Summary: One question I am frequently asked is, “How do I tell if my dog is pregnant?” or "Is My Dog Pregnant?". This is easily answered, but not be quite as easy to determine. Don’t be alarmed, it is possible, but it requires some effort and a trip to the veterinarian. Never guess that a dog is pregnant unless you can see puppies coming out of her. Confirmation of pregnancy requires a veterinarian.
Before We Begin...
Before we discuss the signs of a dog pregnancy, let’s briefly talk about your dogs estrus cycle. For more information about this, read our article - "The 4 Stage of the Dog Heat Cycle". The article discusses in detail each of the stages of the heat cycle: Proestrus-the period before she is fertile. Estrus-the period when she is fertile and will mate. Diestrus-period after mating. This is when your dog is pregnant, or goes through a false pregnancy (pseudocyesis). Anestrus-period of hormonal inactivity or when your dog is “normal” and not pregnant.
What are the Signs of a Pregnant Dog?
Now that we got that out of the way, we can move on to the indicators of a dog pregnancy or answering the question: "Is My Dog Pregnant?"
- Behavior Changes: Know your dog's behavior BEFORE she is pregnant. Knowing how your dog looks and acts is a great help to determining if there is a change after her estrus cycle has ended.
- Morning sickness: Dogs, like people, can get morning sickness. They can also feel extra tired and may appear lazy.
- Nipple growth: You may notice that your dog's nipples have gotten a little larger
or more pronounced. There may also be some milk present.
- Ultrasound: This is the earliest method of discovery and is usually done around day 25 of your dogs pregnancy. Remember that 'DAY 1' is the first day she mated.
- Fetal Heartbeats: Heartbeats can be detected after day 25. Your vet will check for heartbeats during the same visit as the ultrasound. This is not a good method for determining the number of puppies.
- Blood test: Since dogs go through the same hormonal changes whether they are pregnant or not, there is not an effective urine pregnancy test. However, your vet can test her blood for the presence of the hormone relaxin. This hormone is ONLY produced in pregnant dogs. This test is performed mid-gestation.
- Palpating: Most experienced vets can palpate your dog's stomach to determine if she is pregnant about 20-30 days after conception.
- X-rays: Growing skeletons will be visible on x-ray about 45 days after conception. This is a recommended method because when your dog is delivering
puppies, it’s good to know how many she should give birth to. This way, if she
only births 3 puppies, but you know there are 4, you can call your vet and avoid
some serious and potentially fatal complications.
- Pseudocyesis: This is not a method of detection, but it is very important that you know about it. During diestrus (mentioned above), your dog is hormonally pregnant whether she is actually expecting or not. The only real way to tell if
your dog really is pregnant is to visit the veterinarian. Signs 1, 2, and 3 can all be
present in a dog that isn’t really pregnant. She can even appear to go into labor.
If your dog is mentally pregnant, there are steps you may need to take to bring her
out of it. Most dogs will naturally equalize in about three weeks, but some do not.
It’s a wonderful time. Now that you know your dog is pregnant, you can prepare yourself
and your home for a new addition to the family! OR Now that you know your dog is
NOT pregnant, you get to sit back and relax and just enjoy your pet.
So if your dog ends up being pregnant, we have several product ideas from Amazon we would recommend for helping your dog's whelping go smoothly. The nice thing about Amazon is the free shipping for eligible orders over $25 and the great product reviews from Amazon visitors. A great whelping box alternative would be the Iris Plastic 4-Panel Dog Pen (for smaller breed dogs of course). You can easily place an EZwhelp Washable Whelping Pad in the bottom of the area due to its size. If you get a larger pen, then make sure to size the whelping pad appropriately. The pad pictured below fits the IRIS 4-panel pen below closely. It also will keep the puppies contained in a smaller area. A Stethoscope is also a very nice addition to a breeders collection, along with an Electronic Baby Scale for monitoring puppy development (the Salter scale from Amazon is the one we'd recommend for its price and ability to accurately read even with movement. Also, the contoured edges will keep your puppies contained as they develop), Forceps, and a Pet-Temp Instant Ear Thermometer. This thermometer can take a dog's temperature within one second! A dog breeder necessity!
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