Signs Your Dog is Pregnant

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 13, 2018
Signs Your Dog is Pregnant

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Any responsible pet owner needs to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of possible pregnancy in their dog. It is vital so you can be prepared to meet your own responsibility as a dog owner as well as help the dog with their responsbility as a mother. This will involve providing the essentials puppies need for a healthy body and good psychological beginning to their life as well as a safe practical environment.

If you suspect your dog is pregnant, the first thing you should do is take them to the vet. This way they can not only confirm pregnancy, but provide some advice on how to prepare if the answer is in the affirmative. Here at AnimalWised, we have the information you need to recognize these signs your dog is pregnant so you can confirm if your suspicions are true.

You may also be interested in: How to Know if Your Tortoise is Pregnant
  1. Pregnancy in dogs
  2. Physical changes which indicate your dog is pregnant
  3. Behavioral changes which show your dog is pregnant
  4. Pregnancy confirmation
  5. Dog care during pregnancy

Pregnancy in dogs

Dogs have a much shorter gestation period than humans at around 2 months. Like humans, however, they can be born premature or stay a little longer incubating. It is normal for the puppies to be born anytime between 58 and 65 days, after which the dog will give birth. A normal sized litter will be between 4 and 8 puppies. However, more or less may be born dependent on different variables, the breed being a common one.

Also like humans, you will not be able to see any bloating in the belly of the dog until a while after conception. This is usually at about 4 weeks in. This means you won't notice much bloating until halfway through the pregnancy. As it may be difficult to tell whether your dog is pregnant before this time, it increases the risk the puppies are not getting the necessary nutrients can care they need for their development. While we go into detail on the signs of symptoms of a pregnant dog, here is the week by week timeline of your dog's pregnancy if you want chronological detail.

Signs Your Dog is Pregnant - Pregnancy in dogs

Physical changes which indicate your dog is pregnant

It's true that the growth of the belly is not noticeable until about 4 weeks in, but there are other physical changes which indicate pregnancy in canines.

Symptoms of a pregnant dog:

  • Breast enlargement: it is normal for the dog's breasts to swell even during the early days of their pregnancy. However, this isn't always the case. In some dogs, this may happen at a similar time to their enlarged bellies. Also, it is important to know there are many possible reasons why a dog's breasts may become engorged, another reason it is important to ensure you look at their general demeanor.
  • Pink nipples: this is one of the easiest signs to detect, but also usually accompanies swollen breasts. If you notice your dog's nipples are more pink than usual, you may suspect they are pregnant. However, this won't be the case if the dog's nipples weren't pink in the first place. Dog nipples will range in color anywhere form pink to black, so simply look for an intensification of whatever color they may be.
  • Vaginal discharge: it is also possible that your dog has vaginal discharge whether it is a clear liquid or light pink. This fluid is designed to work like a plug which keeps the puppies safe from the outside world, particularly infections. Additionally, it is also normal for your dog to urinate more often than usual, since the bladder will have less space than usual. If you think there is something uncommon about your dog's discharge, it is important to rule out it isn't due to an infection such as pyometra.

Behavioral changes which show your dog is pregnant

In addition to looking at physical signs your dog is pregnant, keeping an eye on their behavior may be what you need to tell the difference. Firstly, you will need to take into account that you know your pet better than anyone. If you notice changes, big or small, in how they react to things or their general demeanor, it could mean they are pregnant. Of course, this could be down to other underlying conditions, another reason why a vet's visit is important. Behavioral symptoms of a pregnant dog include:

  • Dietary changes: at the beginning of a pregnancy, your dog will likely eat less in relation to their normal diet. This is subject to change as the pregnancy develops. It is usual that two weeks after conception, your dog's appetite will start to increase. Into the second month after conception, this increase is usually quite dramatic as the dog needs to mee the nutritional needs of the puppies inside her. It is important to make sure you don't confuse eating more and becoming bloated with obesity issues.
  • Changes in the pet-human relationship: a common change in many female dogs during pregnancy is to want more contact time with their owners. They may want to be petted more often, seek protection or even simply want to be more comfortable. In the case your dog is timid or suspicious in general, however, these character traits may become exacerbated. In this case, it can happen your dog does not want to be touched and seems more sensitive than usual.
  • Apathy and lethargy: it is very common for your dog to want to play and engage physically less than usual. This is for two reasons. Firstly, exercise can damage their precious cargo and, secondly, they need to conserve energy. They may appear apathetic or lethargic, but really they are simply dealing with the changes in their body accordingly.
  • They shy away from other pets: it is common for pregnant dogs to stay away from other animals during their pregnancy. This is perhaps to protect themselves from attack (or even otherwise harmless play) as well as to avoid getting any diseases passed on.
  • Looking for nesting spots: as a pregnant dog will need somewhere to give birth, they will seek out secure and comfortable places to rest. They may scratch at the ground or even drag their bed into somewhere they want to rest.
Signs Your Dog is Pregnant - Behavioral changes which show your dog is pregnant

Pregnancy confirmation

When you keep an eye out for all these signs of pregnancy in dogs, there is one surefire way to know your dog is actually pregnant (without a urine or blood test from the vet). This is when you can actually feel the puppies through the abdomen of your dog. However, if you have got to this stage without going to the vet, then you should go immediately. The full range of tests they conduct will include:

  • Ascultation of the puppies' heartbeats (fancy word for listening)
  • Ultrasound after the third week
  • Blood test
  • X-ray and palpation tests after 28 days of gestation
Signs Your Dog is Pregnant - Pregnancy confirmation

Dog care during pregnancy

If your dog is pregnant, you will need to bear in mind a series of care options needed to ensure the safety of mother and puppies. They will both need to be healthy and strong to survive the birth alone. You will have to provide an appropriate diet, give the right level of exercise (not too much or too little) and, of course, provide a lot of love.

One last thing, however, is to make sure this is a real pregnancy. Dogs, as well as other animals, will sometimes go through something known as a phantom pregnancy. Check out our article on phantom pregnancy in dogs to determine whether this is genuine.

Signs Your Dog is Pregnant - Dog care during pregnancy

If you want to read similar articles to Signs Your Dog is Pregnant, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.

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Signs Your Dog is Pregnant