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If you are planning on getting your female Golden Retriever pregnant, there are several points to consider and be aware of from the point of breeding to lactation and nursing puppies.
Understanding and knowing how long are Golden Retrievers Pregnant will help you prepare for what signs to expect after a successful breeding, how to take care of them, and what signs to look out for nearing labor (important if you opt for an elective cesarean section), and things to avoid for a harmonious pregnancy and parturition.
Now this may sound like a lot to take in as a first-timer but fear not, for in this post we will be detailing your Goldie’s pregnancy or ‘gestation’ period.
Understanding Golden Retriever Pregnancy – The Gestation Period of Golden Retrievers
1. Duration of Pregnancy
Golden Retrievers have a gestation period range of 60-65 days with an average of 63 days. However predicting the exact length of pregnancy may be difficult since most Goldies are bred 3 consecutive days, making it hard to determine the day of conception.
Some may get pregnant during the first day of breeding, while others may take a few days from the third day. That is because the ovulation phase of dogs only lasts for 48 hours. Sperm introduced during ovulation may grant a successful conception within 24 hours.
While the sperm introduced a few days before ovulation occurs may result in a later conception, pregnancy is still possible since the sperm can live up to 3-5 days in the female reproductive tract.
2. Factors that Affect the Duration of Pregnancy
Typically, female Golden Retrievers produce an average range of 5 to 18 puppies in one litter. Most of them tend to become prolific (produce abundant quantities) after the first litter.
Litter size may influence your Goldies’ pregnancy duration. In some studies, it has been observed that female dogs with smaller litters (carrying four or fewer puppies) have significantly longer gestation duration than those having larger litters (five or more).
Age and Health
Your Goldies’ age may be a contributing factor as to how early they may undergo whelping. Although studies have not supported this claim, however, significant cases have occurred where Golden Retrievers pregnant at first heat (6-9 months) tend to have a shorter gestation period or may whelp as early as the 60th-61st day.
Getting pregnant at first heat is not a sufficient environment for the puppies to be carried out. Goldies at 6-9 months of age have not practically reached a desirable weight and size suitable for pregnancy, thus resulting in stillbirths, premature pups, or early whelping.
Golden Retrievers aged 6 years old and above tend to have a longer pregnancy period as compared to younger Goldies as their bodies may take more time to nourish the puppies inside their womb.
Their nutrition and health also play a vital role in determining their length of gestation. Emaciated or obese Goldies may have extended pregnancy or early termination.
Parity refers to the number of times a female dog has carried out a successful pregnancy and parturition. In some cases, Golden Retrievers who have multiple successful pregnancies over their prime years tend to have shorter gestational periods.
However, this claim is still subject to further research since cases tend to vary within the breed.
3. Signs of Pregnancy in Golden Retrievers
As a responsible owner, it is important to know what signs to look out for if you suspect your Goldie is pregnant. Monitoring the signs may be a lot to take in as a first-time owner, but with proper knowledge and guidance from your veterinarian, you and your Goldie will be better prepared.
Early stages (30 days-35 days)
- Your Goldie may or may not have ‘morning sickness’ (vomiting, inappetence, and tiredness).
- Mammary gland enlargement 3-4 weeks after successful breeding and may appear as bright pink to red.
- Your Goldie may or may not have vaginal mucosal discharges after 3-4 weeks from breeding.
- Evident weight gain may occur.
Later stages (40-65 days)
- Your Goldie’s abdomen may become distended, but this may not be evident for small litter sizes.
- Your Goldie may increase in weight and size.
- Increased panting as pregnancy progresses.
Behavioral changes may vary per dog, but most Golden Retrievers are observed to have the following behaviors:
- Increase in appetite 3-4 weeks after breeding.
- Some Goldies may decrease in appetite or become picky eaters (but should be monitored properly as this may indicate health problems).
- During the late stage of pregnancy, your Goldie may reduce their active lifestyle or prefer to sleep rather than play.
- Most Goldies become more affectionate or require more attention than usual.
- Starts to develop “nesting behavior” (to be discussed later on) as they approach parturition.
4. Care for Pregnant Golden Retrievers
Pregnant Goldies require a higher nutritional value as compared to non-pregnant dogs. Therefore, it is necessary to provide them with the right amount of nutrients and vitamins to sustain both maternal and fetal development.
Goldies are known for their active lifestyle, and being pregnant with large litters doubles their need for a high-caloric (high protein and fat) diet that will sustain them during whelping up until the weaning stage.
There are several formulated dog foods to choose from in the market that are intended for pregnant and lactating dogs. Additionally, pregnancy supplements are readily available in veterinary pharmacies.
However, before making any changes in their diet and giving pregnancy supplements, it is best to have a consultation with your veterinarian, as some dog food or vitamins may not be suitable for every Goldie.
Exercise in pregnant dogs is just as important as their diet. However, for pregnant Goldies, you may have to reduce the intensity of their exercise. Long walks, running, and other high-intensity activities should be avoided.
Short daily walks for about 10-15 minutes, once or twice a day, are recommended. This is enough to release energy and provide mental stimulation. Play-dates with other dogs are suitable during the early stages of pregnancy but should be avoided during the late stages to avoid stress and strenuous activities.
Regular exercise prevents them from gaining too much weight, which might complicate their pregnancy and whelping.
3. Veterinary Care
The moment you suspect your Goldie is pregnant, it is best to take them to your vet for a check-up. Vets can perform pregnancy test confirmation as early as 22 days and ultrasonography on the 30th day.
Tracking your dog’s pregnancy stage will help you monitor its signs as it nears its expected date of delivery.
Regular prenatal care such as ultrasound and radiography (applicable during the last week of pregnancy), will monitor the fetal development of the litter and its expected size.
Your vet will also recommend the best diet and supplements necessary for your pregnant dog.
5. Potential Complications during Pregnancy
As mentioned earlier, false pregnancy, or ‘pseudopregnancy’, is a common condition in dogs that occurs during the heat cycle whether or not mating occurred.
False pregnancy occurs when the hormone progesterone drops during late diestrus and is replaced by the rapid increase of the prolactin hormone (the hormone responsible for milk production).
The presence of prolactin in the body results in symptoms similar to pregnancy, such as mammary gland enlargement, often accompanied by milk production as the teat is squeezed, weight gain, increase or decrease in appetite, and even nesting behavior.
False pregnancy is left untreated since the condition will resolve on its own when prolactin levels drop for about 3-4 weeks.
Some owners mistake this condition for actual pregnancy since symptoms for both conditions are likely the same. To avoid confusion, it is best to take your Goldies to your vet for a proper diagnosis.
As the name indicates, pregnancy diabetes only happens during the gestation period and usually resolves after whelping.
Feeding requirements in pregnant dogs are increased as more carbohydrates are required to support both fetal and maternal energy needs. However, when the body does not produce enough insulin or maximize its production, diabetes will occur.
Diabetes during pregnancy is characterized by frequent urination and excessive water intake. Your active Goldie often becomes lazy, sleeps most of the time, and might reduce weight despite increasing feed intake.
Diagnosing early gestational diabetes is possible when regular prenatal check-ups are met. Regulating high blood sugar during pregnancy requires a strict diet and administration of insulin shots (if the body does not produce enough insulin).
Pre-eclampsia or Pre-Milk Fever
Eclampsia or Milk Fever, also known as Hypocalcemia, is a condition where the calcium levels in the blood drop below normal. This condition commonly occurs during the lactation period but may still occur during pregnancy, thus the term “pre-eclampsia”.
Pregnant dogs require high doses of calcium in preparation and during the lactation period. Puppies inside their mother’s womb also require just as much calcium to support skeletal growth.
When the body fails to supply the demand for calcium, dams usually experience stiffening of their limbs causing imbalance or partial paralysis, including rapid breathing, restlessness, and increased body temperature (fever).
Managing milk fever requires immediate medical attention as this may lead to death if left untreated.
Severe hypocalcemia requires the administration of intravenous or intramuscular calcium at the start of treatment and is succeeded with oral calcium supplementation until pregnant dogs stabilize.
Goldies are prone to milk fever due to the size of their litter. Therefore, to avoid the occurrence of pre-eclampsia, proper calcium supplementation should be given at the start of pregnancy and during the lactation period.
Golden Retrievers Pregnancy Timeline
A. Week 1-2
1. Fertilization and Implantation
Assuming that copulation is successful, fertilization of the egg cell or ovum can occur within 24 hours in the uterine duct or fallopian tube provided that the female dog is in its ovulation phase (which lasts only for 24 hours). If sperm is introduced days before the ovulation phase, fertilization may take place within 3-5 days.
After successful fertilization, the zygote (fertilized egg resulting from the union of sperm and ovum) will travel into the uterus for implantation, which can happen as early as 14 days or as late as 18 days.
B. Week 3-4
1. Embryonic Development
During early pregnancy, embryonic growth is rapid, lasting about 3 weeks on average. During this stage, puppies grow in size as their internal organs start to develop.
The heartbeat appears as early as 22 days but can be heard via Doppler-type instruments on the 25th day. Skeletal growth starts to calcify at 28 days but is detectable via ultrasound and radiograph as early as the 42nd day, approximately.
2. Symptoms and Changes
Your dog’s breasts continue to swell as the mammary gland prepares itself for lactation. Typical pregnancy symptoms such as vomiting, increase or decrease in appetite, and weight gain can be observed during this week.
Belly enlargement may go unnoticed for most Golden Retrievers at this stage as they are already large in size.
C. Week 5-6
1. Fetal Development
The period of fetal growth is approximately 35-40 days from conception to parturition. External features of the puppies are completed at this stage, but they still continue to grow in size.
Organogenesis, also known as organ formation, is completed during this stage, and sexual differentiation between a male and female takes place during fetal development.
The developing fetus is initially formed as female (having female gonads), but as the male gene surfaces (if it carries the male chromosome), it causes the regression of the female gonad. Testicles then start to form but do not fully descend not until after birth.
2. Pregnancy Care
Proper management of your pregnant Golden Retriever is crucial during fetal development. The fetuses inside their uterus tend to move more at this stage, which may cause discomfort to your female dogs. Providing a stress-free environment helps them to be relaxed and comfortable.
Feed intake should be increased gradually at this stage as the growing puppies require more nutrients to support fetal development.
D. Week 7-8
1. Preparation for Delivery
By this time, fetal growth is already complete and whelping might take place any time soon as it reaches day 60.
Taking your Goldie for an ultrasound is the best way to determine their expected date of delivery based on the size and viability of their puppies. This will help you as an owner in monitoring your dog as it reaches parturition.
2. Pre-delivery Care
As your pregnant Goldie reaches its whelping period, it is necessary to feed them a high-caloric diet to provide enough energy as parturition and the first few hours of lactation may consume a lot of energy.
Building a private nest for your dog to give birth will provide a safe and comfortable environment. However, some Goldies prefer a space that they established themselves.
Giving Birth to Golden Retriever Puppies
The physical and behavioral changes your Goldies show during labor may be overwhelming, especially for first-time owners. Being knowledgeable about the signs of labor and how to manage them is crucial to help both you and your dog.
A. Signs of labor in Golden Retrievers
As Golden Retrievers enter the labor stage, they typically become restless and exhibit “nesting behavior”. This hormonal-induced behavior often involves scratching or digging up the ground surface as they search for an area to build a nest or a safe space for their offspring.
During labor, many Goldies lose their appetite or have a reduced appetite. They also tend to become more affectionate and dependent on their owners, showing signs of discomfort.
Laboring dogs may experience extreme sensations in the abdominal and genital areas, which can cause them to breathe rapidly or pant. A drop in body temperature by 1-2 degrees hours before parturition is another common sign that your dog is about to give birth.
B. Stages of Labor
Normal labor in dogs has three stages:
- Typically lasts 12-24 hours
- The uterus starts to contract, but no visible abdominal contractions can be observed
- The cervix starts to dilate
- Prominent behavioral changes
- Clear or watery vaginal discharges may be seen
- Abdominal contractions become visible
- Uterine contractions increase but will stop after every successful delivery of a puppy
- The delivery interval from one puppy to another can be as short as 10-15 minutes, but not more than 2 hours
- Delivery of the entire litter can take from 1 hour to 24-48 hours.
- Release of the placenta (may be expelled along with the puppy), so it is best to take note of the number of puppies delivered and the placentas released. Both should have the same number to avoid retained placentas.
C. Delivery of Puppies
1. Assistance during Delivery
Most Goldies have the mothering ability, which is to take care of their puppies from the point of delivery until weaning.
As the puppies are expelled from the vagina, they are contained in a sac that is filled with fluid. Mothers tear the sac by constantly licking it to free the puppy and prevent the fluid from entering the lungs via the nostrils.
Since Golden Retrievers tend to have a large litter size, delivery of puppies in shorter intervals cannot be avoided. As they are in the midst of delivering another puppy, they may require assistance in removing the puppy from its sac and cutting its umbilical cord.
You can take and place them in a clean dry cloth, and consistently rub them to stimulate breathing. You may also help tie their umbilical cord with a clean thread or suture before cutting it.
In cases where the fluid has reached the lungs and the mother is unable to attend to the puppy at the moment, you may use an aspirator to directly aspirate the fluid from the nostrils or in the throat while alternately rubbing them in a dry cloth.
Assistance may also be necessary if the head of the puppy is stuck in the birth canal and uterine contractions have decreased.
If you are an experienced owner, pulling the puppy in coordination with its contraction may be acceptable. However, this procedure may compromise the puppy if not performed properly. So, it is best to reach out to your veterinarian for assistance to avoid complications.
2. Common Complications during Delivery
Dystocia is one of the most common complications during pregnancy and labor. It is basically the term for difficult or labored parturition caused by several maternal and fetal factors.
Fetal factors include:
- Fetal size – Oversized puppies may have a hard time passing through the birth canal.
- Fetal position – Puppies that are not in a “diving” (head first and extended forelegs) position will get stuck in the birth canal, resulting in complications. Abnormal fetal positions are presented as breech position (butt or hindlimbs first), sideways position (perpendicular to the birth canal opening), or the back of the puppy facing first.
- Stillbirths – Dead puppies inside the uterus will no longer signal uterine contractions resulting in stuck puppies inside the uterus. Complications will arise if they are not immediately attended to by a veterinarian.
- Congenital defects – Certain fetal defects such as ‘anasarca’ or walrus puppy syndrome will result in dystocia and are usually delivered via cesarean section.
Maternal Factors include:
- Narrow birth canal – Medically termed as the ‘pelvic canal’, it is narrow in some female dogs, leading to labored delivery.
- Uterine fatigue – The female reproductive tract, especially the uterus, ceases to contract as the uterine muscle reaches its limit in contracting. Lack of uterine signals for contraction will lead to pregnancy overdue, resulting in dystocia.
- Pelvic and uterine injury – This may be caused by an infection or damage to the uterus in the case of early pregnancy in young female dogs that have not reached the suitable weight and size for pregnancy.
Treating and managing dystocia can be approached in different ways depending on the cause. Female dogs having slow contractions can be injected with the hormone oxytocin to increase uterine contractions.
However, this approach may not always be applicable, especially for fetal-causing factors. Dystocia caused by both fetal and maternal factors should be addressed via cesarean section to avoid fetal distress and sepsis to the dam.
Aftercare for Golden Retriever Puppies and Mother
A. Caring for Newborn Puppies
The survival of newborn puppies is particularly dependent on colostrum, which is produced by the mammary gland during the first two days post-partum.
Colostrum is an essential source of nutrients and immunoglobulins, and the concentration of immunoglobulins in colostrum for the first two days is five times greater than in milk.
It is important for newborn puppies to ingest colostrum after birth since immunoglobulin levels drop very quickly after two days.
Ingesting colostrum provides immunity and is a good indicator of predicting a puppy’s survival. To maximize the ingestion of colostrum, puppies must breastfeed at least every 2-3 hours.
2. Health Concerns
Intensive care for newborn puppies is very crucial for the first two weeks. Most puppies die due to poor thermoregulatory function, dehydration, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Puppies must be fed every 2-3 hours as recommended.
Newborn puppies must be nursed appropriately by their mother by providing heat or warmth for proper thermoregulation.
If the dam is negligent, as an owner, you must make the necessary precautions to provide heat for the newborn puppies.
Substituting with warm light bulbs, heating pads, or placing them in incubators provides sufficient heat for newborn puppies. Low body temperature causes them to lose their sucking reflex (milking), resulting in low blood sugar.
Dehydration and low levels of blood sugar often lead to weak and unhealthy puppies. If left uncorrected, newborn puppies can die in just a few hours.
As a responsible owner, always monitor both the dam and the puppies and make sure that necessary requirements are met. Always be ready to support the puppies’ needs if the dam fails to provide for its newborn puppies.
B. Postnatal Care for the Mother
Bringing your Goldie to the vet for a final ultrasound is necessary to ensure that no puppy or placenta is left inside.
If there are retained placentas, your veterinarian will often suggest the administration of oxytocin injection shots to aid in uterine contraction to release any remnants of pregnancy from her uterus.
Retained placentas should be removed to prevent the rise of certain health conditions in the reproductive tract.
1. Recovery Period
Pay close attention to your female Goldies as much as possible. Continue monitoring them for the next 24 hours postnatal until you take them to the vet for an examination.
Most dogs do not eat nor drink water right after birth, but preparing an appropriate meal until they regain their appetite is quite beneficial. As they gain their appetite, provide the intended diet and supplements for lactating dams.
2. Lactation and Nursing
Your female Goldie will require a higher caloric intake as she is breastfeeding for a medium to large litter size. You may increase the amount and number of times you feed her in a day.
It is recommended to feed your lactating dams with puppy food as this contains high protein and carbohydrates necessary for milk stimulation.
To avoid the occurrence of milk fever, consult your veterinarian for the appropriate calcium supplementation required for your dog.
You also have to ensure a stress-free and calm environment for your Goldies. Stressed dams may affect their milk production and nursing ability. In addition to their environment, proper hygiene and sanitation must be observed to avoid any sort of infection.
Monitor your Goldies if you allow them to sleep alongside their puppies at night. Most neonatal deaths are caused when dams accidentally crush or roll over their puppies.
Watch out for the condition called mastitis. It is the inflammation of the mammary gland that may be caused by an infection or not. Trauma to the teat during lactation may cause bacterial infiltration to the mammary gland, causing it to swell and be painful. Excess milk accumulation may also lead to mastitis.
To prevent mastitis, always keep the lactating area clean and sanitized, milk all teats to avoid over-accumulation of milk in some parts of the mammary gland, and avoid weaning the puppies too early, especially when there is still an abundant milk supply.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many puppies does a Golden Retriever have?
Golden Retrievers typically have a litter size of 5 to 12 puppies, but this may vary depending on certain factors such as the age of your Goldie at the time of pregnancy and the number of previous litters.
2. How many times can a Golden Retriever give birth?
Most Golden Retrievers can produce two litters in a year during their reproductive lifespan of 5-6 years. Since their heat cycle occurs every 4-6 months, it is possible to have two litters in a year.
3. How many puppies survive in a litter?
The number of puppies that survive in a litter can depend on various factors, including the management of the nursing period. On average, about 6-8 puppies survive in a Golden Retriever litter.
Every pregnancy is unique, and understanding the factors that may impact its duration and outcome is crucial for monitoring and supporting a Golden Retriever’s pregnancy journey.
Managing a pregnant dog involves careful consideration of its diet, environment, emotional needs, and veterinary care.
Seeking the advice of a veterinarian from the beginning of the pregnancy is important for monitoring the health of both the dam and the puppies.
Goldies need their owner’s support throughout their pregnancy and weaning stages, and it is essential to be patient and understanding of their condition and potential outcomes.
Christine is a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine. As the in-house vet and writer for Furs'n'Paws, Christine shares her extensive knowledge and expertise on all things pet-related, with a particular focus on small animals such as dogs and cats. In addition, she runs her own clinic in the Philippines and volunteers at a local organization to help stray pets. Her commitment to animal health is evident in her writing style, which makes her an invaluable resource for pet owners and animal lovers.