German Shepherd Pregnancy Length, Stages, Signs & Care Tips

German Shepherd pregnancy feeding four puppies on green meadow

Finding your German Shepherd pregnant must be very thrilling yet stressful. If you’re a first-time dog parent, it can be challenging to determine initially whether your dog is really pregnant or not.

Not to mention, it can be equally taxing to learn how to provide the best care for your pregnant GSD.

Luckily, in this article, you will learn the early stages and signs of your dog’s pregnancy and the essential factors to consider when caring for your German Shepherd and its puppies. So, continue reading to find out!

How Long Is a German Shepherd Pregnant?

German Shepherds, like other dogs, have a 63-day gestational period. It is approximately nine weeks of total pregnancy, but a female German Shepherd can give birth as soon as 58 days or as late as 68 days.

This 10-day difference in the average length of German Shepherd gestation may vary depending on the number of puppies and the size of the mother. To put it simply, the more puppies there are, the longer it takes, and vice versa.

An average German Shepherd’s litter size is approximately eight puppies. In some cases, a pregnant German Shepherd may only have one puppy, while huge litters might produce up to 15 puppies.

Generally, in canines, preterm delivery is uncommon, and most pregnant dogs deliver their puppies at full term.

However, being a few days earlier or later is normal and is frequently caused by a wrong assessment of the date when a female German Shepherd becomes pregnant.

Hence, it is necessary to consult with a licensed veterinarian to find out your pregnant German Shepherd’s exact gestational age.

Furthermore, if you know when your German Shepherd has mated, you can use a dog pregnancy calculator to acquire an accurate estimate of its due date.

How to Tell If Your German Shepherd Is Pregnant?

Many breeders or even seasoned owners find it difficult to tell if their German Shepherd is pregnant, especially in the early pregnancy stages.

Furthermore, unlike humans, there is no at-home pregnancy test for animals.

However, your veterinarian provides trustworthy ways to confirm your German Shepherd’s pregnancy using modern technology, which includes the following:

  • Abdominal Ultrasound: This is used to detect fetal heartbeats that will give you the estimated number of puppies a pregnant German Shepherd is carrying. Veterinarians perform ultrasounds between 25 and 35 days of gestation.
  • Hormone Tests: A hormone test is used by a veterinarian to diagnose a German Shepherd’s pregnancy through a blood test. They will analyze the levels of relaxin, a pregnancy hormone that is taken throughout the breeding process, using a blood sample from dogs.
  • X-rays: Performing an x-ray or radiography produces clear images of the puppies’ skeletal structure and helps predict their size and position. The veterinarian will determine the exact number of German Shepherd puppies in the womb 55 days or more after breeding.
  • Abdominal Palpation: It is a traditional way to detect pregnancy of German Shepherds. It is done around the 28 to 30-day mark by looking for uterine swellings that indicate the existence of developing puppies.

Consulting your veterinarian is the best course of action to know if your German Shepherd is pregnant, particularly if you’re a first-time breeder or are still unsure of what to do as an owner.

Although German Shepherds are independent during pregnancy, there are still a lot of preparations you must make before the puppies are delivered.

Luckily, you’ll find some tips on taking care of a pregnant dog in the latter section!

When Can German Shepherds Get Pregnant?

A pregnant German Shepherd female dog poses during a moment of rest

Generally, the average age for a German Shepherd to get pregnant is around two years old, but it can be as early as five months old.

Additionally, because German Shepherds are a large breed, it takes them a while to fully mature before getting pregnant. So, they must be at least 18 months old if you plan to breed them.

Once they reach full maturity, German Shepherds can be pregnant during the fertilization period in the second stage of their heat cycle.

The heat cycle of female dogs consists of proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. During the proestrus stage, female dogs begin to attract males, which will last for nine days.

Meanwhile, during estrus, a female dog is marked as available to a male dog, usually lasting for three to four days.

Then, the diestrus is the final day of the reproductive cycle when the female dog will no longer permit mating.

However, like other large dog breeds, a German Shepherd Dog has its first heat cycle in the latter months. Thus, there is no precise date at which it can get pregnant.

Yet, you can expect your dog to be pregnant when it is six months old because it is when the anestrus phase occurs. It is the time elapsed between one heat cycle and the next.

That said, knowing the four stages of the heat cycle is important for estimating how long German Shepherds are pregnant.

German Shepherd Pregnancy Stages (Week–by–Week Breakdown)

German Shepherds have an average gestation period of nine weeks before giving birth, and if you’ve never dealt with a situation like this before, this section will discuss everything you need to know.

This German Shepherd pregnancy week-by-week timeline will guide you through the different stages of your German Shepherd’s pregnancy. This will inform you what measures to take during your dog’s pregnancy.

Week 1 

Within a few days after breeding, the sperm reaches the eggs, and fertilization occurs. This process will make your German Shepherd’s reproductive system ready for pregnancy.

During the first week, your dog won’t exhibit any observable physical or behavioral changes yet, so you can feed and play with it normally.

Week 2

Fertilized egg cells will begin to develop, separate, and descend towards the uterus for implantation between the 12 and 13-day mark during the second week.

There will be no physical changes to the German Shepherd, but it will become either more affectionate or irritated. Therefore, getting your female dog groomed is advised to lessen its stress.

Week 3

During the third week, the embryos will begin to travel to the uterine horns to embed themselves in the uterine wall.

The embryos will continue to develop while receiving essential nutrients within the womb through the uterine lining.

Some body parts, including the placenta and nervous system, will develop on the 18th day. The placenta will be fully formed by the end of this week.

In addition, your German Shepherd may gain weight, and its abdomen might begin to swell. Your German Shepherd’s nipples are also likely to enlarge and get pinker in color.

If you notice these changes, confer with your veterinarian, who will provide veterinary advice about the right food and diet plan for your pet.

Week 4

This week is the most critical stage when a fetus develops facial features, limbs, and vital organs. So, your German Shepherd must avoid rough play and serve its food in smaller portions.

While your dog’s body will adapt to handling the puppies, you should prepare for morning sickness, occasional vomiting, and frequent urination.

This is also the optimal time to bring your German Shepherd for an ultrasound after the 25th day to know how many puppies your dog expects.

Week 5

The fetuses develop their sex organs and begin to resemble actual puppies during this period. On day 35, all major organs of the puppies should already have developed.

Meanwhile, your German Shepherd’s abdomen will start to swell more, and it will have an increased appetite.

Thus, a pregnant GSD might increase her weight by 20 to 50 percent as it has growing puppies in its abdomen. Therefore, it will need more calories and nutrients than usual.

Furthermore, it will avoid normal routines like walking and become more sensitive because of discomfort.

Week 6

The puppies develop more rapidly and should have their skin colors. Their eyes remain closed but have lids, claws form, and their heads begin to grow hair for the first time.

Furthermore, your female dog will be more uncomfortable and may occasionally vomit because of the increased pressure on its stomach. There will also be clear vaginal discharge, which is completely normal.

You will also notice an increase in the size of your dog’s nipples as they prepare to produce “first milk,” also known as colostrum, for the puppies.

You can also hear a puppy’s heartbeats using a stethoscope in the sixth week.

Week 7

Puppies are now fully grown, and their movement inside your dog’s belly will be visible as they begin to move into the whelping position in the birth canal.

Additionally, the German Shepherd Dog’s breast will start to produce colostrum.

Your German Shepherd’s abdomen will enlarge and begin to shed fur as it prepares for birth. It will also decrease appetite and produce a clear and odorless vaginal discharge.

Furthermore, preparing a whelping box for your female dog to nest in and give birth within the next few weeks should be done during this period.

Week 8

Puppies have grown fur and are swarmed into the uterus, moving towards the birth canal. Also, your German Shepherd Dog will spend the majority of its time in the whelping box digging in the bedding.

Due to the puppies pressing into the German Shepherd’s abdomen, you will notice a sudden decrease in your dog’s appetite.

It will also feel restless as its body grows, so give your dog the comfort and attention it needs, especially when it is in pain.

You can also get an X-ray examination to determine how many puppies your German Shepherd will have.

Week 9

During the last week of pregnancy, the puppies are now fully developed and ready to be born, moving toward the birth canal.

You will notice that your German Shepherd may appear uncomfortable, restless, or anxious during this stage. Keep an eye on your dog as it seeks a safe place to give birth.

To make your dog feel at ease and to avoid stress, keep your house clean and quiet. Afterward, you must start taking its rectal temperature every 12 hours.

Be aware that a dog’s normal temperature is between 100 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit, so if it drops to 97 degrees after the second reading, labor will start within the next 24 hours.

Being knowledgeable about canine education will help put you a step forward in any situation, especially during your German Shepherd’s pregnancy.

In this way, you always obtain the best possible outcomes and perhaps get to meet your litter of healthy puppies.

German Shepherd Pregnancy Signs

Apart from the fact that conception is unpredictable and varies from dog to dog, no noticeable physical changes occur during the early stages of pregnancy.

Nevertheless, similar to people, there are some early signs and symptoms that can indicate if a German Shepherd is pregnant:

  • Change in appetite
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Unusual weight gain
  • Sudden behavioral changes, such as being extra affectionate or moody
  • Larger, discolored nipples
  • Gets easily tired
  • Vomiting or morning sickness
  • Digging or nesting behavior
  • Excessive belly fur shedding

Be aware that even if your German Shepherd is not pregnant, it may still exhibit unusual behavior and pregnancy-related symptoms.

Thus, most German Shepherd breeders always prefer to seek veterinary advice to prevent false pregnancy.

READ NEXT: 10 Best German Shepherd Breeders (2023): Our Top 10 Picks!

German Shepherd Stages of Labor

You are now a step closer to meeting your German Shepherd puppies! However, before that, as an owner, you must ensure your dog is at ease through every phase of labor.

This section will provide information about the labor stages of dog pregnancy, how to get ready before the labor begins, post-birth care, and nursing your dog and its puppies.

Labor Stage I

A whelping female German Shepherd will experience occasional minor contractions before the onset of active labor. 

Your dog will be breathing rapidly, moving around restlessly, moving in and out of the nesting box, and sleeping more deeply than usual.

Contact your veterinarian if this situation persists for more than eight hours without moving on to stage two.

Labor Stage II

The contractions will be visible, and your German Shepherd pups will start to breathe heavily and appear extremely alert.

After 15 minutes of active straining, the first puppy will emerge from the German Shepherd’s birth canal in slimy, fluid-filled sacs. Within the second or third contraction, this sac should be expelled.

The placenta follows the puppy, which your German Shepherd may eat. Assist the mother if it begins tearing the sac by manually removing it.

This allows the puppy to breathe and do it within 30 seconds after birth, keeping the mother nearby.

During the whelping process, your German Shepherd might take a two-hour break, but it is also necessary to know if something is wrong and when to call a veterinarian.

For instance, if it has been more than two hours and there is still no puppy after the first delivery or your dog has only green discharge or fetal membranes but no puppies, you should call the vet immediately.

If one of these scenarios occurs, an emergency C-Section will be performed instead of natural birth.

Labor Stage III

At this final stage, the placentas inside the womb should already have been delivered. Puppies should be nursed as soon as they are born and must consume colostrum within 24 hours.

Colostrum, also known as the “first milk,” provides the puppies with the nutrients and antibodies they need to develop their natural resistance to infections.

Your German Shepherd Dog may chew the umbilical cord during delivery. If not, you may need to cut it away from the puppy’s body by about an inch or two to protect its internal organs.

Since the German Shepherd’s abdomen is too large compared to the size of the puppies, it is more challenging to determine if the whelping process is already finished.

Therefore, it is preferred to have your dog an ultrasound or X-ray test to check how many puppies are present and prevent a potentially fatal infection.

Meanwhile, you should be aware of health problems your German Shepherd may develop after giving birth, such as metritis, eclampsia, mastitis, and agalactia.

Watch the video of a pregnant German Shepherd giving birth to nine puppies:

German shepherd Giving birth to 9 puppies - (First Litter)

Caring for a Pregnant German Shepherd

As a breeder or owner, you must take specific measures to ensure that your pregnant German Shepherd will have a comfortable pregnancy and the best moment of giving birth to healthy pups.

The first important thing is ensuring your German Shepherd receives proper nutrition. Consult your veterinarian to learn about your pet’s nutritional requirements, particularly daily food and supplements.

During the final weeks of pregnancy, your dog’s weight will increase, so it is advised to increase the food intake by 35 to 50 percent gradually.

Feed your dog small portions of meals instead of large ones to prevent discomfort.

Aside from food, if you intend to breed your German Shepherd, limit your dog’s strenuous exercise so that it can rest and nourish its puppies.

In addition, veterinary guidance is required to keep your dog healthy throughout pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

German Shepherd pregnancy feeding newbown puppies

How Many Puppies Do German Shepherds Have?

A German Shepherd can have one to fifteen puppies in a normal litter. Meanwhile, the average litter size is eight puppies, and they can have two litters per year.

How Long Do German Shepherds Stay in Labor?

Generally, the labor of a German Shepherd lasts for six to twelve hours. Each puppy is born 30 to 60 minutes apart, but your German Shepherd may take a break of two hours between puppies.

Why Do German Shepherds Eat Their Puppies?

German Shepherds do not eat their puppies. Instead, they eat the placenta. A mother dog usually chews the placenta after giving birth. This will act as a meal that replenishes the nutrients the body loses during childbirth.

Although very rare, a few mother dogs may occasionally act elated and unintentionally eat a stillborn puppy.

Does My German Shepherd Need a C-Section?

If your German Shepherd has had weak contractions for more than two hours without delivering a puppy, a C-Section might be the only way to deliver the puppies successfully.

Final Thoughts

As fur parents, it’s satisfying to have your little German Shepherds finally. It is especially rewarding if you have played your part throughout your dog’s pregnancy.

We hope that by reading this article, you are now equipped to take immediate action if you discover that your German Shepherd is pregnant.

This is also particularly helpful if you intend to breed your dog for the first time.

Remember to consult your veterinarian for regular checkups and updates about your German Shepherd’s pregnancy.

Are you excited about your pregnant German Shepherd? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience!

Leave a Comment

You may also like