Updated: February 13th, 2023
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Are you considering breeding your dog? Or are you concerned that your intact Golden Retriever could be expecting? In this article, we will answer some of the most important questions about dog pregnancy.
How long is the gestation period for dogs? What are the signs that your dog might be pregnant? What kind of additional care might they need while preparing to give birth? Read on to find all the answers you’ve been looking for.
Canine Pregnancy: Gestation Period
Human mothers often think dogs have it easy, since they are pregnant for only around 57 to 65 days, which is 9 weeks, or just over two months. But while they have a much shorter gestation period, dogs often have large litters, depending on their breed. It is not uncommon for Golden Retrievers to give birth to as many as 8 to 10 pups!
The average gestation period for most dog breeds, including Golden Retrievers, is 63 days, and this can be further broken into its own series of distinct periods.
During the first 15 to18 days, the fertilized eggs travel to the uterine horn and embed themselves for gestation. If you are actively trying to breed your dog, you will want to minimize their exercise during this time to help the eggs travel and pass on. If you aren’t breeding your dog, you may notice that your dog is more fatigued at this time, but otherwise, there are no obvious symptoms of pregnancy.
During the first month of pregnancy, the fetuses grow quickly and will double in size every seven days. At the end of the first month, a veterinarian may be able to detect the pregnancy by examining the belly. They will find small golf balls or grape-like lumps, which are the fluid sacks containing the fetuses.
During the second month, the fetuses grow less quickly, but they start to develop the characteristics of small puppies. Veterinarians should be able to detect the heartbeats of the fetuses from early in the second month. It is in the second half of this month that your dog’s belly will become very noticeable.
As the pregnancy enters the final week, the fetuses start to move into their birthing spots, and they can be in place up to 5 days before your dog is ready to deliver. But this can put a lot of pressure on your dog’s abdomen, and they are likely to be in a lot of discomforts during these final days.
When birthing actually starts, it can take up to 24 hours for all the puppies to be born.
You can read about the different stages in the life of a puppy here.
Signs Of Pregnancy In Dogs
While your dog might have an inkling that they are pregnant pretty early on, they can’t tell you how they’re feeling, so you need to look out for signs that your pup might be expecting. But aside from fatigue as their bodies are working hard to create new life, you shouldn’t expect to notice many signs until the end of the first month, by which time they are almost already halfway through their pregnancy.
The Most Common Signs Of Pregnancy In Dogs Are:
- Increased appetite – They will naturally crave more food to get the nutrition they need for the developing fetuses; after all, they might be eating for 8 to 10 pups!
- Weight gain – Just like in humans, your dog’s stomach will expand to make space for their fetuses. This will look like weight gain, but it is principally the fetuses that are gaining weight.
- Increased nipple size – Hormone changes mean their nipples will start to swell while still in the gestation period.
- Tires more easily – Your dog’s body is working hard to create new life, so they will tire more quickly while completing their normal exercise and activities, and they will want to spend a bit more time resting and sleeping.
- Increased affection – As your dog goes through confusing changes, you can expect that they might want to remain close to you and seek affection for comfort and reassurance.
- Irritability – But just like human mothers, changing hormones can affect their mood and you may find your dog less accepting of annoying situations.
- Nesting behavior – As your dog’s due date draws closer, they are likely to start engaging in nesting behaviors, as an instinctive way of preparing to give birth.
If you want to confirm that your dog is pregnant, or detect pregnancy during the first month, you will need to talk to your vet!
Early detection is challenging, and a blood test for the hormone relaxin is the most effective method in the first month. But these can often return a false negative if your dog is very early in the pregnancy or pregnant with a very small litter.
From 3 to 4 weeks, your vet may be able to detect the fetuses with a palpitation examination of your dog’s stomach to feel the fetus lumps. This kind of examination should only ever be conducted by a vet. This can then be followed by an ultrasound exam for confirmation.
It will be difficult to determine the number of puppies even with an ultrasound until the dog is 7 to 8 weeks pregnant.
Golden Retriever Pregnancy
Interested specifically in learning what Golden Retriever pregnancies are like? They follow standard canine pregnancy expectations fairly closely.
Most Golden Retrievers are pregnant for 63 days, give or take a day or two, and they go through the phases of pregnancy at the expected rate. Unlike some other dogs, they might lose their appetite during the first few weeks of pregnancy, only to have it pick up again as the dogs continue to grow. But you will probably notice a reduction in their activity levels.
Goldens usually display a change in nipple size fairly early in the pregnancy and have a noticeable weight gain, since they have large litters or relatively large pups. Goldens can have anywhere between 4 and 12 puppies in a litter! However, their first gestation tends to be on the smaller side.
Do you have a Golden Retriever puppy arriving soon? Need to know facts about Puppy Training.
How To Care For A Pregnant Dog
Diet is essential to keep both mother and babies healthy during the gestation period, so good quality food is important throughout. The most important addition to a standard high-quality diet is to ensure that their food is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (DHA), which they will need throughout the pregnancy and during milk production.
While you will want to make sure they have the food that they need, you don’t need to increase their normal food intake until they are about six weeks along. From this period, you will want to start gradually increasing their food, and by the end of their pregnancy, they should be eating 35% to 50% more than usual (see our full Golden Retriever feeding chart).
The pressure on their abdomen means less space, so they will need smaller meals less often. They will also need more regular bathroom breaks with those babies pushing down on their bladder.
While you will be consulting with your vet regularly on their progress, the most important appointment is around the 30-day mark when they should receive deworming medication. They should continue to take this medication until 14 days after birth. This significantly reduces the occurrence of ringworm and hookworm in the puppies.
At this time, you can also make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccines. This will ensure that they have antibodies in their system to share with their puppies through their milk in the first 24 hours, giving them a bit of protection as they enter the world.
They will be tired and uncomfortable due to their stomach, so they will want to reduce their exercise. When and by how much depends on the individual dog, so respond to their needs accordingly. When going out, stay close to home and choose laps over long walks so you can abandon and return home as needed.
You will notice your dog sleeping more and see they have a tendency to nest. So, if you want to pamper your dog, a comfy dog bed that doesn’t require climbing or jumping to get in and out of with a pregnancy belly is a good choice.
Dog Beds For Pregnant Golden Retrievers: Top Picks
Below are my top dog beds for pregnant Golden Retrievers from Chewy.
Available in various sizes big enough for Goldens, this step-in bed is easy for them to access, and the egg-crate foam will cradle their body, making them feel weightless despite all the extra weight your pregnant pup is carrying.
The suede side bolsters offer comfortable headrests and support the nesting behavior of pregnant dogs. The cover is removable and machine washable, which can help with any of the inevitable messiness that comes along with pregnancy.
This is another orthopedic bed with a step-in design that is easy for dogs carrying extra weight to use without stressing their limbs. Its egg crate foam cradles the body and takes the pressure off muscles and joints as they lie down.
The material is designed to keep your dog cool in summer and warm in winter, which can help if your nesting dog is at risk of overheating. The cover and core are both washable to deal with any unexpected pregnancy-related messes.
This affordable, cozy orthopedic pillow bed is soft with a plush surface your dog will love to nuzzle and nest in. But this bed is designed for big dogs that need to spread out as well as curl up, just like Goldens. There is no risk of them falling out.
The bed is stuffed with shredded memory foam for maximum comfort, and the cover is removable and machine washable for easy care.
True nesters will go wild for this donut-style bed that creates a small, cozy crater just for them with comfortable head and neck support. It is finished with vegan shag fur that is self-warming and perfect for nesting.
The bed itself is filled with AirLoft fibers that give excellent support for the joints and muscles, and the bed is step-in, no jumping required. The cover is machine washable, and it can be used outside the bed if your dog becomes attached to it.
How long after mating can you tell if a dog is pregnant?
Clear signs of pregnancy in dogs usually begin to appear at about one month. However, an ultrasound may be able to detect fetuses from around 3 weeks. Blood tests can also be done, but they tend to be unreliable in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Can I feed my pregnant dog eggs?
Yes, eggs are very good for dogs, including pregnant dogs. But the eggs should always be cooked, and never raw.
Is giving birth painful for dogs?
While instinct tends to kick in and help your dog through pregnancy and birthing, it can be a frightening time and a painful experience. You can help your dog by understanding what is normal for your dog’s breed and when to consult a vet during labor.
Dog pregnancies can seem very fast, as you may not even realize that your dog is pregnant until they are at least one month in, by which time they are already halfway through their total gestation period. But not to worry–as long as your dog is eating a good diet, they don’t need much additional care in that first month.
Increased food intake and vet visits are required from around the 4-to-6-week mark, and you can expect your pup to give birth after about 63 days of pregnancy, or around the 9 week mark.
Remember, some of the key signs your dog is pregnant include:
- Increased appetite
- Less energy than usual
- Nesting behavior
Do you have any experience dealing with pregnant pups? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments section below.