Q. My dog should have had her puppies by now. It doesn't appear to be a false pregnancy to me, however I can't really tell. Any tips?
JESSICA L DESROSIERS
A. The standard length of a pregnancy in dogs is about 60-63 days post-breeding. If your dog is nearing that date, it could be that she is having a gestation that is longer than normal. Dogs that are first time mothers can commonly have a longer pregnancy, which may shorten as they have more litters. Signs of an immanent labor include an increase in nesting behavior, discomfort such as pacing or laying funny, "waxing" of the nipples where a waxy pre-milk substance (called colostrum and important in puppy immune function) appearing, or visible contractions rippling along the side of the abdomen (more visible in short-haired dogs).
If you are concerned about the puppies being stuck or the wrong size, you can have your local vet take an X-ray of your female. This is typically done by vets involved in breeding (called theriogenologists) and is used to determine how big the puppies are and how many to expect. Knowing this information is great for making sure there are not puppies stuck in the birth canal, and for knowing if they are premature or not. The X-ray may also show if no puppies are present, which can confirm a phantom pregnancy.