Welcoming a new litter of Akita puppies can be an exciting experience. But before you can do that, you need to know what to expect when your female Akita is pregnant. Understanding her gestation period, unique diet needs during pregnancy, as well as physical, mental, and behavioral changes will help you provide the right kind of care to ensure a successful pregnancy and the birth of healthy puppies. Generally, pregnancy in dogs is relatively shorter than in humans, which is why each day matters for the health of both the mother and the pup. Whether you have a female Akita who isn’t spayed or you’re just curious, I’m here to address the basics of this breed’s pregnancy.
One of the most common questions is how long are Akitas pregnant for? The duration of an Akita’s pregnancy can be anywhere from 58 to 63 days, which is about nine weeks and a little over two months. This is measured from when she ovulates and doesn’t always match the day of breeding.
Are you thinking about breeding your Akita, or perhaps your bitch is pregnant with a surprise litter? You should know that having a pregnant dog, especially for first-timers, can seem overwhelming. You probably have many questions about their gestation period. Or, how often should you take them to the vet and how should you care for them to ensure they are comfortable and healthy throughout the process? Also, your Akita‘s pregnancy is going to be one of the most amazing yet vulnerable times for her. This guide will offer all the important information you need to prep yourself and the doggy mom-to-be. So, let’s jump right in:
How Long Are Akitas Pregnant For?
The standard gestation period for Akitas is between 58 and 63 days from conception, as with virtually all dog breeds. While this might seem like a straightforward answer, following an Akita’s gestation chart can be challenging. First off, conception is often difficult to pinpoint as sperms can live for several days within the female, not to mention eggs remain fertile up to 48 hours. This means that the day of mating is not an exact measurement of gestation, thus making it hard to predict the gestation period without the assistance of a vet. Secondly, although most dogs give birth on the 63rd day, the Akita doesn’t always follow this rule book. Some may deliver as early as on the 56th day.
Needless to say, this is a pretty short gestation period, meaning the dog is going through some major changes pretty quickly. It’s important to make regular visits to the vet to monitor the pregnancy and chart its weekly development. Though the entire gestation period is short, it can still be broken down into three trimesters. Each stage has some key milestones that you should be aware of:
This is the first three weeks of pregnancy, and nothing much is happening as the embryos are barely begging to develop. The embryos will travel to the uterine horns by day 7 for implantation into the uterine lining by around day 16. By the end of the 3rd week, the embryo will begin to take shape, and the head and spine may be distinguishable.
Fetal development moves pretty fast during the second stage of pregnancy, which is weeks four through six. The puppies’ organs are developing, including their sex organs. Their leg buds are lengthening, toes are visible, eye lids are forming, skeletons are developing, and they’ll also start to grow claws and whiskers. The puppies’ skin pigmentation is also developing into the colors they’ll be when they are born.
The puppies are fully developed by day 58 of the pregnancy and will start moving into the birthing position in the bitch’s birth canal.
How Many Puppies Do Akita Have?
If you have a pregnant Akita, you’re probably wondering how many puppies she will give birth to. Well, Akita females have litter sizes ranging from 3-12, with a median of about 7 or 8 pups. Since this is just an estimate, the best way to know for sure is to do an x-ray. The perfect time to have the vet do this is after day 45 of the pregnancy, usually about two weeks before the estimated due date.
There’s value in knowing how many puppies your pregnant Akita is expecting. For starters, it helps you and the vet to determine a safe birthing plan for the dog. It also ensures you provide your Akita with a large enough whelping box to fit the whole family and lets you stock up on supplies such as food, eating bowls, beds, etc. Reputable breeders often have a waiting list of potential dog owners even before the actual mating is scheduled. So, knowing the litter size may determine how many clients are catered for and help estimate income.
Factors Influencing Litter Size
Saying your Akita can give birth to 3-12 puppies is a huge disparity. That’s because several different things can influence the size of the dog’s litter, such as:
Method of conception – Natural conception tends to produce larger litters than artificial insemination because, in the latter, some sperm cells inevitably die during collection, storage, and the insemination process. The date of impregnation also matters. Experts have discovered that females that conceive within 48 hours of ovulating will likely have a larger litter.
Age – Female Akitas can reproduce their entire life cycle. However, they are most fertile during early adulthood, usually between two and seven years of age. The litter size decreases as they get older. The dog’s first litter is the exception to the rule since it’s typically smaller than subsequent litters.
Health and nutrition – Pregnancy can be pretty taxing on your Akita’s body, and if they are not in good health to begin with, they probably won’t have a large litter. A healthy, strong diet will also have a great influence on the litter size.
How Do I Know If My Akita Is Pregnant?
Since dog pregnancy is such a short and rapid phenomenon, it can certainly sneak up on you, especially if you’re not a breeder. To make things trickier, your female Akita will generally show no signs of pregnancy in the first few weeks. You may notice a bit of weight gain, but that isn’t uncommon for Akitas, especially if they’ve been getting extra treats with minimal or no exercise. Additionally, Akitas generally don’t carry their pregnancies in their loin area as common with most dog breeds; instead, their pregnancy is hidden under the ribs and only drops into their bellies when they get closer to delivery.
Behavioral changes are also common in pregnant dogs. For instance, your Akita may look for extra attention and become overly clingy or seek isolation and not wish to be bothered. She may also seem irritable or depressed.
Noticeable symptoms won’t appear until the 3rd or 4th week. These include lethargy, lack of appetite, and possible vomiting – it’s very much like the morning sickness pregnant human mothers experience. Again, these symptoms could result from a medical condition, so it’s best to consult a vet. One commonly cited sign of pregnancy in dogs is red, enlarged, or swelled nipples, but this could also happen if the bitch is in heat. Of course, the teats will grow larger throughout the pregnancy as she produces milk for the coming puppies. A small amount of clear discharge may also come from the nipples.
If you suspect your Akita is pregnant, the best way to know for sure is to take them to the vet, who will perform an ultrasound or take x-rays. Your vet may also check blood vessels for the hormone relaxin, which is only present in pregnant dogs. Vets can also detect pregnancy simply by feeling the dog’s belly, which is called abdominal palpation. While this is the most economical and traditional way of diagnosing pregnancy in dogs, it is not 100% accurate and doesn’t reveal any possible problems associated with the pregnancy.
What Should You Feed A Pregnant Dog?
We already know that good nutrition is key to a healthy dog throughout its life. But nutritional needs will change when a female dog becomes pregnant. Optimal nutrition during this period is essential for a number of reasons, such as:
- Optimizing the number of puppies per litter
- Ensuring a healthy pregnancy and the birth of healthy puppies
- Providing the bitch with the best ability to deliver her puppies
- Fetal development
At the very start of the pregnancy, the nutritional requirement for a bitch are pretty much the same as those of a young adult dog. This means that if they already have a high-quality diet, you don’t need to change anything. About week five of the pregnancy, the dog’s energy needs will increase by 10% every week after that as the pups develop. At this stage, you need to provide more high-energy foods and start increasing the quantity gradually. She should be eating about a third more than usual by week nine.
Puppies experience their most rapid development during the last stage of pregnancy, needing lots of nutrients from their mother. Experts have specific dietary recommendations for pregnant dogs at this stage, which include a high-calorie diet without too much bulk. It should contain at least 29% protein, 17% fat, low fiber content, and high amounts of soluble carbs. She will also need calcium and phosphorous for ensuring adequate milk production and proper bone formation in the puppies. The challenge during this stage of pregnancy is that the abdomen is filled with puppies, leaving little room for food in the gastrointestinal tract. In that case, provide small portions more frequently.
It’s natural for a dog to gain weight during her pregnancy; even so, she shouldn’t put on so much weight. By the end of the pregnancy, a healthy weight would be 15-25% of her original weight. Being overweight/obese increases the risk for difficult or prolonged labor and extra stress on the puppies. Subsequently, underfeeding can result in embryo loss, small litter size, spontaneous abortion or stillbirth, low birth-weight puppies that fail to survive, and abnormal fetal development.
Clearly, the question of how long are Akitas pregnant for is just the beginning. There’s a lot more to learn about dog pregnancy than I can fit in one article. If your Akita is pregnant or you’re considering getting her pregnant, work closely with a vet to provide the best care for her and her puppies.