How to Tell if Your Dog is Pregnant

English Bulldog with her puppies

Perhaps nothing is more exciting than the prospect of a new litter of puppies on its way. But how can you tell if your dog is pregnant? Whether you are a breeder hoping for a pregnancy or suspect that your dog may be pregnant, there are signs to watch for that indicate her condition. Read on to learn how you can prepare for the pitter-patter of little paws in the near future.

Dog Pregnancy Signs

Although not all dogs experience all the signs of pregnancy, most pregnant dogs experience at least a few common symptoms. How to tell if your dog is pregnant means looking for these telltale signs:

  • Morning sickness. Just like your dog’s human counterparts, morning sickness is common in the early stages of dog pregnancies. Note any dog vomiting during the early days after conception. If vomiting continues long-term or seems excessive, be sure to speak with your vet.
  • Mucus discharge. Roughly a month or so after conception, your dog may release mucus discharge. This is completely normal and no cause for alarm.
  • More prominent teats. Right around the 30-day mark following mating, your pregnant dog’s teats may become more prominent in both size and colour. They may also leak a semi-clear liquid.
  • Weight gain. Expect your dog to gradually increase her weight by as much as 5% above her normal body weight, starting around 35 days after mating. You will likely notice her swollen stomach from day 40 onward. However, if your dog is carrying just a few pups or if it is her first litter, her weight gain may not be as noticeable (or she may even gain less).
  • Increased appetite. During the second half of your dog’s pregnancy, plan on her being hungrier than usual. Be ready to change her diet and feeding amount to accommodate this elevation in her appetite.

If your pregnant dog becomes quieter than normal or her appetite declines, there could be a problem with her pregnancy. See your vet right away to rule out any issues.

When Can My Dog Get Pregnant?

Dogs can only get pregnant during their “season,” which is a more genteel way of saying that a dog is “in heat.” Most females go into season around once every eight months or so and stay in heat for as long as three weeks.

When your female is in season, you may notice her getting into scuffles with male dogs if they are not ready for mating just yet. If you don’t want them to mate, be sure to walk your dog on a lead while she is in heat. Because pregnancy is an expensive prospect and an emotional one for both your dog and you, breeding is best left to the experts. You can avoid a dog pregnancy altogether by opting to get your dog spayed (or neutering your male dog to prevent any unwanted offspring).

How Can I Confirm That My Dog's Pregnant?

Confirming a dog pregnancy may require a trip to your vet’s office. Your vet can use a special dog pregnancy test to measure her hormone levels, which are elevated from day 21 through day 25 of the pregnancy. Vets can also use ultrasound imaging from day 20 through 22. Moreover, a physical exam by your vet can determine the number of puppies your dog is carrying; however, the accuracy of such an exam is not always 100%, and you can always end up with a lot more puppies than you had bargained for.

How Long Will My Dog Be Pregnant?

The typical dog pregnancy lasts from 61 to 65 days. Because some of the physical signs of pregnancy don’t manifest for a month or so after mating, your dog may be well into her pregnancy before you’re any wiser to her condition. Unfortunately, there are no at-home pregnancy tests, so you must rely solely on spotting the signs of pregnancy for yourself to determine if your dog is expecting.

How Can I Help My Dog Get Ready for Labour?

Wondering how to take care of your pregnant dog's needs? The most help you can give your dog as she readies herself for birth is to provide her with a “nest” where she feels peaceful and comfortable. A large cardboard box lined with puppy pads and outfitted with blankets, towels, sheets and a few toys can suffice nicely. Position your dog’s nest in a quiet, room-temperature space. It’s a good idea to have your dog’s nest ready a couple of weeks prior to her due date to be on the safe side.

What Are the Signs of Impending Labour in My Dog?

Labour in dogs occurs in three stages. During stage one, the dog begins to have small contractions that you can't see, and her vulva swells to prepare for the birth. She may become unsettled and restless, and she may shiver and pant

During stage two, which can last from 3 to 12 hours or as long as 24 hours, clear fluid may come from your dog's vulva after strong contractions, with a puppy following within 30 minutes. Puppies usually arrive within 20 minutes of each other.

During stage three, your dog passes the placentas for each puppy. Count them to be sure the number of puppies matches the number of placentas, and if one is missing (assuming your dog doesn't eat it, as this tends to happen and is normal), contact your vet right away.

Expecting a litter of puppies is exciting, but pregnancy and labour can be hard on your dog. Knowing the signs your dog is pregnant and knowing how to tell if your dog is pregnant is important because your dog needs extra nutrition and care during this monumental moment in her life.

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