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Puppies are great. They're adorable, and being there for their birth is special. Owners of pregnant dogs may wonder how long they have to wait for the new puppies to arrive. Not only do owners need to know the length of the dog gestation period, but they should also learn how to care for the expectant mom and her new pups. It's important for owners to research the stages of dog pregnancy and how to prepare for birth.

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How Long is a Dog's Pregnancy?

Dogs are pregnant for around two months or 63 days. As with humans, dog pregnancies are broken up into trimesters. There are three trimesters in a dog's gestation period, each lasting 21 days. Most dogs don't show signs of pregnancy for the first few weeks. Dogs experience similar pregnancy symptoms to humans, including morning sickness. A vet can say for sure if a dog is pregnant, but not until the 25th day of pregnancy.

Dog and newborn puppies JodiJacobson / Getty Images
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How to Care for a Pregnant Dog

Since pregnancy in dogs can't be confirmed until almost a month after fertilization, owners may not know about a dog's pregnancy in the beginning stages. That's fine since dogs don't require any special care in the very beginning of their pregnancies. After the first trimester, pregnant dogs may need special supplements, increased food, and decreased activity. A veterinarian can help recommend the right diet and activity level.

Nursing puppies JodiJacobson / Getty Images
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What to Feed a Pregnant Dog

Like humans, dogs need to increase their calorie intake later in pregnancy. Puppies gain weight in preparation for birth, so the mom needs to eat accordingly. Also, like humans, experts recommend that pregnant dogs get DHA in their diets. DHA is a fatty acid that boosts brain growth. Fish oil can be a good source.

Newborn puppy JodiJacobson / Getty Images
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Can You Feel Puppies Kick?

Human parents are usually excited to feel babies kick from inside the womb. Puppies move inside the womb too, and they can also be felt moving from the outside. In the last trimester, a pregnant dog's belly will grow quite large. If you place your hand on your dog's belly, you may be able to feel the puppies moving around.

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Preparing for Birth

Whelping is the technical term for when a dog delivers puppies. To prepare for a dog to give birth, owners should set up a whelping box. This is where the dog will give birth to her puppies and take care of them for the first few weeks. The whelping box should be about a foot larger than the dog's regular crate. The box needs blankets and newspapers for the dog to use as nesting material. Ideally, the box will have a rail around the walls, a few inches off the floor. This rail will keep the dog from pinning her puppies against the wall and smothering them by accident.

Tired dog and puppies Geo246 / Getty Images
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Caring for Newborn Puppies

Mom will usually know just how to take care of her new puppies. In the beginning, she will clean up their waste herself, but feel free to help if she can't keep up with all the work. A heat lamp can help keep puppies warm. The mother will nurse her new puppies, so her caloric intake will need to increase. Keep an eye on the puppies. If they're not gaining weight, or if they show signs of illness, contact a veterinarian.

Two white Newborn Puppies WilleeCole / Getty Images
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When to Take a Pregnant Dog to the Vet

Aside from regular check-ups, pregnant dogs should go to the vet when they show any of the following symptoms:

  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding
  • Loss of appetite combined with lethargy
  • Crying, whining, or signs of pain

Additionally, if a dog's pregnancy goes past 70 days, contact a veterinarian. The dog could need a C-section to birth the puppies.

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How to Find Homes for Puppies

Although owners may be sad to see puppies go, it's not always possible to keep all of them. Owners looking to find homes for puppies need to make sure that the pups are going to good, responsible homes. Take the puppies to the vet before they meet their potential owners, so they can get their shots. Ask potential owners for references, and make sure to charge an adoption fee. Free puppies are more likely to end up in less than ideal situations.

Lab and puppies ozgurdonmaz / Getty Images
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Presidential Litters

There have been some pretty well-known litters of puppies throughout history. Millie, the first president Bush's spaniel, gave birth to a litter of six in the White House. President Johnson also bred his dogs. Johnson was known for his beagles, Him and Her. Him fathered a litter of beagles during his time in the White House.

Terrier on the Americas flag Kira-Yan / Getty Images
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How to Tell if a Dog Is in Labor

If a dog is nearing the end of her pregnancy, it's time to start looking out for signs of labor. A day or two before giving birth, a dog will start scratching at her whelping box, and she may re-arrange some of the materials. She's getting the spot ready for her new pups. She may also display any of the following signs and symptoms of labor:

  • Panting
  • Shaking
  • Pacing
  • Digging
  • Vomiting

All these are normal behaviors, but when in doubt call the vet.

Terrier and puppies in basket FabioFilzi / Getty Images

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