How many puppies can a dog have?

After dogs’ copulation, several questions may arise in the minds of tutors, will the animal be pregnant? How many puppies can he have? To answer these questions, let’s talk about the dog’s pregnancy period cycle with a focus on the variation in the number of puppies per animal.

How many puppies can a dog have?

The dog is a species divided into several breeds that present different sizes, physical characteristics and environments. So, the number of puppies will depend on the specific characteristics of each breed. In addition, factors such as age, health status and environment of the animal can interfere with this variation.

A dog can have 1 to 12 puppies. According to the Guinness book, a Mastiff female dog breed had 24 puppies in a single litter in the UK. The puppies were born by Caesarian section, one was still born, three died in the first week.

This dog from the UK was the female dog with the highest number of puppies in the world. Many dogs can have only one puppy and often the parturition must be by cesarean section due to the single fetus syndrome that leads to dystocia in female dogs.

Average number of puppies in small breeds

Small dogs can have an average of 3 puppies, ranging from 1 to 6 puppies per litter. Due to the size and pelvic conformation of these animals. The dogs should be accompanied throughout pregnancy to avoid dystocia and health problems to the puppies and for the parturient.

Among the small breeds that give fewer puppies, we can mention:

  • Pomerania;
  • Chihuahua;
  • Maltese;
  • Pinscher;
  • Yorkshire Terrier.

Average number of puppies in large breeds

As for large dogs, they can present a gigantic variation in the number of puppies, ranging on average from 6 to 10 puppies per litter. There are reports in the literature of large dogs giving birth to 1 or 2 puppies as well as dogs giving birth to 24 puppies. Racial and environmental factors can influence this large variation in the number of pups per litter.

Among the large breeds that give many puppies in the litter, we can mention: 

  • St Bernard;
  • Mastiff;
  • Great Dane;
  • Sheepdog.

Large dogs do not usually have reproductive problems, but dogs with many puppies may have dystocia that prevent uterine muscle contraction, so it is necessary to perform a cesarean section to avoid the parturient and puppies’ death.

The pregnancy of female dogs

Gestation in female dogs can last from 58 to 63 days and can be extended up to 72 days or reduced to 57 days.  During pregnancy, it is important for the female dog to undergo a periodic gestational follow-up, where the veterinarian will observe any changes in the animal’s health through examinations. 

How to know how many puppies the female is carrying?

It is advised to perform an ultrasound on day 30 of gestation for gestational diagnosis and from day 55 of gestation to observe if the puppies are well. X-rays can also be performed after 50 days to count the puppies, which can help at the time of birth to define whether the birth is over or not.

Ultrasound can also be used to count the number of puppies. However, this practice is not indicated because the puppies move in the mother’s belly, thus being able to count puppies for more or less, thus being a less accurate method of counting puppies.

Parturition in female dogs and the causes of dystocia

Parturition in female dogs can be normal or eutocic, when the female dog does not present difficulties in giving birth to the puppies alive. Difficulties at the time of parturition in female dogs is called dystocia, when proper treatment of dystocia is not performed, many puppies and parturients can die.

Some factors can lead to dystocia: 

  • Neonatal mispositioning;
  • Neonatal malformation;
  • Absence of uterine contraction;
  • Mother’s pelvic conformation.

Neonatal mispositioning

Puppies must be born in a proper position. Either with the head and forelimbs stretched out, or backwards. Puppies in the transverse, or with flirted limbs, can lead to dystocia, as they cannot pass through the vaginal canal and also prevent the passage of other puppies.

A veterinarian must be called for obstetric maneuvers to be performed. If the puppy is still not born and the other puppies have neonatal stress, cesarean section surgery should be performed.

Absence of uterine contraction

Some female dogs may not have uterine contraction, the absence of uterine contraction can be defined as primary uterine inertia, when there is a failure of uterine contraction in the fetal expulsion phase, or secondary uterine inertia, when it occurs mainly due to the loss of uterine contractions, as with bitches with many puppies and very prolonged labor.

In these situations, the cesarean section must be performed by the veterinarian to avoid the loss of puppies from the dog.

Maternal pelvic conformation

Some breeds have a pelvic conformation that is not compatible with natural parturition, as is the case of the most brachycephalic dogs, whose pelvic conformation is not compatible with puppies that tend to be born large.

Neonatal malformation

Dogs with malformation may not be born alive but may also prevent the birth of others, as they are stuck in the vaginal canal during the parturition. And straining contractions can lead to exhaustion and secondary uterine inertia. In these cases, a fetotomy and cesarean section can be performed by a veterinarian.

How to prepare for the dogs parturition?

At the end of pregnancy in female dogs, it is advisable to follow-up with ultrasound by veterinarians for breeds that are highly predisposed to dystocia. In addition, parturition must be closely monitored by a veterinarian.

To female dogs that have a high chance of vaginal parturition with no problems, the nest should be prepared in a whelping box two weeks before the birth takes place, so that the parturient adapts to the environment.

The whelping box should be in a closed, calm, and peaceful environment, away from windy places. The place must have a heat source for the puppies, as they do not control their own temperature.

On the day of parturition, separate clean towels to dry the newborn puppies, a sterilized scissors, in case it is necessary to cut the puppies umbilical cord and leave a veterinarian under notice in case of any problem at the parturition time to provide emergency care for the mother and puppies as necessary.


Dogs can have different numbers of puppies, which is related to great variation in breed, environment, and physical characteristics such as health and size of the dogs. Pregnancy is a very sensitive period in the life of a female dog and needs to be monitored by a veterinarian. The low number of puppies as well as the large number of puppies can favor problems at the parturition time of female dogs, requiring veterinary intervention to avoid the death of the parturient and puppies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How many puppies can a dog have?

Is it possible to manipulate a female dog’s estrus with drugs, as in cows?

Yes, it is possible, but it is not so used because many female dogs also do not respond to hormonal protocols, so few animals go into heat. Therefore, it is recommended to let the animal come into heat naturally and the tutor will be accompanied until the exact moment of reproduction.

How long does pregnancy last in female dogs?

On average, the duration of pregnancy in female dogs is 63 days, ranging from 58 to 68 days from the day of mating. Veterinarians can dose hormones that will give a more accurate date for parturition. In addition, there are imaging tests that can indicate approximate parturition dates in female dogs.

Can female dogs have more than one heat per year?

Yes, some dog’s breeds can come into heat every 4 months. However, care should be taken as constant repetitions of heat can be a sign of endocrine diseases, so a veterinarian should be consulted to avoid health problems in dogs.


de Souza Teixeira, E. (2001). Princípios básicos para a criação de cães. NBL Editora.

The Guinness book of world records. (2004). Largest litter of dogs. <>

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