No matter what the size or breed, the gestation period of a dog is the same, approximately nine weeks. Pregnancy lasts about 2 months or 60-64 days. The reproductive life of a dog changes greatly from breed to breed as far as the onset of puberty is concerned, however, small breeds of dog usually start having cycles at around 4-6 months of age, and large breeds generally start later, and are ready to breed at about 12 to 24 months of age. The heat cycles will alter between each individual dog.
Some dog cycles are as few as 2 days, but some can last as long as 21 days. Female dogs do not experience the menopause as human females do. The gestation period of a dog is the time when the pups are developing in the mother's uterus. Although gestation generally lasts 9 weeks, sometimes puppies can be born anywhere between 58 and 68 days.
There are no blood or urine tests available to confirm pregnancy in the dog. The soonest conceivable time of diagnosis of pregnancy may be 26-35 days after breeding, when the vet may be able to detect pregnancy by feeling the abdomen. Diagnosis by x-rays is usually only possible after 45 days. During the first 5 weeks of pregnancy, there are few detectable changes. After the 5th week, you may detect weight gain, particularly with a large litter, but If only 1 or 2 puppies are present, the mother may put on only a little weight until shortly before birth. Abdominal enlargement is normally obvious in the last 3 weeks.
From the fifth week on the nipples and mammary gland gain in size and acquire a darker color, preparing to receive the breast feeders. The dog may seem a little quieter than normal, but apart from this nothing noticeable until the sixth or seventh week, when the mothers abdomen begins to increase in size as the puppies get bigger. The dog will probably want to urinate more often than usual. In the eighth week, the dog's breast, really big already, begin to secrete a white liquid.
A couple of weeks before the birth, you should decide where the puppies are going to be born and be prepared by having all the equipment you need ready. The puppies may be delivered earlier than expected, in the middle of the night or in the least unlikeliest place. Keep a close eye on your dog when the delivery date is near, as she may try to go off to have the puppies on her own, particularly if her pregnancy has been a difficult one.
The behavior of your dog may change, especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy. As the uterus enlarges with the developing puppies, your dog may become restless, seek privacy and in the last few days, all she has learnt about toilet training may be forgotten. She may start nest building by shredding papers, blankets or bedding in the last weeks. Keep your children away from the dog particularly during the last two weeks..
During the gestation period of a dog, good nutrition is essential for the mother to give her pups the best start in life. During the first 4 weeks, feeding high-protein supplements, such as eggs, lean meats or liver, is a good idea. During the last 5 weeks, you dog's nutritional demands nearly double. Make sure that fresh clean water is always be available, as fluid needs are also greatly increased. The vet may suggest a special diet or vitamins at this time.
Female dogs that were not coupled during their heats often endure nervous or psychological pregnancies eight or nine weeks after the heat is over. The dog's body prepares for the delivery, even though it is not pregnant. Occasionally the female dogs dig in the ground, prepare their nests and even collect toys or other objects and protect them as if they were a real litter of pups. Some of them even produce milk. False pregnancies are not harmful to the dog's health and don't generally last more than a few days. Your vet will be able to advise you about how you should treat your dog if she is involved in phantom pregnancies and how to stop these situations in the future.