Dog Pregnancy Stages

Dog pregnancy stages, including what to do and what to expect, are overviewed in the table below.

It shows an outlines pup development plus the changes you will notice in the bitch and how to feed, exercise and care for her during different stages of her pregnancy.

At mating – give your bitch a good wormer (that covers Roundworm and Hookworm).

During pregnancy (especially first 3 weeks) – to prevent the death or deformity of the developing embryos, avoid contact with all noxious chemicals and do not give any optional medications.

So, for example, don’t spray the dog run with herbicides, antiseptic sprays or flea treatments. Make sure she and her environment are flea and tick free before she mates so she won’t need to be treated during the pregnancy.

During this early period of embryonic development the pups are very vulnerable to toxic insults that can either cause defects or death.

Infectious agents can pose a similar threat so avoid contact between your bitch and other dogs or possible sources of infection during this critical first trimester.

dog pregnancy stages
Credit to Gopal Aggarwal

Table: Dog Pregnancy Stages

of Pups
Changes in
the Bitch
Care of
the Bitch
1– Fertilization occurs in fallopian tubes


– Embryo development resilient to external factors

– Possible morning sickness


– Possible personality changes (usually she will become rather sooky and a bit lethargic and pathetic)


– Normal feeding


– Moderate daily exercise

– All medications must be pre-approved with veterinarian before use

– No insecticides (eg flea treatments)

– No live vaccines

2– Embryos grow from 4 to 64 cells


– Embryos descend to uterus

3– Embryos implant in uterus
4– Grow to 1.5 cm


– Eyes, spinal cords and faces take shape

– Organs form

– Embryos very susceptible to defects

– Possible clear vaginal discharge


– Breasts begin to grow

– Limit strenuous activity


– Add extra high quality protein to diet on alternate days (hard boiled egg or ¼ cup cottage cheese)

5– Grow to 3 cm


– Toes, claws and whisker buds take shape

– Gender discernable

– Eyes close

– Organ development complete

– Embryos again resilient to developmental interference

– Abdomen begins to swell noticeably.


– Gain in weight

– Add a small meal to amount fed


– Switch to puppy biscuits

– Introduce the whelping box

6– Grow to 4.5cm


– Skin pigment develops

– Fetal heartbeats detectable with a stethoscope

– Nipples thicken and darken


– Belly keeps growing

– Should begin sleeping in her whelping box

– Add a medium meal to amount fed


– Add extra high quality protein to diet daily (hard boiled egg or ¼ cup cottage cheese)

– Notify your buyer list of when pups due

7– Pups get larger


– Hair begins growing

– Pregnancy obvious


– Begins to shed abdominal hair

– Feed a little more in each meal


– Avoid rough boisterous activity

8– Fetal movement can be felt in resting bitch


– Safe birth possible

– Abdomen becomes huge


– Breasts developed and will produce milk when squeezed

– Add a third meal to each day


– Worm bitch with vet approved wormer

Prepare for birth 

9 – Nesting behavior in bitch



– On day 58 after the first mating start taking her temperature 3 times a day


– Take bitch’s temperature 2-3 times/day and watch for Signs of labor (see section below)

False Pregnancy

Your bitch may go through all the dog pregnancy stages without ever having a puppy.  Such is the nature of the reproductive hormone cycle in the dog that your bitch can exhibit all of the above signs of being pregnant – including becoming a bit of a sook, eating a lot, sleeping a lot, and lactating – without actually being pregnant!  This is known as a “False Pregnancy”.  It is common and can occur whether your bitch has been mated or not.

My first bitch as a never-mated maiden, went into a false pregnancy after her first heat, then lactated and suckled a kitten!

There is a danger associated with false pregnancy though.  Some bitches, for poorly understood reasons, may contract an infection of the uterus that becomes what is known as “pyometra” – a uterus swollen up with pus.  Some 4 to 12 weeks after her last heat, she will have a distended abdomen that may be mistaken for pregnancy.

If her cervix is open, the uterine pus will leak out as a foul smelling, thick pale-red vaginal discharge.  She may be otherwise well, or be feverish and lose her appetite.  Valuable bitches can be treated with prostaglandins and antibiotics and should be bred on the next heat to avoid reoccurrence, then spayed as soon as their breeding life is over.

If her cervix is closed, the pus cannot escape and she will become severely ill and depressed with a grossly enlarged uterus, and stressed kidneys manifesting as thirst and frequent urination.  Affected bitches can die of pyometra, and the only treatment is complete removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).

Pyometra is most common in older bitches that have had a large number of heat cycles.  For this reason, it is best to have any bitches that are past their breeding years spayed prior to re-homing or retirement.

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