A dog stays pregnant 63 days from the time of ovulation. This is not always exactly 63 days from the date of the mating, but it is usually very close. Not every dog that mates becomes pregnant. It often seems like the more the puppies are wanted, the more likely the dog will fail to conceive. On the other hand, if your dog gets out and has an accidental mating, she will almost certainly get pregnant.
After your dog mates, it still takes some time before you will know if she is pregnant. There are several ways you can determine if your dog is pregnant. There is a dog pregnancy test that your vet can use but it’s not accurate until about a month after the mating. It uses a blood test to check for the hormone relaxin. You can also have your vet do an ultrasound about a month after mating. An ultrasound can give you an estimate about how many puppies to expect. However, the number can change is some of the puppies are resorbed before delivery. At about this same time some vets and experienced breeders can palpate the abdomen of the bitch and feel the puppies. Puppies are about the size of walnuts when they are a month old so it takes some skill to do this. After about day 36-38 you can’t feel the puppies until they are larger. Around day 58-60 you can have an x-ray taken so you can see how many puppies are in the uterus. This helps you know how many to expect so you will be prepared.
If your dog is pregnant you should continue to feed her normal diet for the first month, especially if she is already eating a good quality dog food. You can add some prenatal vitamins to her diet but don’t oversuppplement with calcium or other minerals or dietary additives. You can do more harm than good if you do. By about five weeks after mating, you can begin adding some premium performance dog food or premium puppy food to your dog’s diet. Slowly change her food to this diet from her regular dog food. You can slowly increase the amount you are feeding since she will be gaining weight at this time while the puppies are growing. By the time she is ready to deliver the puppies, she should be eating a diet that will be suitable for her to nurse the puppies. She will need plenty of calories at this time so let her eat all she wants.
It’s also important that your dog continues to get some regular exercise each day while she is pregnant. She doesn’t have to get strenuous exercise but gentle daily exercise will help keep her muscles toned and help the whelping go easier.
Provide your dog with a whelping box in a quiet part of your home a few days before the puppies are due. You can line it with papers and some towels or blankets. Your dog will rearrange anything you put into the box to suit her. If you are taking your dog’s temperature (rectally), it should normally be between 100.2 and 100.8 F. When it drops to 98-99.4 F and stays there, the puppies should be born within 24 hours. You can expect your dog to pant, stare at you like she wants you to do something, get up and walk around, and scratch at her box. She may try to dig a new place to have the puppies. Try to put her back in the whelping box. It’s especially important to go outside with her when she potties. Some dogs will deliver a puppy outside or try to dig a den to have their puppies outside.
Actually, delivering puppies usually goes very easily. It’s just nerve-wracking, especially if you have never done it before. Nature will take over and your dog will know what to do. You should help dry the puppies as they are born and give them back to your dog so she can nurse them. Only get in the way if your dog seems to be having difficulty. If your dog seems to be pushing or trying to produce a puppy for more than hour without any success, get on the phone to your vet. Whelping is messy so don’t let that scare you. As long as you can account for all of the placentas, everything should be okay.
You should take your dog to the vet after she has finished so he or she can examine her and make sure everything is all right. Most people have their puppies’ dew claws removed 2-3 days after the puppies are born.