As with all dog breeds, French Bulldogs have a relatively short gestation period that lasts just 63 days on average.
In the womb, French Bulldogs develop rapidly over a period of nine days although determining the exact length of gestation and how far your Frenchie is into her pregnancy can be challenging.
According to the American Kennel Club, sperm can survive for days inside a female, and eggs can stay fertile for up to two days so the date of mating or artificial insemination can’t be used accurately to measure gestation.
Fortunately, a veterinarian can not only confirm your dog is pregnant but also narrow down the precise stage of pregnancy using ultrasounds, palpation, hormone tests, and x-rays.
During pregnancy, your French Bulldog will go through three stages or trimesters of pregnancy just like a human, although these stages are only last about a month each.
French Bulldogs are pregnant for about 8 to 9 weeks or 63 days with the most rapid fetal development occurring during the second month.
Here’s what you can expect throughout your Frenchie’s pregnancy as well as the birth process.
What Are the Stages of a Frenchie Pregnancy?
Frenchie’s pregnancy will only last about two to three months which means pups develop very rapidly. Here’s a look at each stage, month by month.
What Should I Expect During Month 1?
During your Frenchie’s first month of pregnancy, the embryos will move to your dog’s uterine horns or the area where the fallopian tubes and uterus meet.
According to PetPlace, your dog’s uterus is Y-shaped and the long arms of the Y — or the horns — are where the embryos will develop as they are arranged in a row.
To confirm your Frenchie is actually pregnant and make sure you’re accurately tracking gestation, it’s a good idea to take her for a prenatal checkup at the vet around 2 to 3 weeks after artificial insemination or mating.
By the 4th week or the end of the first trimester, your vet can confirm pregnancy with simple palpation, but this can only be done between the 28th and 35th days of the pregnancy.
The embryos usually reach the uterine horns by day 7 and become embedded in the uterine lining around the 16th day.
By day 22, the fetuses will start to have a recognizable shape. Your veterinarian can usually detect the heartbeats with an ultrasound between days 28 and 30.
Your Frenchie probably won’t have many if any symptoms during the first 3 weeks or so of the pregnancy.
You may notice some symptoms during the first month such as:
- Morning sickness. This only affects some dogs and usually only for a few days around week 3 or 4, according to WebMD.
- Pink discharge that may become clear around the 4th week
- Enlarged nipples
- Reduced activity
- Increased appetite
What Should I Expect During Month 2?
Big changes happen during your Frenchie’s second trimester. By day 32, the fetuses have eyelids and just three days later, toes. Between days 40 and 45, the pups will develop a coat, claws, and skeleton.
Your veterinarian should be able to tell you how many puppies are in the liter by day 50 with an x-ray as the spines and skulls will be visible.
Pregnancy symptoms should be obvious to spot by the second trimester and may include:
- Weight gain. Your Frenchie will likely gain about 20-50% of their weight by the second trimester.
- Increased appetite which will likely drop off around day 45
- A firm and enlarged abdomen around day 45
- Behavioral changes including nesting behavior by day 58
- Increased urination
- Visible movement of puppies by day 50
What Should I Expect During Month 3?
By the beginning of month three, your Frenchie will be ready to whelp her puppies. By day 58, development is almost complete. The puppies will slowly move into the right position in the birth canal during the last few days of pregnancy.
Symptoms to watch for include:
- A suddenly trim waist when the puppies move into the whelping position
- Restless behavior that may come with panting, pacing, or shivering
- Loss of appetite around day 61
- Body temperature drops between 12 and 24 hours before labor begins
The Week-by-Week Timeline of French Bulldog Pregnancy
Here’s a more in-depth look at the changes your Frenchie and her puppies will go through each week of the pregnancy.
You can also watch this video to see what you can expect and what canine fetal development looks like.
What Happens During Week One?
During the first week, ovulation, mating, and fertilization occur. The 9-week pregnancy officially starts with ovulation, just as with a human pregnancy, even though it can be hard to independently monitor your Frenchie’s ovulation.
During the first week, your Frenchie may have morning sickness and changes in her eating. You may also notice some pinkish discharge which is normal.
What Happens During Week Two?
Week 2 marks the actual beginning of embryonic development when cells begin to grow and embryos have moved into the uterus. Your Frenchie probably won’t have any pregnancy symptoms yet and can continue to exercise and eat as normal.
What Happens During Week Three?
By the 3rd week of your Frenchie’s pregnancy, the embryos will be just 1 centimeter long. Around this time, the embryos will implant in the uterine lining and begin to receive nutrients from the mother. By day 22 or 23, heartbeats can be detected, according to UNSW Embryology.
At this point, your French Bulldog may or may not have symptoms. When dogs do get morning sickness, it tends to happen during the third or fourth week due to rising hormone levels. Your Frenchie may also have an increased appetite.
What Happens During Week Four?
By the end of week 4, your veterinarian will be able to confirm pregnancy by palpation of the Frenchie’s abdomen. The faces of the fetuses will start to form along with the eyes and spines. The fetuses will grow 50% in size, reaching about 1.5 centimeters in length.
This is the most formative stage of your French Bulldog’s pregnancy. The fetuses are also at their most vulnerable. It’s important to limit any strenuous activity or rough play with your Frenchie. She will also have to change her nutritional needs.
What Happens During Week Five?
By the 5th week, the fetuses are a bit more protected and less susceptible to developmental problems. Around day 32, the amount of amniotic fluid increases the protect the growing pups. Pregnancy can no longer be confirmed by palpation.
Week 5 marks the development of whiskers, toes, and claws. The fetuses also develop male or female sex organs.
Your Frenchie will noticeably begin to put on a lot of weight around week five. This is definitely the time to make sure she’s getting enough nutrients and food. Begin feeding her more often with small meals.
During this week of pregnancy, you can choose to have your vet perform an ultrasound to confirm the number of puppies and check for potential developmental problems.
What Happens During Week Six?
By the 6th week, your Frenchie will be obviously pregnant and her abdomen will grow steadily every day. Her nipples will be darker and she will want to eat even more. Make sure to mix in some puppy food with her regular kibble and consider a nutritional supplement.
This is a good time to get a whelping box ready for your Frenchie. The box or bed should be somewhere your Frenchie can sleep and care for the puppies for several weeks.
Between days 35 and 42, the puppies will develop skin pigmentation and markings.
What Happens During Week Seven?
During the seventh week of pregnancy, the developing puppies are almost fully formed although they will continue to grow. Your Frenchie will start to shed the hair on her stomach to get ready for whelping.
If you introduced puppy food to her diet over the previous weeks, you can discontinue now to prompt her body to store the extra calcium which is important at the end of pregnancy.
What Happens During Week Eight?
It’s hard to say when your Frenchie will start to whelp her puppies, but it can definitely happen any time starting at the 8th week.
Make sure you avoid any stimulation or play that may trigger labor. You’ll notice your Frenchie start to nest and you’ll be able to see puppies moving when she’s lying on her side.
And the end of the week, your Frenchie will start to produce colostrum that will nourish the puppies before her milk comes in.
What Happens During Week Nine?
During the 9th week, your Frenchie will likely become withdrawn as she prepares for whelping. Her appetite will probably decline as she gets ready to birth to her puppies.
To help determine when she will go into labor, take her temperature a few times a day. Her temperature will drop before labor.
How Do a Frenchie’s Nutritional Needs Change in Pregnancy?
To support the rapidly growing liter of puppies, your Frenchie’s appetite and nutritional needs will change several times during pregnancy.
Providing your Frenchie with the right nutritional care is one of the most important things you can do to protect her health and support healthy fetal development.
Just as with humans, prenatal supplements are crucial to avoid potential developmental problems.
For example, a study published in the Polish Journal of Veterinary Sciences found that folic acid supplements when your Frenchie is in heat and at the start of gestation reduce the incidences of cleft palate and cleft lip by almost half.
As a general rule, a healthy French Bulldog will gain about 20% of her weight during pregnancy. You’ll need to take care to avoid overfeeding which can prolong labor as well as underfeeding which can cause embryo loss, miscarriage, abnormal development, and small litter size, according to Dr. Robin Downing.
To help your Frenchie maintain a healthy weight, check her weight each week and make adjustments to her diet as needed.
What Are My Frenchie’s Nutritional Needs in the First Trimester?
During the first few weeks of your Frenchie’s pregnancy, she will probably lose her appetite for a bit. As the embryos implant and begin to grow, their appetite will return.
The best thing to do is to maintain a regular feeding schedule and make changes to support her pregnancy. Your Frenchie should be getting prenatal supplements during this time, especially folic acid.
During this time, it’s important that your Frenchie does not actually lose weight but you shouldn’t be worried if she doesn’t seem to gain much.
How Do Will My Frenchie’s Nutritional Needs Change in the Second Trimester?
By the time your Frenchie reaches her 5th week of pregnancy, her caloric needs will increase by around 10% per week.
Hormonal and physical changes can make it harder for her to eat and properly digest nutrients, however.
To support healthy fetal development, it’s important to switch to calorie-dense food during the second trimester, according to Royal Canin.
This is a good time to mix in puppy food with her regular kibble and continue with multivitamin supplements.
How Will Nutritional Needs Change in the Third Trimester?
This is the time of the pregnancy that puts the greatest strain on your Frenchie with energy requirements that can be about 50% higher than usual to maintain her normal weight.
Once your Frenchie reaches the third trimester, or around 42 days into gestation, you can switch fully to a high-energy food.
She’ll also need 10% more food per week until she whelps her puppies. Because her abdomen is so full with very little room for food, choose a high-quality growth or puppy formula that’s easy to digest.
Focus on many small meals rather than just one or two large meals to help her maintain her energy levels and nutrient intake.