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How long are cocker spaniels pregnant for? Everything you need to know

If you are a new breeder or you have a cocker spaniel expecting their first litter, the wait can be anxiety-inducing. Fortunately for you, we are here to answer all your questions and put your mind at ease, starting with how long a cocker spaniel is pregnant. To put things into perspective, let’s first look at some basic facts on a cocker spaniel’s reproduction.

How old is a cocker spaniel when they go on heat for the first time?

A cocker spaniel goes on heat for the first time in their puberty, about 8 months to a year on average, but some could go into heat as early as 6 months. If you don’t want your cocker spaniel bitch to have puppies, you should have them spayed before they are six months old.

What’s a cocker spaniel’s reproductive cycle?

Once a cocker spaniel has started going into heat, it will go into heat about every 6 months. This heat lasts about 18 to 21 days. The heat period has four different stages. Here are the stages and how to tell what stage your cocker spaniel bitch is in.

  1. Proestrus 
  2. Estrus
  3. Diestrus
  4. Anestrus

How do you know what stage of heat your cocker spaniel is in?

Here is what to look for at every stage of your pup’s heat.

Proestrus stage

If you are a new breeder, you need to know when your dog goes into proestrus so that you can get a mate prepared for when they are ready to mate. The proestrus stage lasts roughly nine days. At this stage, your cocker spaniel bitch will attract mates, but she will not be yet ready to mate. 

Signs that your cocker spaniel is in the proestrus stage is a brownish reddish discharge. Also, the vulva will swell at this stage.

Estrus stage

Estrus is the stage when a bitch is receptive to mates. This is when she can get pregnant. This stage lasts about nine days on average, but it could be a shorter or longer period of time depending on the dog.

During this stage, the bloody discharge lightens in colour, and the vulva enlarges and softens. To know the optimal time for your cocker spaniel’s mating, you might want to consult the vet, who can conduct some tests to inform you on the best time for breeding.

Diestrus stage

Diestrus is the last stage of your cocker spaniel’s heat. Just like in the proestrus, your dog will not be accepting mates at this stage. The discharge once again becomes more reddish and reduces. The bitch’s vulva reduces to normal. These changes occur whether she became pregnant or not.

Anestrus stage

Anestrus is the period between diestrus and their next heat. If your cocker gets pregnant, you want to know how long they will be pregnant for. Let’s delve into it.

English Cocker Spaniel caring female and male mother with two small puppies

How long are cocker spaniels pregnant for?

Cocker spaniels, just like any other dog breed, are pregnant for about 63 days. It is impossible to tell how far along into the pregnancy your cocker spaniel bitch is as the mating date is not a very accurate indicator. This is because once eggs are released, they can survive whilst fertile for up to 2 days. The sperm itself can also last for days so a mating day does not always exactly translate to fertilisation.

To tell how far along your dog is, have a vet conduct a test. Vets carry out hormonal tests to know exactly how far along your cocker spaniel is.

Read next: When can you feel puppies in a pregnant dog

What are a cocker spaniel’s pregnancy stages, and what are their needs at these different stages?

Up to one month

After fertilisation has occurred, the fertilised embryos will travel to the horns of the dog’s uterus and implant along the walls. This happens by the end of week one or the beginning of week two of the pregnancy.

As the embryos develop, your cocker spaniel’s appetite will increase, and they will also become a little inactive. During the first 20 days of the pregnancy, you shouldn’t dramatically change your cocker’s diet. You don’t want them to become overweight or obese, as this will negatively impact puppies. You don’t want them to lose weight either so it is crucial that you closely monitor their development.

After the 20 day mark, you can increase their diet as needed. At this time, you will need to adjustments to create a high-quality diet to cater for their needs. Calcium, for instance, is vital for the development of puppies’ bones. Your expectant dog needs to get this extra calcium in its diet.

By the end of the first month, the puppies’ heartbeats should be detectable through an ultrasound.

1 to 2 months

The growth of the foetuses dramatically increases at the beginning of the second month. By the end of the first week (of the second month) they will start developing their organs. You will also start noticing your dog’s belly becoming larger and more firm. Due to the enlargement of their belly, you might notice that your cocker spaniel becomes uncomfortable, especially when they are lying down. A good dog bed will be crucial at this point.

At this stage, due to the puppies taking much of the space in their belly, your dog will eat smaller, yet more frequent meals. Feed them easily digestible meals to make feeding easier for them.

By about the third week of this second month, your expectant dog’s breasts noticeably enlarge in preparation for breastfeeding. She might also start producing some cloudy liquid from the breasts. Shedding will also occur around the belly. 

By the end of the second month, the puppies are fully developed and ready for delivery. You will notice your cocker spaniel bitch looking for a nest where she can safely deliver her litter. You can help her build a safe nest by getting her a whelping box or getting her extra blankets.

Cocker spaniel with puppies growing well and healthy

Month 3

Whelping occurs at the beginning of the third month. Keep a close eye on your cocker spaniel bitch. Vets advise that you check their temperature constantly. A slight drop in their temperature indicates that they will go into labour within a day.

When your cocker spaniel goes into labour, it is crucial that you monitor her, but also making sure at the same time, you give her some space. Too much fussing over her can be distressing during this already stressful time.


Once your bitch goes into labour, delivery should happen within 24 hours. It is important to know how many puppies your dog is expecting (which can be determined by an ultrasound at the vets) because once the first puppy is delivered, subsequent puppies should be born within a 2 hour gap.

If your dog takes more than 2 hours between deliveries, it could be an indication that they are having a problem, and you need to involve a vet. It also goes without saying, that you should time every birth to know when something is not right.

Litter of healthy cocker spaniels

In conclusion,

Unlike in humans, for dogs (including cocker spaniels) the gestation period is a lot shorter, at just about 63 days. This means you have to stay on top of things. You have to monitor their development at every stage of their development, to ensure there are no complications.

We hope that this article helped shed some light on the issue and prepared you to welcome your first litter. All the best to you and your mamma dog.

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