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How Long Is A German Shepherd Pregnant (Gestation Period)

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

german shepherd dog lying on sand

All dogs have a gestation period of 63 days, including German Shepherds. However, it can vary by a few days in some cases.

While this may seem like a specific number, it is usually challenging to tell exactly when a dog becomes pregnant. Knowing the gestational period isn’t helpful if you don’t know when your dog became pregnant in the first place.

Most dogs do carry their pups full-term. Preterm birth is quite rare in canines. Usually, if a dog goes into labor early, it’s because the puppies have already died and stopped growing in utero. Of course, preterm birth is possible – usually when there is an infection or something similar involved.

Being a few days off on either side is normal. Usually, this is caused by inappropriately determining when the dog became pregnant. Just because the puppies are a few days early doesn’t necessarily mean that they are preterm.

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Determining When a Dog Became Pregnant

If gestational age is going to do you any good, you need to determine when the dog became pregnant. Often, this is harder than it first appears. When the male and female get together isn’t necessarily when the female becomes pregnant.

Sperm can live inside a female for days. Usually, dogs mate before the eggs are ready to be fertilized. It works best when the sperm are already waiting upon the release of the egg.

Eggs themselves stay fertile for up to 48 hours. They can be fertilized anywhere in this period.

Therefore, the date of conception isn’t necessarily the same as when the dogs mated. It is nearly impossible for the average person to determine when the eggs were fertilized. There aren’t any outward signs that point to this happening!

Usually, dogs are pregnant anywhere from 58-72 days from the day they mate. This is a much more extensive range than what we discussed earlier, as it considers all the possible variables regarding when the eggs become fertilized.

However, some hormone tests can be helpful. Many professional breeders use these to determine pregnancy length and age. Usually, hormones are taken throughout the breeding process to help determine when the female becomes pregnant.

A rise in progesterone signifies that the eggs were just released. The eggs are only active for about 48 hours. Therefore, the breeder can accurately determine the date of conception within a two-day range using this method.

What Are the Stages of Dog Pregnancy?

Dogs are pregnant for a relatively short amount of time – only about nine weeks. Therefore, their pregnancy usually develops quite quickly.

Stage One

The first stage of pregnancy reaches from week zero to week four. During this time, the eggs travel to the uterine horns, which will embed in the uterine lining and start growing. Usually, this seemingly straightforward process takes about 16 days.

Dogs aren’t technically “pregnant” until the puppies embed into the uterine wall. The female won’t show symptoms during this period, as there isn’t anything telling her body that she’s pregnant.

The fetus will start to develop around day 22. A heartbeat is detectable on ultrasound only a week later – around day 28 to 30.

Unless you take your dog in for an ultrasound, it is nearly impossible to determine that your canine is pregnant at this point. The babies are hardly there. They don’t even implant until halfway through this stage.

sad german shepherd lying on sand
Image Credit: DanaTentis, Pixabay
However, some dogs may experience some symptoms shortly after the eggs implant:
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Morning sickness
  • More affectionate behavior
  • Increased appetite
  • Enlarged nipples

Stage Two

From week four to week eight, the fetuses develop very quickly. For instance, their toes are visible around day 35, and their claws form around day 40. Usually, you can determine the number of puppies in a litter by day 50, as all the skeletons will be visible.

Usually, those with accidental litter will figure out that their dog is pregnant during this period. Pregnant dogs often develop many of their symptoms at this time.

Of course, most breeders will already know that their dog is pregnant through the use of hormonal tests. During this month, they will continue to monitor the dog for health and provide proper vet care.

German Shepherd Eating
Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock
Here are some common symptoms during this stage of labor:
  • Behavioral changes
  • Decreased appetite (as the puppies take up more room)
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Weight gain
  • Increased appetite
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Visible puppy movement

Stage Three

During the final stage of pregnancy, the mother will mostly be preparing for birth. Nesting will start at the beginning of this period if it hasn’t already. Changes often happen quickly over a day or two as the mother’s body prepares for birth.

Puppy development is complete around day 58. Therefore, if the babies are born a few days early, there usually isn’t a problem. However, most puppies take a few days after development completion to move into a whelping position. For this reason, birth itself usually doesn’t take place for a few days after the puppies are entirely developed.

Usually, the female’s waist will decrease in size as the puppies move into the birthing canal. Puppies that were higher towards her ribs will move lower. Sometimes, apparent differences in her body shape are apparent. Once the puppies start moving, there are usually only a few days until labor begins.

It isn’t odd for the female to eat less in the few days leading up to the birth. This time is often a bit stressful for the mothers. They may pant and appear restless. Some act like they don’t have enough time for eating.

Breeders will usually monitor their dog’s temperature during this time. Usually, a dog’s temperature will drop 12 to 24 hours before birth.

dog pushing out placenta after giving birth
Image Credit: XIE WENHUI, Shutterstock

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How Do I Know If My German Shepherd is Pregnant?

Dogs do not show any symptoms when they first become pregnant. It takes a bit for the eggs to implant into the uterus, and there are no hormonal changes until this takes place. Therefore, the dog won’t show any symptoms until around week three at the earliest.

Most people don’t notice that their dogs are pregnant until month two. During this time, the fetuses develop very quickly. They only need about a month to develop. By day 58, puppy development is complete. The extra time on either end of the pregnancy is more setting up for pregnancy and the subsequent birth – not necessarily allowing the puppies to develop.

Dogs will gain all of their weight during the second month. Very rarely is any weight gained during the first month.

However, differences in behavior are sometimes noticeable as soon as the embryos implant. Hormone’s start being produced at this stage to help the female stay pregnant. Some of these hormones may make her more affectionate.

But other dogs don’t display any changes in behavior at all.

How Many Puppies Do German Shepherds Have in their First Litter?

German Shepherds have anywhere between 1 to 15 puppies. However, most dogs have around eight puppies. There is no way to determine how many puppies your dog might have unless you have an ultrasound later in their pregnancy.

There are several factors that determine how many puppies a dog has. Typically, larger dogs like German Shepherds have more than smaller dogs. Size also seems to be a significant factor. Larger German Shepherds often have more puppies, for instance.

There is also a genetic component, though it isn’t clear how significant genetics are.

Dogs that have more puppies sometimes have their puppies sooner. There seems to be a correlation between litter length and gestational time.

It could be that females find it harder to carry more puppies at once, so they give birth to them sooner. This situation is also found in humans. Those that carry twins and triplets often give birth early.

german shepherd feeding her puppies
Image By: FetViewRoom, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

All dog breeds are pregnant for about 63 days. However, it isn’t as simple as counting the number of days from when your dog mated. Usually, the day a dog mates isn’t actually the day that the eggs get fertilized.

If you’re counting from the day the female mated, she may be pregnant anywhere from 58 to 72 days. It depends on when the eggs were exactly fertilized, as sperm can live in the body for up to five days.

You can use specific hormone tests to determine when the eggs are released. Because the eggs can only be fertilized within a two-day period, this method usually gives you a pretty accurate idea of when your dog will give birth.

Of course, some slight variation is common. Not all dogs are pregnant for exactly 63 days. It isn’t odd for dogs to go a few days over or a few days earlier. All puppies are done developing around 58 days. It just takes them a bit to move into the birthing position and kickstart labor.

Dogs with larger litters usually give birth earlier than those with smaller litters.

In the end, you can usually guess your dog’s due date within a week – but it is difficult to get any more accurate than that!

Featured Image Credit: Christel SAGNIEZ, Pixabay

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