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  • Pregnancy In Dogs

Before attempting to breed from your pet, there are a number of points which we recommend you consider.

  • Can you afford the extra costs involved in maintaining a healthy pregnancy?
  • Should complications arise during delivery, could you afford an emergency caesarean section? Do you have the knowledge or experience required to recognise when complications are occurring?
  • Can you afford the initial vaccinations, flea and worm treatments that the new arrivals will require?
  • Do you have responsible owners who will purchase or rehome the puppies?        
  • Are you aware that after the costs involved with responsible breeding, there is very little profit to be made with the sale of puppies?
  • Is your bitch in good health? Does she have any congenital defects? eg. Hip dysplasia or a heart condition
  • Is your bitch fully vaccinated and up to date with worm and flea treatments?
  • Can you afford the conditions that may arise from an entire bitch? For example a pyometra (infection of the uterus) is potentially fatal if not treated. If presented with a pyometra your pet will generally require an emergency hysterectomy.

If you feel that the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions then please reconsider breeding from your pet.

Canine Reproduction

Your bitch will come into season for the first time between 6 months and 2 years (usually by 14 months of age.)

You will notice a bloody discharge and her vulva will be swollen. She will be attracted to male dogs but will not allow them to mate. This can last approximately 3 to 8 days. Your bitch may be irritable and possibly aggressive at this time, especially to other bitches.

After this the discharge will appear less bloody and more straw coloured but her vulva will still be swollen. At this point she will accept a male and will be fertile. This period will last approximately 7 to 10 days.

These timings may differ with each individual animal. It is advisable to avoid the bitch from having contact with a male dog for 3 weeks after the initial signs of coming into season.

If your bitch is not mated in this time the signs will cease and she may not have another season for another 5 to 13 months. It is in this time that a phantom pregnancy may occur. Signs to look out for are similar to the signs of pregnancy-nest making, milk production and nursing of small toys. This condition is distressing for the bitch, and you should consider neutering to avoid further phantom pregnancies.

If you are planning to breed, choosing a suitable, potential breeding partner should be a priority. Make sure that they are in good health, fully vaccinated, free from any hereditary diseases and that their owner can produce evidence of their breeding. The Kennel Club has a set of breed standards and this can be accessed via their website www.thekennelclub.org.uk


Canine pregnancy can last for approximately 64 to 65 days but timings may be varied as much as 56 to 72 days depending at what stage of your bitch’s cycle she was mated.

Signs to look for are:

  • Weight gain
  • Lack of appetite and vulval discharge (common in the first month)
  • Enlargement and reddening of the mammary glands (usually from around day 40)
  • On some occasions there is milk production (from day 40)

Care of the bitch during pregnancy

The bitch’s food intake will need to be increased from around day 30, not before as this will only cause unnecessary weight gain. She will need to be fed little and often due to the reduction in the bitch’s stomach capacity by the pressure of her uterus. A good quality puppy diet will provide the extra calories she requires. At Cinque Ports Vets we recommend feeding the Royal Canin Vetcare Nutrition range.

You do not need to supplement with Vitamin D or Calcium as long as you provide a good quality diet.

Provide regular exercise as long as the bitch is willing

At day 42 the bitch must be treated with a broad spectrum wormer. This must be administered daily until the pups are 2 days old. A certain species of endo-parasitic worm can travel across the placenta during pregnancy and affect the unborn pups. An up to date bodyweight will be required to allow us to dispense the correct amount of wormer.

Prepare a quiet, warm, clean and dry area for the bitch to give birth

Signs of impending labour

  • The rectal temperature of the bitch will drop from around 39°C to 37°C. It is good practice to keep a record of her temperature daily in the last week of pregnancy.
  • The bitch will show signs of restlessness and nest making
  • There will be an increase in the discharge from her vulva
  • She will have a lack of appetite and may vomit, pant and shiver
  • As contractions begin fluid will leak from the vulva (waters breaking)

It can be as little as 10 to 30 minutes from the onset of contractions to birth. Once a pup has been born the bitch will begin to lick and remove the membrane surrounding it. Sometimes with first time mums encouragement may be required. Using a soft, clean towel to rub the pups often helps. The bitch should also sever the umbilical cord. If this does not occur you will need to cut it with a clean pair of scissors around an inch from the pups’ abdomen. Neonates cannot regulate their own temperature so you will need to ensure that mum and pups are in a warm environment at all times.

After all the pups are delivered it is normal for a greenish discharge to be present and this will decline after a week.

If you see any of the following things or you are at all concerned you should contact your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets.

  • If the bitch’s rectal temperature has declined over 48 hours but with no signs of labour
  • If the pregnancy is lasting longer than 68 days from mating
  • If the bitch is straining infrequently and then ceases
  • If there has been more than 45 minutes of contractions but no foetus has been delivered
  • If there is over a 2 hour interval between the delivery of foetuses
  • If a foetus presents with its rear from the vulva but with no hind limbs showing
  • If there is a black/green discharge before labour begins

Care of the bitch and her pups

After giving birth the bitch can be offered a light meal, though she may have eaten the placentas and may have slight gastric discomfort. She will spend the next 2 weeks caring for her pups constantly. From 3 weeks onwards the pups will start to wander around and leave their mum for short periods of time to investigate and explore their surroundings.

Please click on the videos below to find out more about feeding your puppy through their lifestages.