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If your dog is pregnant, it’s a good idea to try to estimate and get a general idea of how many puppies you’re going to have because you’re going to have to make preparations to care for those little angels when they arrive. Since that time hasn’t come yet, let’s try to answer the question “How many puppies can a dog have?” for you so you can have an idea.
How Many Puppies Can a Dog Have?
Tia, a Neapolitan mastiff holds the record for the largest litter ever recorded. She gave birth to 24 puppies via a Caesarian section in November 2004.
Most dogs produce much smaller litters with the average number being 5.4. Although there are some variations with small breeds which usually have an average of 3.5 and larger breeds having up to 7.1 puppies per litter.
The Neapolitan mastiffs usually have between 6 and 10 puppies per litter. I don’t want to crush your dreams but I don’t think your pooch will be breaking that record soon if that’s what you were hoping for because numbers like that are highly irregular.
If this is your first time or you’re not familiar with the term, a litter is a live birth of more than one offspring at one time usually from one set of parents and the litter size is the number of offspring given birth to at one time.
Some other notable mentions are a Bullmastiff who delivered 23 puppies in 2014, a Great Dane who gave birth to 19 puppies also in 2014, Misha, a German Shepherd gave birth to 17 puppies in 2015 and a Maremma sheepdog also had 17 in 2016. An Irish setter named Poppy gave birth to 15 puppies on mother’s Day in 2017 almost beating the record for Irish setters which is 16.
Near the end of the pregnancy your veterinarian can feel around her tummy or perform an x-ray to give you the number of puppies but even with this it’s still possible to miss one and the only way to know for sure is to see them when they’ve been delivered but that doesn’t mean you can’t come really close so here we go.
Factors That Affect Litter Size
There are a lot of factors that can affect the litter size of your dog and these factors also influence each other to an extent, though it is hard to give numerical values in cases like this. These are some things you should check when trying to make estimates:
This is an important factor but it doesn’t really have a lot to it. Small breeds have small litter sizes and larger breeds have larger litter sizes. This is a good point to start making estimates from because the small breeds may have from one to four puppies per litter while larger breeds can have up to eight and even more puppies per litter.
This also plays a major role because dogs of the same breed may vary in body size (this has to do with the body build and not weight) and the larger ones usually have larger litter sizes.
Dogs remain fertile their whole lives and although their first litter is usually smaller than the others that follow, they are the most fertile usually between 2 and 5 years, during early adulthood. However, the litter size decreases as they get older.
Healthy dogs are more likely to have large litters and also give birth to healthy puppies. The health of your dog should be a priority so you can ensure that she and the puppies will survive the whelping process (the process of giving birth).
Feeding your dog properly will most likely lead to larger litter sizes. Your dog’s diet should be nutritious and well balanced and care should be taken because poor diet leads to more than just smaller litter sizes. And having a proper diet also promotes good health which in turn leads to larger litter sizes too.
Gene Pool Diversity
Dogs with a more diverse gene pool will have larger litters and dogs who have been inbred continue to develop smaller litters with each generation.
Like us, dogs are individual and can vary in a lot of ways. It’s is extremely difficult to predict this but if all health and other factors remain constant, dogs with large first litters will continue to have large litters. But also keep in mind that age is one of the factors that affect litter size so when your dogs get old it’s very likely that their litter size will reduce.
You might assume that all these factors affect the dame (female) after all the one giving birth to the puppies but the health, age, and genetic makeup of the sire (male) also have a role to play in determining the litter size of his mate.
What Breeds Have the Highest Litter Size?
Her size, breed, and age play the most important roles in the number of puppies she will give birth to. Breeds with a larger average body size will have a bigger litter size than those with smaller sizes.
But over the course of their lifetimes, this becomes harder to determine. Small dogs usually live longer than their larger counterparts and so even though they produce fewer puppies per litter they have more years to give birth.
Effects of Breeding over the Lifetime of Your Dog
While dogs can give birth to a fair number of litters in their lifetimes, you should realize that each pregnancy takes its toll on your dog’s health. Some dogs can have three or four cycles in a year but most dogs have only two cycles every year which are about six months apart.
Breeding the same dog twice a year is a practice that is usually frowned upon although some breeders feel as long as the dog is healthy and in good shape then it won’t be a problem because the litter size will decrease with age but breeding this many times will also result in a reduction of the litter size as time goes on because the process can be very hard on the mother’s body. This should be considered if you care about the long-term health of your dog.
The One Half Rule
Most times, the maximum litter size matches the number of nipples present but the average litter size is about half of the number of nipples. This is a general trend for animals and humans too although twins (or more) are fairly common, it’s a way to ensure that there are enough nipples for all the offspring.
Most dogs have an average litter size of five puppies and eight to ten nipples but this is not a guaranteed scientific way to predict the number of puppies she will give birth to, it’s just a statistical correlation.
Pregnancy and its Symptoms
Pregnancy in dogs usually lasts from 58 to 68 days and this varies based on her breed, age, and also health. If you have reason to suspect that your dog is pregnant, your best option is to go to the veterinarian. There aren’t many early signs though so you might not notice until 3 to 4 weeks into the pregnancy so it’s recommended that you should pay a visit to the veterinarian two to three weeks after mating.
The signs to look out for are a mucus-laden vaginal discharge, release of a semi-clear liquid from their nipples, and swelling and color change in their tests. These usually happen about one month after conception.
During the third and fourth week, she will most likely experience morning sickness and the signs are vomiting, changes in appetite, and lethargy. She will also begin to gain weight around the fourth week. Most dogs end up weighing up to 50% more near the end of their pregnancy.
By day 21 your veterinarian will be able to confirm your suspicions through a blood test and around this time it is possible to visualize the puppies through ultrasound.
Between the 28th and 35th days, your veterinarian can safely feel around her abdomen to confirm that there are puppies in her uterus. This should only be done by a professional. Please do not start feeling around her yourself to check as this is very dangerous to both her and the puppies because if done wrong the puppies might get injured or it might lead to a miscarriage.
By day 45 an x-ray can be performed and then the vet can properly count the number of puppies present. At this point, your veterinarian will also check their bone structures for any abnormalities.
Based on the breed, size and age of your dog you should have a general idea of how many puppies she’s going to have. Now you know all the factors that can affect it and what to expect based on the age and health of your dog. And remember, if you have any questions, it’s best to seek advice from a veterinarian.