How to Tell If Your Dog is Pregnant

Dog Health Resources May 10, 2024
How to Tell If Your Dog is Pregnant
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How to Tell If Your Dog is Pregnant

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How to Tell If Your Dog is Pregnant

Our beloved canines seem to always be full of surprises and one of the bigger ones is finding out that your dog is pregnant. You may have come to this article wondering how to determine if your pup is pregnant, but it is not always easy to tell.

Of course, the best way to find out if your dog is pregnant is to take her to your veterinarian for diagnostic tests.

In this article, we will explain how to diagnose pregnancy in your dog and walk you through the process.

Sign Your Dog is Pregnant

During the first few weeks of pregnancy, it may be difficult to tell if your dog is pregnant but there are a few subtle clues. During this time, she may suffer from a decreased appetite and vomit. Here are some additional signs that your dog may be pregnant:

  • Weight Gain
  • A swollen Stomach
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigues easy
  • Increased breast and nipple size
  • Irritability
  • More affectionate
  • Vomiting
  • Decrease in appetite

If you suspect she is pregnant and there are no definite signs, as mentioned above, then you should visit your veterinarian. Your vet can conduct a hormone test to give you a definitive answer. You can also do an ultrasound on day 20 or later.

How Long are Dogs Pregnant?

Dogs are pregnant for about two months or a total of 63 days. Dog pregnancies are broken up into trimesters the way humans are. However, there are three trimesters in a dog’s gestation period, each lasting 21 days.

Most dogs do not show signs of pregnancy for the first few weeks and tend to experience similar pregnancy symptoms that humans do, including morning sickness. Again, your vet can tell you for sure if your dog is pregnant.

More Accurate Ways to Confirm Your Dog is Pregnant

Abdominal Palpation: Abdominal palpation is a way of softly massaging your dog’s tummy to feel for puppies growing in the uterus. However, abdominal palpation should not be attempted without the help of your veterinarian to prevent hurting the puppies. This method can be performed as early as three weeks after your dog mates.

Witness Relaxin Test: Relaxin is a type of hormone that is released only during pregnancy. Your veterinarian can perform an inexpensive witness relaxin test to test the presence of relaxin after just 4 weeks of gestation.

Ultrasound Scan: As early as three weeks after mating, your vet can determine if your dog is pregnant with an ultrasound. An ultrasound can detect fetal heartbeats, and your veterinarian may be able to estimate the number of puppies your dog is carrying. Your veterinarian may be able to predict your dog’s due date using an ultrasound too.

X-rays: Performing an x-ray is the most effective way to determine if your dog is pregnant. You will need to wait until week six of gestation before you can use this method because the skeletons of puppies will not show up until that time. X-rays are also the best way to find out how many puppies your dog is carrying.

How to Feed a Pregnant Dog

Healthy puppies are the result of a healthy pregnancy, which includes a nutritious diet for your pregnant dog. During the first four weeks of pregnancy, your dog may have a loss of appetite and some vomiting but it is best to feed her normally without offering excess calories to prevent unnecessary fat. Your dog should be provided fresh water and drink it often.

Around week five, you can increase the amount of food during meal time. Because this is when vitamin deficiencies can start, it is important to offer your dog prenatal vitamin and folic acid to avoid problems like eclampsia.

As the pregnancy progresses, you can introduce more fat- and protein-rich foods into her diet. This can result in less activity because her liver and kidneys will be doing more work to break down the food and use it to grow her body.

Your veterinarian may suggest certain water-soluble vitamins or supplements, depending on her overall health. These supplements can make up for the lack of calories due to her loss of appetite.

How to Exercise a Pregnant Dog

Just like pregnant humans, exercise should not be intense, which means calm, and non-strenuous forms of exercise. Regular, short walks and light play are best for pregnant dogs. It is best to not start any kind of obedience training during this time due to added stress on your dog.

Your pregnant dog must be separated from other dogs and animals during the last 3 weeks. This will prevent her from being exposed to parasites or illnesses, which can impact her and her puppy’s health.

When to Take Your Pregnant Dog to the Vet

Contact your Veterinarian for advice if any problems arise during her pregnancy or birth, but this is rare and most dogs do fine on their own.

Take your pregnant dog to the vet when:

  • She is sick, does not seem like herself and is whelping
  • She appears exhausted with a long labor.
  • She has been straining for 20 to 30 minutes without properly delivering a pup. There could be a blockage that requires emergency surgery.
  • She is bleeding more than a few drops. It is normal for your dog to have bloody fluid while giving birth, but more than a few drops means you should call your vet immediately.
  • A puppy is stuck. Puppies can get stuck for many reasons. This could mean the puppy is too large, deformed, or in the wrong position. It is important to call the vet immediately and not try to pull the puppy out yourself.

How to Know When Your Dog is Getting Close to Giving Birth

A dog is pregnant for an average of about nine weeks. Just days before birth, you may notice a little milky fluid leaking from her nipples.

Your dog will also start nesting just days or hours before the start of labor.

A dog’s normal body temperature is, give or take, 101.5 F.  A pregnant dog’s temperature will often drop quite a bit, 12 to 24 hours before birth. Begin taking your dog’s temperature twice a day, about a week before her due date and if she is in the  98-99 F range, you can expect puppies soon.

What to do When Your Dog is Giving Birth

Knowing the signs a dog is going into labor soon will help you help her and keep her calm.

Before your dog goes into labor, her body temperature will drop from 101.5 Fahrenheit to the 98-99 F range, as mentioned above. Once it falls below normal, she will probably start to whelp within 24 hours. Next will come panting, then, pacing around, and refusing to eat. She may even vomit.

Around this time, her nesting stage will begin and she should have a designated area to give birth. This pre-delivery labor stage usually lasts anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. At the end of this stage, her cervix should be completely dilated.

Once the final stage of labor starts, you will be able to see her contractions. This means the muscles in her abdomen will tense up and she may start straining into a position like she is having a bowel movement. Her first pup should be born 1-2 hours after her contractions begin. Sometimes your dog may rest after delivering one pup but after a few hours, continue delivering the rest of the litter.

If this is your dog’s first pregnancy, she may have a problem removing the birth sac after the puppies are born, but most dogs remove it themselves. If she does not remove the sack fast enough, the puppy will not be able to breathe. You may need to assist by tearing a hole so the puppy can take its first breath.

Once all the puppies are born, the placentas and afterbirth will be expelled. There should be the same number of placentas as there are puppies. You may need to help your dog clean her puppies if she isn’t doing it quickly. Wipe the puppy clean until you hear it make a crying sound, then put it into position to nurse.

What is a False Pregnancy?

There is an affliction called false pregnancy where a female dog is not actually pregnant, but her hormones fluctuate as if she is pregnant. Some dogs react to these hormones with behavior like nesting or even labor-like symptoms.

Usually, a false pregnancy in dogs will only last about three weeks and is not a health danger. However, it can be hard to tell between a real pregnancy and a false one, and your dog should be examined by your veterinarian to determine if she is carrying puppies or not.

Final Thoughts

The only way to confirm if your dog is pregnant before she gives birth is to see your vet. Regular vet check-ups will also ensure that your dog and her puppies are healthy.

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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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