How many puppies can a female dog have in a litter?

How many puppies can a female dog have in a litter?



When a dog is pregnant, one of the first legitimate questions concerns the number of puppies that will be able to be born. For this, it is necessary to take into account various information and carry out veterinary examinations. Let’s see how to proceed to have the most precise idea possible of the number of babies your dog will have.

Many factors affect the number of puppies born

The average number of puppies in a litter is not an exact science. Indeed, it depends on many factors, which can increase or decrease the number of babies that a female dog will have at the time of giving birth.


On average, however, we consider that a female dog will have between 5 and 6 puppies per litter.

The breed of the female dog

This is one of the most influential factors in the number of puppies when pregnant. Bitches from large breeds are in fact more prolific than those from small breeds, dwarf or “toy” breeds. The weight of the female dog in fact determines the number of births.

Thus, a female Saint Bernard or Cane Corso will have more puppies than a female Chihuahua or Spitz. Large breeds average 7-8 puppies per litter, with records reaching up to 20 babies. For their part, small breeds are happy with 3 to 4 puppies per litter. The Golden Retriever, the Labrador, the Boxer and the Rottweiler are known as breeds having many puppies per litter, compared to other breeds. Conversely, the Coton de Tuléar, the Cavalier King Charles, the Pug and the French Bulldog are less prolific.

Age of parents

Another deciding factor is the age of the male and female who procreated.

As a reminder, the suitable age for reproduction in dogs varies according to breed. Sexual maturity is later in large dogs than in small dogs. A female will be able to reproduce from 6 to 24 months, while a male will be able to reproduce from 6 to 18 months.

Note, however, that it is advisable to wait until the female dog has already had several heats before the first mating, so that her growth is complete and her eggs are of better quality. Furthermore, if it is still in the growth phase, its energy sources must serve as much to meet its own development needs as those essential to a good gestation. From the age of 8, it is not recommended to breed your dog for health reasons, even if she theoretically remains fertile throughout her life, since she does not experience menopause. The eggs will be of lower quality in senior female dogs anyway.

On the male side, it is preferable to wait until sperm production is sufficiently qualitative and quantitative. After 8 years, production declines and sperm may show more abnormalities.


The most prolific female dogs are those who will be pregnant as adults, around 2 to 3 years old. In males, spermatozoa are “at their best” from the age of 2 to 6 years on average.

To conclude, If you want to have many puppies, it will be better to choose large breed dogs that have reached adulthood.

Health status

Logically, the general state of health of the female dog, whether physical or mental, will influence the number of puppies to be born. The risk of malformations or problems during pregnancy will be higher if the dog is sick or in poor health.

A pregnant dog must benefit from veterinary monitoring to ensure that everything is going well, have a quality and appropriate diet, as well as a healthy environment.

The number of gestations

Finally, the number of puppies can vary depending on the number of pregnancies that the mother has already experienced. The first gestation generally has fewer babies than the following ones.

Puppy mortality

In a litter, the mortality rate can reach almost 10% at the time of the female dog’s delivery. This rate can reach 15%, or even 20%, during the puppy’s first 15 days of life.

As a result, the theoretical number of puppies counted during gestation is not necessarily equivalent to the number of puppies that will ultimately be viable.

Know the number of puppies during gestation

After the breeding, if it has been carried out successfully, the gestation will take place and will last approximately sixty days. It is possible to know in advance how many puppies should be born after giving birth.

For this, the veterinarian will carry out 2 examinations.

  1. Gestation ultrasound. This is the examination that is carried out earliest during gestation. It makes it possible to determine the approximate date of birth of the puppies, since it will evaluate the precise date of start of gestation, therefore the theoretical date of giving birth. This examination will also confirm the viability of the puppies, thanks to their heartbeat. However, if the number of puppies is high (more than 4 or 5), it will be more difficult to accurately determine their number at this stage.
  2. X-ray. The 2th veterinary examination during gestation consists of an x-ray of the female dog’s abdomen, which can be carried out from the 3th week after mating. Only this step makes it possible to ensure the number of puppies waiting. The skeleton of baby dogs is in fact developed enough to be able to be detected. Two examinations are generally necessary, in different frontal and profile positions, to ensure a complete count. The x-ray also makes it possible to check that the puppies are the right size for natural birth through the pelvis.

Note that these examinations give an idea, but are not always 100% reliable, particularly in the event of a large scope.

The case of the single puppy


In some females, especially when they come from small dog breeds, pregnancy may only result in one puppy.

This remains quite rare, but can unfortunately cause various problems for the mother:

  • the puppy may have become too big to be able to get out through the natural lower passages;
  • the onset of parturition may be too delayed or non-existent (insufficient cortisol production).

In this type of case, the delivery of the dog must therefore often be done by cesarean section, in order to limit the risk of complications and to best preserve the health of the puppy.

For its part, the puppy will be more likely to present behavioral problems, since it will not be able to benefit from the traditional learning of communication and social adaptation from its brothers and sisters.

Warning signs of giving birth in female dogs

Several elements will tell you that your dog is soon ready to give birth and give birth to puppies.

These signals will be both physical and behavioral.

  1. Rise of milk.
  2. The female dog is trying to create a cozy nest for giving birth.
  3. She is panting, agitated, and may be trembling.
  4. She stops eating.
  5. Her udders and vulva are experiencing a strong increase.
  6. She has vaginal discharge.
  7. His body temperature drops to 37°C.

If these signals are met, the birth of the first puppy should be imminent, within 12 to 24 hours. The birth gap between two puppies can be very variable and range from 10 minutes to 1 hour, even 2 hours.

There are 3 distinct phases when the dog gives birth: the dilation phase (opening of the cervix, first contractions, etc.), the pushing phase (the first contractions take place) and the post-natal phase (expulsion of the placentas from which the dog will feed).


Generally, giving birth in female dogs takes place without human intervention and goes naturally well.. But if you notice the slightest sign of complications (contractions without any birth, heavy bleeding, signs of distress in the dog, etc.), do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian urgently.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *