Your dog's gestation period lasts about two months -- an average of 63 days. During most of that time period, she'll keep her girlish figure. Most dogs don't gain significant weight or start to show the pregnancy until the sixth week. While the first part of the abdomen to enlarge is the area near the uterus, it's not something the dog owner is likely to notice.
Early Signs of Pregnancy
Early signs of pregnancy are subtle. If you didn't breed your dog deliberately and aren't looking for these clues, you might not notice them. Some dogs go through a period equivalent to "morning sickness" in women. Affected dogs might vomit for a few days. If your dog experiences morning sickness, divide her normal amount of food into several feedings, rather than once or twice daily. In the first weeks of pregnancy, dogs might gain a little weight, but not an amount large enough to noticeably increase abdominal size.
She's Starting to Show
Your vet can confirm whether your dog is pregnant when she's about 3 weeks through the gestation period. At that point, an ultrasound should be reliable. Your vet can palpate the dog to feel for puppies a month after the last breeding took place. From the sixth week on, your dog's abdomen starts to enlarge. Along with a swelling stomach, her teats also get bigger. This time period coincides with an X-ray's ability to detect the fetuses' bone structure. In the final two weeks of pregnancy, your dog's abdomen appears pendulous, with fetal movements apparent.
Care and Feeding
Your dog can consume her normal diet until she's in the fifth to sixth week of pregnancy. At that point, with veterinary approval, switch her gradually to a high-calorie puppy food. She can eat puppy food until her own puppies are weaned. Her exercise routine can remain the same until the last few weeks of pregnancy. By then, avoid any strenuous exercise and keep her away from other dogs. Provide her with a private, quiet place where she can get away from the household bustle and the presence of other pets or kids. You can put a whelping box in this area for her to give birth in when the time comes.
Here Come the Puppies
As her due date approaches, take her temperature in the morning and evening. A dog's normal temperature ranges between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When her temperature drops below 100 degrees, the puppies should arrive within a day. When the first pains of labor begin, your dog probably will become restless. She'll stop eating and might throw up. This stage can last for up to 12 hours. Have your vet's contact information handy in case of emergency, but remember that most dogs give birth without problems.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.