Did you know a female dog can produce over ten litters over her lifetime? It is technically possible, but it does not mean this is the best decision for a dog.
Pregnancy brings along beautiful puppies that you would love to adore. Pregnancy also brings along health complications for the mother. As a pet owner, you need to understand your dog’s reproductive cycle, mating process, and how you can best care for your pregnant dog.
Number of Times Your Dog Can Get Pregnant Within a Year?
It takes around 18 months for the heat cycles to become regular after the first heat cycle, which happens when the dog reaches puberty. Getting pregnant depends on your dog’s heat cycle and if you let the dog mate.
Most dogs go into heat two times a year with an interval of 6 months. This interval period may vary from one dog to another. So if your dog mates during both its heat cycles, it can get pregnant twice within a year. Smaller dog breeds can go into heat three times a year. On the other hand, larger dog breeds like Great Danes or Saint Bernards might go into heat every 12 to 18 months.
As your dog gets older, it will continue to experience heat cycles, but the time between each cycle will start increasing.
If you plan to breed your dog, experts advise you not to go beyond four litters. As the dog gets older, the delivery could become difficult. It can also take a toll on the mother’s health. If your dog experiences any health complications during the first pregnancy, it is best to get them spayed.
How Does the Reproductive Cycle Work in Dogs?
Dogs have their first reproductive cycle when they reach puberty. Six months is the average time dogs take to reach puberty. It is normal for smaller dogs to have their first cycle before six months. Large dog breeds might take anywhere between eighteen months and two years to have their first cycle.
The reproductive or the ‘heat’ cycle typically lasts for 18 to 21 days. During this period, if your dog mates, it can get pregnant.
The four stages of a dog’s reproductive cycle are:
During the first stage of the reproductive cycle, proestrus, you will notice signs such as swelling of the vulva and bloody discharge. This stage lasts for around nine days.
Estrus is the second stage of the reproductive cycle in which your dog can get pregnant. This stage is often referred as your dog is in ‘heat‘ or ‘season.’ Signs that your dog has advanced into the second stage are enlarged vulva and discharge. The discharge starts as thick and bloody fluid and later becomes watery and pinkish-red in color.
Your dog’s urine in this stage contains pheromones. It serves as a notice to male dogs that the female dog is in heat. Thus, you might find your dog urinating more than usual.
It is in this phase that the dog will be receptive to mating. During this stage, the sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for a week and fertilize the eggs. The estrus stage lasts from 7 to 11 days.
In the diestrus stage, you will see the swelling goes down, and the vulva return to its normal state. Your dog will also stop leaking discharge. This stage is considered the end of the heat cycle.
Anestrus is the period from one heat cycle to another. Typically this stage lasts for about six months.
What are the Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs?
There is no sure-fire way of telling if your dog is pregnant. The vet can confirm the pregnancy after performing diagnostic tests. But when do you need to take your dog to the vet?
Some of the common signs of pregnancy in dogs are:
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
- Swollen belly
Some dogs may go through morning sickness. This usually happens in the 3rd or 4th week of pregnancy. These signs necessarily do not always point to pregnancy. It could be some other health issue. Either way, when you notice these signs, it is best to get a checkup done by the vet.
How Does the Vet Determine a Dog is Pregnant?
There are four diagnostic tests that a vet can perform to tell if your dog is pregnant.
An ultrasound is a non-invasive way of checking a dog’s internal organs. Sound waves are directed towards the abdomen area to confirm the pregnancy diagnosis. Your dog will not be in any pain during the test.
The test can detect the heartbeats of the puppies, which will be three times faster than of the mother. Ultrasounds are usually performed between the 4th and 5th weeks of pregnancy.
If you know the date your dog was bred, the vet can perform palpation to confirm the pregnancy. As the fetus grows they are surrounded by fluid-filled sacs. These sacs can feel like small tennis balls.
The timing of this test is important as the sacs start losing definition post a month. The 28th to 30th day of pregnancy is ideal for abdominal palpation.
3. Hormone Test
Your dog has to be at least a month into her pregnancy for the hormone test result to be accurate. Once the embryo is implanted and the placenta starts developing, it will produce a hormone called relaxin.
The hormone is exclusively produced during pregnancy. Thus a blood test measures the level of relaxin in the blood to confirm pregnancy.
For the X-ray test to be accurate, the puppies must have their skeletal systems developed. And this starts happening when the dog is 45 days into the pregnancy. Thus, X-rays are taken around the 55th day of pregnancy.
X-ray tests are typically performed to know the expected number of puppies.
What are the Different Stages of Pregnancy in Dogs?
Pregnancy in dogs is referred to as the gestation period. On average, this period lasts for 63 days from the time of conception. However, it is difficult to predict the exact delivery date as the gestation period can vary depending on the dog breed and litter size. Also, the mating and conception date does not need to be the same.
During the first month of gestation, the fertilized eggs travel to the uterine horns and embed themselves in the uterine lining around the 15 to 18 days mark. The fetus grows quickly during this period. It starts taking shape by day 22. The vet can detect fetal heartbeats around day 30 with an ultrasound test.
During the second month of gestation, the fetus will rapidly turn into puppy form. By day 40, its eyelids, toes, and claws will be visible. After day 45, the skeletal structure and coat will start developing.
You will notice symptoms such as noticeable weight gain and increased appetite, enlarged belly, behavioral changes, and puppy movement in the belly.
During the end of the second month and the start of the third month, the puppies are almost formed and will be ready to be born. You will hear the term ‘whelping’ which means the dog is ready to give birth. You will know when to prepare for the whelping stage when you see symptoms like loss in appetite, drop in rectal temperature, heavy panting, and nesting behavior.
How Long Does Labor Last in Dogs?
Labor in dogs can last for about 1 to 24 hours. The dog will deliver one puppy at a time. One delivery might take 1 to 2 hours, while the interval between these deliveries could be 30 to 60 minutes. You need to call the vet if the interval time goes beyond an hour. You need to call the vet if your dog has been in labor for over 24 hours.
The dog will first start feeling contractions, which will increase in frequency and intensity as time passes. You may see signs like clear vaginal discharge, restlessness, panting, and vomiting. When the dog is ready to deliver, you will see the water sac come out. In this case, the puppy should be out in an hour.
The dog might deliver all the puppies one after another or take breaks if it is a large litter. Ensure all the placenta is also out. Retained placenta can cause health issues for the mother.
How to Take Care of Your Pregnant Dog?
Nutrition and exercise are two important aspects you need to focus on. Feed your dog good quality dog food during the first two-thirds of the gestation period. The amount should be the same as it was before pregnancy. If in doubt, the vet will recommend the proper diet for your pregnant dog.
After the 6th week of pregnancy, you can gradually increase the amount of food. Feed the dog small and frequent meals. Ideally, the food intake should be more than 30 to 50% of the normal diet.
Keep the routine exercise simple in the first two weeks of pregnancy. Then until the belly is enlarged, you can follow the usual exercise routine. During the last stages of pregnancy, avoid any strenuous exercises. The vet will recommend short and frequent walks.
Continue going to the vet for prenatal checkups. These checkups are essential as the vet can catch hold of any issues that could complicate the pregnancy. Depending on the dog’s condition, you will have the option of a normal whelping or cesarean delivery.
What to Do If a Dog Accidentally Gets Pregnant?
Your pet’s health is your responsibility. You need to closely watch your dog when they are in heat. A male dog will go out of its way to find a female dog in heat. The mating process can be completed in less than 10 minutes.
40% of dogs can get pregnant after just a single mating session. How many times can a dog get pregnant within a year? – Twice or thrice, depending on the breed.
If your dog does get accidentally pregnant, take it to the vet as soon as possible. If the pregnancy is in the early stage, a ‘mismating’ injection can terminate the pregnancy. This option works best if the pregnancy is detected 22 days from the date of mating.
Spaying is another option that can effectively terminate the pregnancy. The process though can become complicated and surgically invasive if the pregnancy is in the later stages.
If all else fails, the vet can perform an abortion. Please note, abortion is a big medical decision that should be taken after careful consideration. The operation will be effective, but it will be tough on your dog’s body. The majority of the vets will ask you to opt for injections and spaying, if possible.
Should You Consider Spaying Your Dog?
Spaying is the process of removing a female dog’s ovaries and uterus. If you are not going to breed your dog, most vets recommend spaying them around the age of six months.
Did you know that unspayed female dogs carry twice the risk of developing the chronic disease –diabetes? They are at a higher risk of developing mammary cancer. They can also develop a life-threatening uterus infection known as pyometra.
Unless you are keeping your dog under lock and key when it goes into heat, there is always a chance of it getting pregnant. These unwanted pregnancies result in puppies and dogs being abandoned by their owners. Nearly 4 million dogs enter US shelters every year, and around half of them are put down.
Thus, consider spaying your dog before its first heat cycle. The surgery is minimally invasive and 100% effective. Your dog will be back to normal within two weeks of the surgery. If unsure, talk to your vet to understand the risks and benefits associated with spaying.
How many times can a dog get pregnant within a year? Typically twice. Smaller dog breeds can get pregnant three times a year, while larger dog breeds can get pregnant once a year.
An increase in appetite, swollen belly, tiredness, and nesting behavior can be early signs of pregnancy. A vet will perform diagnostic tests to confirm the pregnancy.
The gestation period in dogs lasts for about 63 days. Ensure your dog gets proper nutrition and exercise during pregnancy.
If you want to avoid unwanted pregnancies, consider spaying your dog before its first heat cycle.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.