How to Know if Your Dog is Pregnant

How To Know If Your Dog Is Pregnant
Photo by Kojirou Sasaki on Unsplash

You’ve been noticing that your beautiful girl dog is acting particularly funny lately. She’s eating more, taking more time for herself, and her belly is distended. If your dog isn’t fixed, then it’s possible she could be pregnant. While welcoming a new litter of puppies into the world can be very rewarding and exciting, it can also be nerve-wracking, expensive and time consuming to look after the little puppies.

If you suspect your dog is pregnant, here’s everything you need to know about dog pregnancy.

Dog Pregnancy Symptoms

If your dog is pregnant, you’ll usually be able to tell. Pregnant dogs are very straightforward with their symptoms and have specific wants and needs. If you suspect your dog has the following symptoms, consult your vet for diagnostic testing or an ultrasound. The sooner you know that your dog is pregnant, the better it is so you can start treating and handling your dog safely, so any suspicions or symptoms are worth getting checked out by a professional expert as soon as possible.

Here are some of the dog pregnancy symptoms to look out for:

Ravenous appetite

If your dog is pregnant, she will have a ravenous appetite to keep up with all the puppies she has on the way! Similar to the way women need to eat more calories when pregnant, dogs must do the same, except they usually have anywhere from five to eight babies in them! If your dog has been unusually hungry or thirsty, it could be a sign she’s expecting.

Once the pregnancy has been confirmed, you will need to consider this as part of their diet. The mother will need a lot of energy to carry around her little puppies and therefore, she will require more food to sustain this energy. The mother will require more food shortly after her delivery and also during lactation, it’s worth consulting with a vet around how much you should increase her food intake by, however, usually, the mother will require between 2-4 times more calories than a normal healthy adult dog would require.

You shouldn’t rely on this symptom on its own as there could be other reasons why your dog has suddenly established a more ravenous appetite, but certainly, one to look out for as it could be a sign that your dog is pregnant.

Weight gain

With a ravenous appetite comes weight gain, but also having puppies on the way is certain to lead to weight gain. Since your dog has puppies on the way, she’s certain to pack on a few pounds. Weight gain is one of the most noticeable symptoms in pregnant dogs.

If your dog has suddenly put on a lot of weight and you suspect that she is pregnant, you should get her checked as soon as possible. Not only will the mother gain weight, but she will become more fragile and she will need to take things steady during her pregnancy. This means that she will need a calm and non-stressful approach to exercise, including play and regular short walks.

Morning sickness

Much like women get sick when they’re pregnant, dogs experience nausea too! Your dog may vomit up food or suddenly become averse to food. This is completely normal as part of their pregnancy. Morning sickness is common at any stage of pregnancy. Don’t be alarmed if your dog’s appetite fluctuates during pregnancy and it should be something to look out for and to potentially expect.

Pregnant Dog With Morning Sickness
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Morning sickness is a symptom of many illnesses and you shouldn’t assume that your dog is pregnant from this symptom alone, rather a combination of symptoms where possible. If you are concerned that your dogs morning sickness is excessive and is frequent, you should consult a professional to have her checked out and to be on the safe side of things. The vet will be able to confirm whether your dog is pregnant by a dog pregnant test, which will measure the mother’s hormone levels or they may use an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy.

Enlarged and darker nipples

One of the most telltale signs if your dog is pregnant or not is if their nipples become enlarged or darkened. This can occur within weeks. If you notice this, take your dog for diagnostic testing, especially if they’re displaying other symptoms.

Swollen belly

If your dog is pregnant, her belly will look swollen and distended. It will also feel swollen to the touch. Unlike standard bloating, your dog’s stomach will look and feel tight.

Unusually tired

Your pregnant dog might be more prone to longer naps and sleep. Since she’s nurturing puppies within herself, she’ll need more sleep and rest to make sure her body is properly nourished and functioning. If your dog is pregnant it’s important to give her the time she needs to rest and you shouldn’t force any play or walking activities while she is resting. This is an important part of her puppies growth period.

Pregnant Dog Tired
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Mood swings

Your dog might bounce between bouts of irritability and excitement. She might become quick to react, either good or bad reactions can present themselves. If your dog’s mood seems a little bit harder to gauge, this could be a sign of dog pregnancy. This should be expected because who doesn’t have mood swings when they are pregnant? It’s a tough job, especially when they are carrying lots of puppies, but you shouldn’t ever force activity upon the mother during her pregnancy. Let her come to you.

How to Know if Your Dog is Pregnant

One of the easiest ways to know if your dog is pregnant or not is to take them to the vet for diagnostic testing. If you know your dog has mated recently, then taking them to the vet within two to three weeks after the mating can help confirm their pregnancy. Your vet can perform an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. Just like humans use ultrasounds to see their babies, vets can do the same for dogs! These can detect heartbeats and movement, which is a surefire way to determine if your dog is pregnant or not. The vet will be able to tell you how many puppies the mother will be expecting.

Your vet can also perform hormone testing. This can be done by collecting blood samples. Your vet will complete a blood draw on your dog and test the hormone levels to see if your dog is secreting higher levels of hormones common in pregnant dogs. Relaxin is the primary hormone that pregnant dogs secrete since it’s only produced during pregnancy.

X-rays are another certain way to see if your dog is pregnant or not. They can detect fetal bones, but this is best done in the later stages of the pregnancy. If your dog has been consistently displaying symptoms of pregnancy for a month or so, then x-rays can help detect pregnancy. This gives the puppy fetuses enough time to develop their skeletal systems.

How long after mating can you tell if a dog is pregnant?

If you suspect that your dog is pregnant, your vet will be able to confirm the pregnancy with a dog pregnancy test. This test will measure your dog’s hormones to check whether they meet the criteria of being pregnant. This process can be completed from days 21-25 of her term, however, your vet can perform an ultrasound between days 20-22. 

From day 30 onwards, your vet will be able to conduct a physical examination to check whether your dog is pregnant,  and they will be able to confirm how many puppies your dog is expecting!

When do pregnant dogs start showing?

If your dog’s pregnancy is planned, you may start to wonder when they will start showing, i.e. when their stomach starts expanding due to the puppies inside. Most dogs won’t show any signs during the first couple of weeks during their pregnancy, but from the third and fourth week, signs typically start to show.

Can you use a home pregnancy test on a dog?

To confirm, you cannot use a human pregnancy test to confirm whether your dog is pregnant, this test result will be invalid and you should always consult with a vet if you suspect that your dog is pregnant.

How many puppies can a dog have?

The number of puppies in a litter varies from 1 to 12 puppies, however, the average between all dog breeds is 5-6 puppies in one litter. So if your dog is lucky, they can have quite a few! Your dog size can also influence the number of puppies they have, big dogs tend to have more puppies than smaller dogs.

What foods are toxic to pregnant dogs?

There are some foods that you should strictly avoid, especially while your dog is pregnant, such as grapes, onions, chocolate and garlic. These foods are very toxic to dogs and could harm your dog during their pregnancy.

How Long Dogs Are Pregnant For

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the average gestation period for dogs is about 57 to 65 days, which is generally about two months. If you know your dog has mated, and know the exact date, you should be able to calculate her due date. If you don’t know when your dog has mated but suspect she’s pregnant, a vet should be able to help you calculate her due date by how far along she is in her pregnancy.

Unlike us humans, dog pregnancy is relatively short and quick-lived, so you’ll need to be there to help the mother throughout her pregnancy where possible.

How to Care for a Pregnant Dog

Caring for a pregnant dog is a matter of adequate nutrition, exercise, vet visits, and rest, much like pregnant women need to eat a balanced diet, stay moving, go to the doctor, and rest their bodies. The same principles apply to your dog.

Start by feeding your dog extra food

A well-balanced diet with lots of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats is ideal. Consult with your vet when starting your pregnant dog on a diet, since they can take their individual concerns into account when curating the perfect meal plan.

Keep them clean

There isn’t anything more unenjoyable than a dog having fleas or other insects live on them, especially if they are pregnant. The mother’s stomach will feel tight and in general, being pregnant can be an unwelcoming experience for the body. Learn more about how to check if your dog has fleas and what to do to eliminate them and other unwanted insects.

Keep your dog happy and healthy

Gentle walks around the neighbourhood are perfect to keep your dog in shape without causing too much strain. Avoid taking your pregnant dog to the dog park or other high traffic areas to prevent her from getting sick, since this can be transmitted to the fetuses. Always set your dog up for nap time!

Regular vet visits will ensure that she and her puppies get the care they need to flourish

Take her to the vet every few weeks to make sure her pregnancy is streamlined with minimal complications.

Keep your dog away from anything frightening that can raise its heart rate

This may seem like a no-brainer, however, in the festive season, you can expect fireworks, door knockers and lots of loud noises, this can be a very unpleasant experience and made even worse if they are pregnant. Learn more about how to help your dog cope with fireworks during the festive season.

All in all, pregnant dogs just need a little more TLC! Your pregnant dog and her puppies will thrive as long as they get the love and care they need. A happy and healthy mama dog means happy and healthy puppies!

And that’s how to know if your dog is pregnant, if you have any questions or concerns, we highly suggest speaking to your local vet, as they will be able to help you and your dog throughout their pregnancy journey. Best of luck!

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