and situated away from the general traffic of your house. Remember that sometimes puppies will come up to a week early. Make your preparations well in advance.

Towards the end of the gestation period, begin to take the temperature of your dog regularly. It should be just under 101 F. When it drops to around 98F, your dog will most likely whelp within 24 hours. Remember that it may begin in the middle of the night. Be sure to notify your vet before whelping begins.

Breeding your dog is a big decision, and should not be undertaken lightly. Once your dog is pregnant, provide her with the best of care to ensure the puppies develop well, and the mother remains healthy and happy.