If you have a female German Shepherd, there will come a time that she might get pregnant. And should that time come, you might end up unsure of how to feel or have no idea what to do to take care of your dog. If it’s your first time, things can even get scary, and you may find yourself panicking not knowing how to respond. Trust me, I know how it feels.
I remember the first time a German Shepherd of mine got pregnant. I was clueless then and so I just let things happen. I just left the mom alone with her puppies and just watched from afar. Sad to say only 1 of the 3 puppies survived. I now look back thinking that I could have probably done something to help.
I don’t want you to feel the same regret. And such is why in this article I will strive to provide you with a complete guide to German Shepherd pregnancy. In it, you’ll learn everything from confirming your dog’s pregnancy, how to take care of your pregnant dog, and what you can expect when she finally gives birth.
How To Tell If Your German Shepherd Is Pregnant
To verify if your German Shepherd is indeed pregnant you should first check if it is of age. From then you then check for the common signs of dog pregnancy.
At What Age Can German Shepherds Start Getting Pregnant?
Generally, dogs can start getting pregnant from around six months to fifteen months old. Large dogs, like your German Shepherd, will usually have their first heat in the latter months. That said, there isn’t a defined number for when German Shepherds can start getting pregnant. So, as a general guideline, if your GSD is past six months old, you may consider the possibility of pregnancy.
Signs Of Dog Pregnancy
Again, if your German Shepherd is of age, you can then check for the signs of dog pregnancy. Note, however, that some of these may not be obvious, especially during the earlier stages.
Vomiting Or Sickness. Similar to morning sickness in humans, your dog may exhibit some sickness in the early stages of pregnancy. She may have a drop in appetite and may sometimes vomit.
Fatigue. Along with morning sickness, your dog may also exhibit fatigue in the early stages of pregnancy.
Increase In Appetite. To accommodate for her puppies, your German Shepherd will show an increase in appetite and start to eat more food. This appetite change is particularly prevalent during the second half of your dog’s pregnancy.
Weight Gain. Your dog will also be gaining weight throughout pregnancy. This gain can go up to a 50% increase in weight and will become more prominent in the second half of pregnancy.
Enlargement Of The Nipples. At around 25 days into the pregnancy, your dog’s nipples will start to enlarge and become pinker. They may also discharge a small amount of clear liquid.
Check With A Veterinarian
While the signs may often be enough to confirm pregnancy, they may sometimes be inaccurate. In some cases, a dog may exhibit false pregnancy, a condition in which your dog may show maternal behavior and signs of pregnancy despite not being pregnant. So, to fully confirm your German Shepherd’s pregnancy, consult your veterinarian.
To check, your veterinarian may use one of the following methods:
Hormone Tests. Veterinarians will test for relaxin, which is a hormone produced only during pregnancy. This hormone test is accurate, but it does require your dog to be at least 30 days into the pregnancy. Otherwise, it will result in a negative.
Palpation. With this test, your veterinarian will confirm pregnancy by touching and feeling for fluid-filled sacs. These sacs form as the fetus develops, and can be felt between the 21st to 35th day of pregnancy.
X-ray. While usually used to determine the number of puppies, x-rays can also serve as a way to confirm pregnancy. The bones, however, don’t become visible until at least 42 days into the pregnancy. So, it might be a bit too late for confirmation.
Ultrasound. As with humans, ultrasound also serves as a great way to confirm pregnancy in dogs. But not only do they detect pregnancy, but they can also determine if the fetus is alive by checking the heartbeat.
How Long Are German Shepherds Pregnant?
After you’ve confirmed your German Shepherd’s pregnancy, you then ought to know how long the whole process takes. Well, the standard duration usually lasts for 63 days, but it can fall from anywhere between the 58th and 68th day. Note that the actual date may vary depending on the size of the dog and the number of puppies. Thus, the 10-day range.
Week-by-week Pregnancy Timeline
As an overview of the entire pregnancy, here’s a week-by-week timeline:
After breeding, the sperm reaches the eggs and fertilization will occur. With that, there will be hormonal changes in your dog, but there won’t be any visible physical or behavioral changes. At this point, you don’t need to change anything with regards to caring for your dog.
In week 2, the fertilized eggs travel down to the uterus for implantation. At this point, your dog may start exhibiting slight behavioral changes such as becoming moody or more affectionate.
At this point, the embryos begin to develop. You can expect mood swings, appetite changes, and the start of breast tissue development. Other than that, continue with the usual routine. You can, however, slightly increase your dog’s food if you notice an increase in appetite.
On week 4, specifically on day 25, you should bring your German Shepherd to the veterinarian for a formal check-up. Through ultrasound, the veterinarian will be able to confirm the pregnancy, provide an estimate for the litter size, and catch any existing issues with the pregnancy.
At this point, you can once again increase your dog’s food slightly. You should also continue providing exercise, but never to the point where your dog may over-exert herself.
The first stage of pregnancy, embryogenesis, ends at this point. At this stage, the fetus’ organs have begun to form, and their weight increases up to as much as 75%. Along with that, your dog will also have an increase in both weight and appetite. As usual, adjust your dog’s food as needed. Your German Shepherd may experience a decrease in appetite as early as this point, so you may have to start serving smaller meals.
Around day 42, your dog will enter the third stage of pregnancy. In this stage, the fetal skeleton becomes solid, and its claws will start to grow. Expect both the fetus and your German Shepherd to gain weight.
If she hasn’t yet, your dog may experience a decrease in appetite. So, you’d have to adjust her diet to account for the needed nutrients. It is recommended that you feed her with a high-energy, high-protein diet through small meals throughout the day.
By week 7, the puppies will have developed some hair, and their bones have begun to take shape. This week, you should once again visit the veterinarian to check for parasites or worms that may cause infection.
Your German Shepherd will also start shedding hair from her belly in preparation for the nearing birth. At this point, you should get ready for whelping by setting up a safe, quiet, and comfortable space for your dog.
By week 8, around day 50, the puppies will already have fur, and their skeletons will have solidified. Your German Shepherd teats will begin to swell, and she will also start lactating by this time. Your dog may also exhibit nesting behavior, characterized by restlessness and activity around the whelping area.
To help your dog at this point, you may trim her hair around her nipples and vulva. Also, if you don’t notice any lactation, contact your veterinarian so you can prepare alternative milk as needed.
By week 9, the puppies are ready for birth and may come out on any day. Be sure the whelping area is prepared for birth. Line up the floor with towels and blankets for insulation and absorption of fluids.
Whelping (Giving Birth)
The day has come and your German Shepherd will finally give birth. Your job at this point is to supervise and make sure your dog is comfortable at all times. Other than that, you won’t have to do much as your dog will be able to handle the birth on her own.
You will, however, have to maintain the ideal temperature of around 86 degrees Fahrenheit during the first 24 hours after delivery. After that, you should then reduce and maintain a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the puppies warm and comfortable. You may also tear open the fetal sacks your dog fails to tear.
Just remember that whatever you do, do not pull the puppies free from the birth canal, as it could cause damage to both the mother and the puppy. In fact, if you encounter that or any of the following issues, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately:
- Active straining and contractions for 30 to 60 minutes without producing a puppy.
- Expelling foul smelling or bloody vaginal discharge.
- Muscle weakness, spasms, and lethargy.
Post Birth And Recovery
If everything goes well you can proceed to remove the soiled towels and replace them with clean bedding. Do so, however, only when you can do it without causing distress to both the mother and the litter.
You can also clean the blood and birthing fluid off the mother, but not the puppies, by using a warm, damp cloth to help avoid any infections.
Also, keep in mind that it is completely normal for the mother to continue leaking even after a few weeks after whelping. That said, if the leaks have an odor or are grey in color, consult with your vet, as it may indicate infection.
Lastly, be sure to always check on your dog and her puppies. Make sure the mother is nursing her puppies, and if not, consult with your vet immediately. If she is, it will most likely cause an increase in her appetite, so feed her accordingly with high-protein food.
Taking Care Of A Pregnant German Shepherd (Summary)
Just to summarize some of the points presented on the timeline, here’s how to take care of your pregnant dog:
Adjust Diet Accordingly. Your dog’s appetite will change throughout pregnancy. So, you’ll have to adjust the amount of her food accordingly. At around weeks 5 and 6 you should start serving smaller sized, high-protein, high-energy meals.
Exercise. You may provide your dog exercise, especially at the earlier phases of pregnancy. Just be careful to never over-exert your dog. In general, a light stroll would be just fine.
Regular Check-Ups. Be sure to work with your veterinarian throughout the pregnancy. As mentioned, take your dog to the vet on weeks 4 and 7 of the process.
Other FAQs About German Shepherd Pregnancy
How Many Puppies Can A German Shepherd Have?
German Shepherds typically have eight puppies on average, but they can also have up to fifteen puppies, depending on the mother’s health. A healthy German Shepherd will be more likely to have a large litter.
Does My German Shepherd Need A C-Section?
If your German Shepherd fails to expel a puppy after 2 hours of active strain and contraction, it may indicate the need for a C-Section. Also, if you notice any signs of weakness or illness in the mother, take her to the vet immediately.
What Color Are German Shepherds When Born?
German Shepherd puppies may be born as black, gray, or white, which will change as they grow. Their true coat color will usually manifest at about eight weeks of age.
Why Do German Shepherds Eat Their Puppies?
There are a variety of reasons why your dog will eat her puppies. One of which is their instinct to rid the litter of unhealthy puppies through a mercy killing of sorts. Sometimes, however, it may be accidental or caused by stress or hormonal issues.
When Should You Start Breeding Your German Shepherd?
Ideally, you should start breeding your German Shepherd after her second or third heat cycle, or at around two years of age.
When Should You Stop Breeding Your German Shepherd?
It’s highly recommended that your dog be retired from breeding at around eight years old.
Should You Spay Your German Shepherd?
This one, of course, entirely depends on your intentions. Do you intend to breed your dog? If not, then you may consider spaying.
That wraps it up for this article on German Shepherd pregnancy. I hope I was able to provide the necessary information you need to get ready for the whole process.
I know the whole experience can be quite overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. But in the end, it is a beautiful and straightforward process that leads to life. So bear through it and support your German Shepherd to the fullest. It will be worth it!