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Do you have a beloved German Shepherd who you suspect might be pregnant? Or are you thinking about breeding your German Shepherd?
German Shepherd mamas are typically pregnant for a period of approximately 63 days (9 weeks) after conception. However, it is often difficult to determine exactly what day conception occurred, so you should expect pups to be born anywhere between 58 and 72 days after mating.
After around three weeks, a veterinarian will be able to confirm pregnancy through the use of hormone tests and ultrasounds. This article will cover some considerations for keeping your pregnant German Shepherd healthy and happy.
How Long Are German Shepherds Pregnant?
How long are German Shepherds pregnant is kind of a tricky question! The date of mating may not necessarily be the date of conception, because conception may have occurred several days after mating.
Sperm can live inside of a female dog for several days. If the female ovulates during this time, that will determine the date of conception. In some cases, an egg is ready and meets with sperm on the day of mating–in that case, the gestation period will be approximately 63 days from mating.
As with humans, dog gestation periods may vary by a few days. Dogs carrying larger litters may give birth slightly earlier than dogs carrying fewer puppies, for example.
Professional breeders often use hormone monitoring to determine when a dog is ovulating, giving them a better sense of when conception may occur.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Pregnant?
For the first two weeks, you probably won’t observe any changes in your dog’s body or behavior.
After around three to four weeks, a veterinarian may be able to detect a heartbeat with an ultrasound. At that point you might notice some of the following in your dog, though it isn’t guaranteed:
- Affectionate behavior
- Changes in appetite
- Slightly increased nipple size
- Morning sickness/vomiting/nausea
- Some decrease in physical activity
What Happens During The Second Stage Of Pregnancy?
During the second stage of pregnancy (month two), the embryos grow rapidly and you will notice obvious signs of pregnancy, such as:
- Weight gain
- Increased appetite
- Frequent urination
- Vaginal discharge
- Changes in behavior
Toward the end of this stage, you may be able to see swelling or roundness in the abdomen or even observe the puppies moving around. At this time, the mama’s appetite may decrease because her stomach may be compressed by the uterus.
How Do I Know When My Dog Is Ready To Give Birth?
Around the beginning of the third month, the dog will start preparing to give birth (this is called whelping). This means that the puppies will move from the uterus down toward the birth canal, so you might notice that your dog has a trim waist again.
Other signs that your dog is preparing for whelping might include:
- Decrease in appetite
- Nesting behavior
- Restlessness or discomfort
You may want to monitor your dog’s temperature throughout the pregnancy because a drop in temperature may occur the day before whelping. (If you take her temperature often, your dog will be comfortable sitting still for the thermometer.)
Keep in mind all dogs have different personalities and this is true for pregnant dogs as well. Some dogs may want to be around you all the time during this phase, and others may hide. Some may do a little of both.
How Many Puppies Do German Shepherds Have?
After around the seventh month of pregnancy, a veterinarian will be able to see the litter on an x-ray. At this point, you will find out how many puppies to expect.
In many cases, larger breeds have larger litters. German Shepherds can have litters as large as fifteen puppies or as small as one puppy. Most German Shepherd litters are around seven or eight pups.
German Shepherds are not considered at high risk of having stillborn puppies as are some other breeds, but you should be sure your dog receives the best care and nutrition as all pregnancies carry some risk of stillbirth.
What Do I Feed A Pregnant Dog?
Ideally, a dog is healthy and fit before she becomes pregnant. A veterinarian can help you determine a good prenatal diet and exercise program for your dog before breeding. Once a dog is pregnant, one of the best things you can do for her health and the health of her puppies is to feed her a nutritious diet.
According to the American Kennel Club, a pregnant dog will thrive on a commercial diet that is at least 29 percent protein and 17 percent fat. Toward the end of pregnancy, a dog may consume up to 50 percent more food than is normal. Keep in mind that as your dog’s stomach is compressed, she may need to eat smaller meals more frequently.
If you need to change your dog’s food, it may be helpful to transition the dog slowly to the new food by mixing the two for a few days or a week.
Nutritional supplements are generally not recommended, so be sure to ask your vet before giving these to pregnant dogs.
Is Exercise Safe For Pregnant Dogs?
A dog’s activity level will noticeably change in the second phase of pregnancy. Walks will remain safe, but you may want to limit strenuous activity and active play.
It is important to keep an eye on your dog and make sure she can comfortably tolerate exercise. Shorter, more frequent walks may be a good alternative to long walks toward the end of her pregnancy. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise that she is healthy and fit enough for a successful whelping.
Some vets recommend that pregnant dogs isolate from other dogs for three weeks before and after whelping in order to avoid transmission of the Canine Herpes virus, which can be very dangerous to puppies. Keep in mind your pregnant dog may need to be isolated from other dogs in your home that may be exposed to outside dogs.
Other Safety Tips From Breeders
Ideally, you should make sure your dog is up to date on vaccination and worming before becoming pregnant, or as soon as you suspect a pregnancy. Most vaccinations and medications are safe for dogs to take during pregnancy. Speak to a veterinarian if your dog is pregnant but not up to date.
Toward the end of the pregnancy, the vet may want to examine the mama dog to make sure she can safely deliver the puppies. The vet may confirm that the puppies are small and can fit through the birth canal and that the mom dog doesn’t have any anatomical issues that may prevent a safe delivery.
If this is the first time you are whelping puppies, you may want to have an experienced breeder available at the whelping or who you can contact with questions.
The ideal age for a female German Shepherd to give birth is around age two or three. This ensures that she is old enough to handle her parenting capabilities but young enough to deliver a litter safely. German Shepherds over eight years of age should not continue to breed.
Am I Ready For Puppies?
Taking care of puppies is a big responsibility! Here are a few things to think about before the puppies arrive:
- Do you have a whelping box prepared, and where will it be in your home?
- Do you have all the supplies you need to make the whelping safe for mama and babies?
- Do you know what to expect in a normal whelping, and will you be able to tell when something is going wrong?
- Do you have an emergency vet in case something goes wrong?
- Do you know how to care for the pups in case the mother is unable to?
- Will the puppies be staying with you, or will you be finding them other homes?
If your dog accidentally became pregnant, you may want to consider spaying her after she fully recovers fully from the birth. Many dogs are already awaiting adoption, and it can be difficult to find homes, even for the cutest puppies. Your vet can guide you in making this decision. You cannot do this to stop an existing pregnancy or during pregnancy – however, you can have this procedure done a month or two after pregnancy to prevent any unwanted pregnancy in the future. Spaying is not recommended for dogs over 8 but can be safely performed with younger or middle-aged dogs.
Many resources are available to help you keep your dog and her pups healthy and happy. You may want to check out additional information for dog breeders on the American Kennel Club website.
Knowing how long are German Shepherds pregnant is an important first step to understanding how breeding works. Caring for a pregnant dog can be exciting and stressful. Make sure you have all the information and assistance you need so you can make the process go smoothly from beginning to end.