How to Know if Your Dog is Overdue

You've been there, you bred on this date and according to all the literature, your dog should have had her puppies. But...she hasn't. Now you are left wondering, is she okay? Are my dates off? But you may not be able to know for certain if your dog is overdue because you aren't sure how to tell that.

While it may not seem like a huge problem; after all, she'll have them when she has them, knowing when your dog is overdue is important for many reasons. We will go over a little snapshot of a normal dog pregnancy as well as work through the signs that your dog is overdue.

What is a Normal Dog Pregnancy?

A normal dog pregnancy lasts between 59 to 70 days from first tie.

Okay, before we look at whether your dog is overdue, I wanted to just discuss what a normal pregnancy is. Female dogs, after ovulation, enter what is called diestrus. If they have been successfully bred, the female will be pregnant. However, even if she wasn't successfully bred, her body will have many of the same hormones as a pregnant bitch.

For a female that isn't pregnant, diestrus lasts about 70 days. After 70 days, she enters anestrus, the period until her next heat.

However, if your bitch is pregnant, her pregnancy will last an average of 63 days. Large litters can come sooner than smaller litters. In addition, the size of your bitch can also affect how long her pregnancy is. Large and giant breeds tend to have longer pregnancies than toy breeds.

While the average gestation is 63 days, a normal canine pregnancy can last anywhere from 59 to 70 days. It should be noted that some vets extend this period to 57 to 72 days. With this in mind, it is important to realize that dogs do not have set due dates, they have windows where they are due. For that reason, a lot of vets don't look at in terms of being overdue and more that the window is closing.

When Do You Start Counting?

Counting from ovulation is the best way to determine if your dog is overdue.

This is a question that many people ask when they are first getting into dog breeding. Most literature will say that a dog will have her puppies 63 days from the first tie, or first breeding. While this is an excellent rule of thumb, it is not a hard science. In fact, your dog's pregnancy may not occur with the first breeding.

If you are not familiar with dog breeding, a female dog goes into heat. During those first few days, or even weeks, your female is not fertile. She may flag for a male and even stand for a mating even before she ovulates.

Around day 8, but the time varies with every female, your dog will have an LH, also called luteinizing hormone, surge. This is an indication that your dog is going to be ovulating in the very near future. For most dogs, that LH surge will mean ovulation in 2 days.

Once you see that LH surge, your dog's progesterone, which has maintained a baseline reading, will start to rise. Ovulation occurs when progesterone levels are 4 to 8 ng/ml (nanograms per millilitre), however, this is not when your dog is at her peak fertility.

In dogs, the oocyte, or egg, need to mature before they can be inseminated. This can take upwards of 60 hours for full maturity and before they start dying off. So when you are waiting for that peak period of fertility, you are looking for a number of around 20 ng/ml range.

So, if you have watched your bitch's progesterone levels, a dog's pregnancy is 63 days from the date of ovulation and not the date of the first tie. However, if you have done multiple breedings with the dogs, a good rule of thumb is to mark down each tie and then expect the puppies 63 days from each date. For instance, if you had two ties, expect the puppies between day 63 and day 65 from the first breeding.

But What Does that Mean for My Dog's Due Date?

Giant breeds tend to have longer gestation periods.

Now that we've looked at ovulation, you may be wondering what this means for your dog's due date. For basic knowledge, a dog is fertile for 2 to 5 days.

If you've done progesterone, you will have a better idea of when you should start seeing signs of labor. Because of the way ovulation works in dogs, they are often only fertile for 2 to 5 days. Progesterone testing is done to help pinpoint the exact moment when your dog is fertile but incorrect testing or not testing at all, can lead to some confusion in due dates.

Another problem that can occur with breeding without a progesterone test is that sperm can live in the bitch for 3 to 7 days. That means, even the last tie could be 3 to 7 days before ovulation. So with that in mind, if your dog is bred days 9, 11, and 13, it could give you a very large window of when your dog is due.

As mentioned above, you could have a due date of 59 to 70 days and many vets will recommend that you wait until 70 days from the last breeding.

3 Reasons My Dog is Overdue

Sometimes human error can lead you to think your dog is overdue when she isn't.

There are many reasons why a dog may be overdue and these are:

  • Human Error: Not breeding on the peak fertile days, miscounting, and not tracking progesterone to know exactly when your dog is due. Often, the dog is not overdue and it is us who are off on our calculations.
  • Singleton Puppy: Singleton puppies can result in hormone imbalances that prevents labor to be triggered. C-section intervention is necessary in these instances.
  • Dead Puppies: One or more puppies dead in the uterus, or near death, can lead to a delay in labor starting, making the dam overdue. An ultrasound can help determine that all puppies are still alive and doing well.

In general, there are not many reasons for a dog to be overdue so as your dam slip past her due date, it is important to stay in touch with your vet.

Signs my Dog is Overdue( What To Look For)

Your dog is overdue when her whelping window closes.

Well, your dog is pregnant, you have a confirmation of pregnancy and now you are waiting. Day 63 has come and gone and your dog still hasn't had her puppies. As you can see, her whelping window is closing and it can become quite alarming to wait. But is she overdue?

Generally, the only sign that your dog is overdue is that the window has closed. If your dog gets to day 70 or 72 from the day of the first tie, you should seek medical intervention to ensure that your dog does not lose her puppies.

Puppies that are left too long past that window closing will die and could end up causing a uterine infection in your bitch that could put her life at risk as well.

While it is not a sign, vets can use reverse progesterone testing to try to determine your dog's estimated whelping window. This is done in a similar manner as progesterone testing where the vet looks for the progesterone levels to fall, often signalling the start of labor.

Finally, another way your vet can determine if your dog is overdue is through an x-ray or ultrasound. He will determine if the pregnancy is viable, how many puppies are there, if they are in position for delivery and if they are too big for a natural delivery.

If your dog is overdue, your vet may intervene with a c-section. However, there are things that you can do to induce labor in your dog. 

As you can see, there is a lot of information that you need to understand when it comes to your dog's whelping window and fertility window. By understanding both, you will be able to determine if your dog is overdue or whether you are still within her whelping window.