The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

Pregnancy Guide: Prenatal Care, Whelping and Raising Puppies

So, your dog was in heat and successfully bred with a few ties. You can be pretty sure that you are having puppies. Even without a successful tie your dam could still be pregnant.

What to do now...

I strongly suggest reading lots of information and getting prepared.

  • Keep an accurate record of first breeding.
  • Go ahead and mark your calendar 56 days from the first breeding and highlight.

Plan the time to stay home and start taking temperature, etc. NEVER leave your dam alone after day 56, unless you are taking regular temperatures, including during the night, so you know she is not going into labor. Better yet, if you have to run out, take her with you.

Do NOT feed calcium rich foods during pregnancy, ESPECIALLY in the last 10-14 days. Do NOT supplement with calcium during the time dams are pregnant. Some dams need the extra weight, and you can give puppy food, but stop the puppy food at least ten days before the expected whelp. Then after pups are born, go back to puppy food. This is needed for the uterus to contract properly.

Dams still need normal amounts of calcium in their diets, and they can get that with a good quality dog food. You can give them yogurt and cottage cheese, and if you feed raw, they get their raw chicken bones, but you must stop these calcium rich foods for the last ten days and do NOT supplement extra.

Extra calcium is given only after pups are born, and during active labor to help with contractions—this is another reason, other than for teeth and bone growth of pups, for giving calcium. Calcium during the pushing stage of labor will make the muscles contract at that specific moment.

First week

Fertilization: You may notice mild morning sickness and personality changes in the dam. Watch for vaginal infection from breeding. Some dams will have a pink discharge, like a very light period.

Suggestions: (Remember, take your vets advice always over anything you read on the Web.)

  • Keep feeding as you were (hopefully high-end foods)
  • A recommended food additive (approximately 25%) mix to high-quality kibble, is tripett: pronounced “tri-pet" - green tripe - a premium, all natural pet food made from only the highest quality green tripe. Green tripe is filled with digestive enzymes and promotes good overall health among other things.

  • Keep exercising as you were. (Hopefully she has been exercised and in good shape prior to mating. If not, start moderate daily exercise.)

Do not give any medications without vet approval. If you did not worm her prior to mating (which is standard), then get a mild wormer that is made for pregnant dams. Stop flea treatments and any other insecticides. Do NOT give any live vaccinations.

Second week

Days 7 to 14

Between days 7 and 14, the cell will start being a four-cell, and will then separate into 64 cells. At this time the embryos enter the uterus.

(same care and suggestions as week one)

Third week

Days 14 to 21

On about day 18-20, the embryos will implant in the uterus.

(same care and suggestions as week one)

Fourth week

Days 21 to 28

Vet can palpate (feel) and possibly detect pregnancy between days 27 and 31(after day 32, fluids increase to protect pups and making palpating not possible).

  • Fetuses grow from 5-10mm to 14-16mm, faces take shape, eyes and spinal cords develop
  • At this stage the embryos are most susceptible to defects and it is said that eating a toxic substance at this stage can cause eyes to not form properly, or cause cleft palate. Fact or fiction, I am not sure. The mode of inheritance for many congenital defects and genetic defects is still unknown. But for the sake of your dam and pups, make sure your environment is a safe one.
  • The dam may have a clear, odorless vaginal discharge, and her teats may begin to develop.


  • Limit working dogs and refrain from strenuous activity like jumping and long runs. For small companion dogs, slightly reduce activity, especially in agility.
  • Some like to add 1/4 cup of cottage cheese and 1 scrambled egg every other day. Or mix them together and add a tbsp to the food daily
  • I like to start a vet-recommended multivitamin at this stage, but do not give calcium pills. The dam needs to build up her own reserves still. You do NOT want to put her parathyroid gland to sleep by giving an abundant supply of calcium.
Fifth week

Days 28 to 35

At this time the fetuses begin to look like dogs; their toes, whiskers and claws all are developing. They have become boy and girl puppies, eyes that were open now close. (When eyes are developing in the uterus, the eyes are developed in an open position and then they close and remain closed until about ten days old or so.)

Embryos are MUCH more resistant to development problems.

The dam's weight will begin to increase, and swelling will begin to be noticeable. If you have given a maternity haircut, swelling will be easier to see.

A Person holdeing a pregnant dog up on its hind legs


  • Increase food slightly. Feed morning and evening and start with a healthy lunch snack, including an optional multivitamin and an optional 1/2 egg every day for small breeds or full egg every day for large breeds.

You CAN do an ultrasound at this time, if you wish.

Sixth week

Days 35 to 42 (Pregnancy should be obvious)

Puppies become colored (skin pigment develops), the dam’s nipples darken and grow, and tummy continues to swell: ''Swelly Belly"


  • Continue with multivitamin, but not calcium supplement yet.
  • Increase food to the maximum she will eat. A good quality adult kibble through the whole pregnancy is best; switching the Dam to puppy food as soon as the pups are born, but not before. (Personally I like the Royal Canin mother and puppy food for mom’s and pups at approx 4 weeks) There should be NO PUPPY food or extra calcium in the last 2 weeks of the pregnancy. If your dog is fussy you can add an egg, or blend up meat to make a broth, and poor over adult food, and let soak in. Make sure your dog is not eating too much pure meat, and limit treats, you want 75% of their daily intake to be good kibble.
  • Two important things to remember.
    NO CALCIUM rich foods, like cottage cheese, or puppy food in last 2 weeks of pregnancy.
    Make sure your fussy eater, is not eating a diet of over 50% meat. They need a balanced diet, of more than just protein.
    Different breeds can tolerate higher protein. For a toy dog, under 27%, and a working dog can be 30-40%. Check with your breeder and vet.
  • Whelping area and box (see whelping) should be put up in a quiet area (not the kitchen if active) and she should be encouraged to sleep there. For an active kitchen the whelping box can be moved to the kitchen when pups are 3 weeks old. (Large breeds at 2.5 to 3 weeks, and toy breeds at 3.5 to 5 weeks).
A dam in a whelping box

Whelping box should be big enough for your dam to stretch out in, and have a doorway to go in and out. You do not want your dam to have to JUMP in and squish a puppy. Whelping box should have a guardrail to help eliminate suffocation and trapping behind dam (see photo of guardrail).

A litter of puppies laying in a corner of the whelping box

Guardrail inside whelping box (design, MistyTrails Havanese)

Two Puppies in the wooden whelping box in which the front is removed

Also, if the whole front of your whelping box is removable, then this makes whelping WAY easier. (design, MistyTrails Havanese).

Corner of the wooden whelping box

Corner of the whelping box (design, MistyTrails Havanese)

Seventh week

Days 42 to 49

Developed puppies continue to grow. Dam will start shedding her tummy hair. If you haven't shaved your dam you may start finding lots of hair on the carpets.


Increase food... avoid home-cooked unbalance foods. Try to make her eat a balanced diet, not just meat. But if your dam starts getting fussy, doctor up her meals with cooked chopped beef heart, liver, chicken hearts etc.... Some extra meat is good... too much can cause problems.

Stop all rough play and jumping.

At the end of this week, days 48 to 50, if your dam was on puppy food, make SURE to take the dam off of the puppy food and put her back on regular kibble. You can change gradually over a couple days, but you have to limit the calcium intake you are feeding so the dams body goes into "store calcium mode". Old school vets often put dams on puppy food during pregnancy if they are not thriving and puppy mills that are using dams as breeding machines may feel their dogs need the extra calories. Too much calcium in the last two weeks can put a complication on delivery and uterus contracting and also can cause the dam to not be able to store calcium as it was too readily available and can cause low calcium in the dams at approximately 2 weeks after whelp.

Eighth week

Day 49 to 57

When the dam is resting you can sometimes see and feel the pups moving. Pups can be born at any time now, but keeping them in for another week is much healthier, so avoid rough play.

dam laying on a tiled floor looking up at the camera holder

But  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>    BE PREPARED

pups could be born at any time!!!!!!!????????

Milk may be squeezed from the nipples by the end of the week. Some dams can get milk (colostrum) as early as day 45, but normally they do not.


Call your vet to book x-rays to determine size and number of pups. I like to do this on day 56 (54 to 58), but all vets differ, so call and ask. Also call and inform of dam's due date.

Gather Whelping Kit, and gas up your vehicle.

Give the dam NO calcium, no puppy kibble, no raw bones, no sardines, no cottage cheese or cheese, or calcium pills this week. She will get an ample amount in her regular kibble. If she is really fussy, and you feed Eukanuba kibble, try the canned version, but not the puppy version. Many dams in the last week are fussy, and will eat the canned food.

Ninth week

Days 57 to 65

IT IS TIME >>>>>>>>>  Are You Ready????

Nesting behavior may start or she may seek out a quiet area. Start taking her temperature three to five times a day.

Day 57 three times a day

Day 58 four times a day

Day 59 five times a day, and once middle of the night

Day 60 every hours during the day, and every four hours at night >>

MAKE SURE THE THERMOMETER is put in all the way each time, four inches inside the rectum using Vaseline.

Appetite may disappear.

Whelping: First Stage of Labor

Dam laying on a bed Pregnant dog stretched out in the lap of a girl and non-pregnant dog is stretchout in a ladies lap for comparison

Pregnant dog (left) not pregnant, (right) both dogs are Havanese

Courtesy of MistyTrails Havanese

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