Our veterinarians have developed this handout to give you some basic information about the reproductive pattern of the dog and guidelines to help you through the pregnancy, delivery and post delivery periods. Please feel free to contact Alta Rancho Pet & Bird Hospital at (909) 980-3575 if you have any questions relating to this handout or any aspect of your pet’s health care.

Reproductive Cycle of the Dog

Dogs go through a “heat” cycle (the time during which they are reproductively active) twice a year with an average time of 4-6 months between the cycles. The heat cycle lasts 21 days and is separated into three distinct phases.

  • Phase I (Proestrus):
    The first day of the cycle corresponds to the first sign of bleeding from the vagina. Generally, the bleeding will last about 9-11 days. During this time the vagina swells and prepares for sexual intercourse. The females are generally not receptive to the male during this phase but will attract many males due to the scent she releases.
  • Phase II (Estrus):
    Once the bleeding stops, the dog is at the peak of her fertility. The female will allow the male to mount her and successful breeding can occur. Generally, this period lasts from day 9 through 15 of the cycle.
  • Phase III (Diestrus):
    Beginning around day 15, the ovaries reduce the production of estrogen and the signs of being in heat subside. It takes months for the uterus to return to its quiet state.


It is important to make certain that your pet is in peak condition prior to breeding. This will help ensure a safe and productive pregnancy. We recommend all of the following be done well in advance of the heat cycle beginning:

  • Pre-Breeding Physical Examination
  • All vaccinations updated if necessary
  • Testing for the venereal disease “Brucella Canis” in both the stud and the bitch
  • Checking for Hip Dysplasia in breeds affected by it
  • Checking stool for internal parasites


In the dog, pregnancy will generally last from 59 to 65 days (averageing 63 days), counting day 1 as the first day of breeding.

Diagnosing pregnancy can be done by ultrasound examination beginning around day 20 of the pregnancy. Radiographic (x-ray) diagnosis of pregnancy can be done from day 42 on. Ultrasound allows us to see the internal organs of the puppies and evaluate if they are alive and healthy. Radiographs are best for counting the number of puppies and checking their size.

During pregnancy our veterinarians recommend the following:

  • Feed Select Balance Puppy Diet twice daily starting at 3 weeks
  • Beginning at 6 weeks, increase to 3 times daily feeding
  • Give 1 Palavite chewable vitamin supplement daily throughout pregnancy and lactation
  • Have ultrasound and/or x-rays taken after 42 days to determine health of puppies and prepare for delivery

Pre Delivery (week 8):

  • Prepare “whelping box” & clip hair around vagina and nipples.
  • Begin taking resting temperature and record daily.

Prepare Delivery Kit:

  • Betadine Soap
  • Towels
  • Bulb Syringe
  • Iodine
  • Scissors
  • Heating Pad
  • Clothes Pins
  • Milk Replacer
  • Strong silk or nylon thread (for tying off umbilical cords)
  • K-Y jelly
  • Nursing Bottles

Delivery (whelping)

Dogs deliver their puppies in sacs. When the sac appears at the vagina, it should rupture and the puppy will be delivered

If the puppy gets stuck in the birth canal, you must gently help it out. Use a liberal amount of K-Y jelly to lubricate the puppy and pull with a steady gentle pressure.

The time between puppy deliveries can vary from 1 minute to 5 or 6 hours.

After each puppy, there should be a bloody “placenta” delivered. It is normal for the dog to eat this tissue.If your dog is straining and yet no puppies are coming out, call us at 980-3575 or the Emergency Clinic at 981-1051 after hours!

Assisting the Newborn

When the puppy comes out, it will have a sac around it and a long umbilical cord connected to the placenta. You must do the following:

  • Remove the sacs from the puppy
  • Use a bulb syringe to suck the mucus out of the nostrils
  • Stimulate it by rubbing vigorously in a terry cloth towel
  • Clamp off the umbilical cord with a clothes pin
  • Cut the cord on the side of the pin away from the body. Leave about 2 inches of cord attached to the puppy.
  • Tie the umbilical cord with the thread
  • Dip the entire umbilical cord in iodine
  • Place the puppy on the teat if the mother is not delivering.
  • Keep all puppies warm by placing in box with heating pad set on low and towels over it. Make sure the room temperature is at least 72 degrees.
  • Puppies should be placed on the mother every 2-4 hours. If the mother isn’t lactating, use puppy milk replacer.

Post Partum (after whelping)

  • Bring in Mother and Puppies for exam and “clean out” shot the day after delivery.
  • Schedule dewclaw and tail removals (if indicated) on Day 3
  • Feed Select Balance puppy food 3-4 times daily for 3 months
  • Give Pet Cal Calcium supplement daily (1 tab per 20 pounds)
  • Give Palavite vitamin mineral supplement daily
  • Begin weaning puppies onto puppy food at 5-6 weeks.
  • Bring puppies in for first vaccinations at 6 weeks of age.