Do Dogs Go Past Their Due Date?

Typical Dog Pregnancy Duration

The normal gestation period for dogs is approximately 63 days from conception, though this may vary by several days. According to the American Kennel Club, pregnancy in dogs typically ranges from 58 to 68 days.

While 63 days is the average length, a dog’s pregnancy can be slightly shorter or longer depending on the breed. Smaller breeds, like Chihuahuas and toy poodles, tend to have a shorter gestation period around 58-63 days. For larger breeds, like Great Danes and St. Bernards, the pregnancy may last up to 68 days.

Regardless of breed, a healthy pregnancy in dogs is considered full-term between days 58-68 after the date of mating. Most puppies are born between days 63-65, but each dog is different. An experienced breeder tracks the days past mating to estimate the due date and looks for signs that labor is approaching.

What Happens as the Due Date Nears

In the final week leading up to delivery, there are some key physical and behavioral changes to look out for in an expecting mother dog. As her body prepares to give birth, the pregnant dog’s mammary glands will enlarge significantly and begin producing milk. Her belly will drop lower as the puppies shift into the birthing position (Embassy Lakes Animal Hospital). The mother dog may also begin nesting behaviors like scraping her bedding around and seeking secluded den areas. She may lose her appetite and seem unsettled or anxious as contractions start.(Baldivis Vet)

With the due date approaching, it is important to prepare a safe and comfortable whelping area for the mother dog. A large box or kiddie pool lined with towels, blankets, and newspaper works well. Make sure the space is in a quiet, peaceful area of the home away from other pets and high traffic. The temperature of the whelping area should be kept warm at around 85°F. Gather any supplies needed for the delivery and postpartum care such as sterile scissors, dental floss, gloves, and disinfectant. Have emergency veterinarian numbers on hand just in case. Providing an optimal whelping space helps set mother and puppies up for a smooth delivery.

Going Past the Due Date

It is not unusual for dogs to go a few days past their due date. According to the American Kennel Club, the normal gestation period for dogs is around 63 days from the day they ovulate until they give birth, with a range of between 58 to 68 days [1]. Smaller dogs tend to go into labor sooner than larger breeds.

While some fluctuation in the due date is normal, risks do increase if a dog goes more than 70 days past ovulation without giving birth. After 70 days, the puppies may grow too large to easily pass through the birth canal. Puppies that remain in utero for too long can also deplete their oxygen supply, putting them in distress. In addition, the placenta may begin to degrade, threatening the health of both the puppies and mother.

If your dog is more than a couple days overdue, contact your veterinarian. They may recommend medical interventions to induce labor or perform a cesarean section for the health of the puppies and mother.

Causes of Prolonged Pregnancy

There are several potential causes for a prolonged pregnancy in dogs:

  • Larger than average litter – Carrying a large litter often leads to delayed delivery. More puppies take up more room and require more nutrients, which can slow things down. The average litter is 4-6 puppies, so 8+ puppies is considered large. (Source)
  • Uterine inertia – Also called dystocia, uterine inertia is when the uterus does not contract properly to expel puppies. This prevents labor from progressing normally. There are two types – primary and secondary uterine inertia. (Source)
  • Mastitis – An infected mammary gland(s) can cause systemic illness and prevent the hormone changes needed for labor to begin. Mastitis is usually caused by bacteria. (Source)
  • Uterine infection – Infections of the uterus, like metritis or pyometra, can delay the start of labor. They cause inflammation and affect hormone balance. These infections require prompt veterinary treatment. (Source)

Signs of Overdue Pregnancy

There are several signs that may indicate your dog’s pregnancy has extended beyond the normal 63-day gestation period:

Restlessness – An overdue dog may pace relentlessly, unable to get comfortable. She may constantly change positions while lying down. This is a sign that the puppies should have arrived by now.

Lack of appetite – As the pregnancy extends well past the due date, a dog may lose interest in food and eat less than usual. This could be due to physical discomfort.

Change in vaginal discharge – A pregnant dog may develop a vaginal discharge that becomes foul smelling, contains blood, or appears greenish in color. This can indicate placental detachment or distress in the womb and requires prompt veterinary attention.

Distended abdomen – In an overdue pregnancy, the mother dog’s abdomen often appears swollen and distended. This happens because the puppies continue growing inside the cramped womb past the optimal due date.

According to veterinarians, these signs typically start becoming noticeable 1-2 weeks after a dog passes her due date and is still pregnant ( If you observe any of these symptoms, contact your vet to determine the next steps.

Risks of Overdue Pregnancy

Allowing a pregnancy to continue past a dog’s due date can pose serious risks to both the mother and her puppies. Some of the major risks include:

Stillborn Puppies – The longer a pregnancy continues past the due date, the higher the risk of stillborn puppies. Puppies that remain in utero too long may die from placental insufficiency or other complications. One study found the rate of stillbirth was 2 times higher in dogs who whelped after day 70 of gestation compared to those who whelped earlier (

Difficult Delivery – An overdue pregnancy often leads to larger puppies, which can cause obstructive labor as the puppies get stuck in the birth canal. Prolonged labor from uterine inertia or exhaustion is also more likely. This puts significant stress on the mother and increases the risk of needing an emergency C-section (

Health Complications – Both the mother dog and her puppies are vulnerable to health issues with an overdue pregnancy. The mother may develop life-threatening conditions like eclampsia or uterine infection. The puppies can exhibit low birth weight, low blood sugar, breathing difficulties, and jaundice (

When to Induce Labor

Most experts recommend inducing labor after the 70 day mark of pregnancy if signs of labor have not started naturally [1]. Allowing a pregnancy to continue beyond the typical 63 day gestation period can pose risks to both the mother and unborn puppies.

Inducing labor requires administering specific hormones like oxytocin via injection. This should always be done under the supervision of a veterinarian, as improper dosages and administration can be dangerous. Vets have the necessary medications, equipment for administering injections, and experience to monitor the mother and safely deliver the puppies once labor is underway.

While home remedies like nipple stimulation or calcium supplements may sometimes be effective for stimulating natural labor, induction should not be attempted without veterinary guidance. Owners who feel their dog is overdue should schedule an exam rather than trying to induce labor themselves.

Caring for an Overdue Mother

Caring for a dog that is past her due date requires paying close attention to her needs. Here are some tips for caring for an overdue mother dog:

Provide gentle exercise such as short, slow walks. This can help stimulate contractions, but be careful not to overdo it. According to WikiHow, “Make sure your dog doesn’t exert herself too much. Don’t let her run, jump, or play roughly.” [1]

Have a whelping box or nesting area ready for her. The whelping box should be in a quiet, comfortable area and lined with washable bedding. EverydayHealth recommends setting up the whelping box in advance so the mother dog feels comfortable with the space. [2]

Monitor for signs of complications like lack of appetite, vomiting, fever, or discharge. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms, as they may indicate issues like infection.

With close supervision and care, most dogs can remain healthy and deliver healthy puppies even if they pass their due date.

Outlook for Puppies

Usually the outlook for puppies born past their due date is normal if they receive proper care and monitoring after birth. Puppies born after a prolonged pregnancy are often smaller or weaker than average. However, with attentive nursing from the mother and supplementation with bottle feeding when needed, most puppies in this situation thrive.

It’s important to closely monitor the weight and overall health of puppies in the days and weeks following an overdue birth. Weighing puppies daily and watching for signs of failure to thrive can help identify any that may need additional support. Providing the mother with high-quality nutrition can help support milk production. Working closely with a veterinarian can ensure the best care if there are any concerns.

With diligent monitoring and proper care, the prognosis for puppies from an overdue pregnancy is generally very good. While they may face some initial challenges, most puppies in this situation go on to develop normally. Paying close attention and providing supportive care in the critical newborn period can give them the best chance at a healthy life.

Preventing Overdue Pregnancies

There are a few things dog owners can do to help prevent overdue pregnancies in their dogs:

Breed at optimal times – The best time to breed a dog is generally between the ages of 1-4 years old. Dogs bred during their prime reproductive years are less likely to experience pregnancy complications like going past their due date.

Ensure proper prenatal care – Providing excellent nutrition, exercise, and veterinary care can help support a healthy pregnancy and reduce the chances of prolonging gestation. Regular vet checkups allow monitoring for potential issues.

Discuss options with your vet – If wanting to avoid overdue pregnancies altogether, pet owners can explore spaying or other reproductive management options with their veterinarian. Vets can provide guidance on the best approach for each dog.

According to this source, spaying a dog is a minimally invasive surgery that can fully prevent future pregnancies. It is generally considered the most effective way to avoid overdue pregnancies and other pregnancy complications in dogs.

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