Signs Your Dog Is Pregnant

Pregnant or Not?

When it comes to canine pregnancy there are two different types of owners: the “hopeful” and the “concerned.”

The hopeful owner is the one that is keeping his fingers crossed in hope that his bitch is pregnant and that she will soon have a litter of cute, healthy puppies.

The concerned one hopes the bitch did not get pregnant when she accidentally slipped out the door and came back two hours later. Regardless of the owner’s state of mind, there are some specific signs that may help suggest or rule out a pregnancy.

Pregnancy Fast Facts

—The gestation period ranges between 57 and 65 days, with an average of 63.

—Abdominal ultrasound is the preferred method for detecting pregnancy. Scans performed after day 28 are reliable. Blood tests can be done at day 30 and are also reliable.

——An X-ray performed during the last two weeks of pregnancy (around week seven) is the most accurate way to determine litter size. It should be done for all pregnant dogs.

Early Signs

Early pregnancy signs may be hard to detect, especially by an inexperienced owner and breeder. These signs may be misleading because dogs can go through a false pregnancy which can mimic all the signs of a real one.

Generally, early signs of pregnancy can be observed as early as 30 days after mating. Here are some of the symptoms:

Some dogs may lose their appetite in the first weeks, similar to what women experience when they get morning sickness.

Other dogs might have an increase in appetite and start gobbling their food more than usual.
A slight decrease of activity may also be seen as the bitch goes through hormonal changes.
Nipple growth is an early sign as well. The nipples will appear slightly larger and may be slightly darker. Taking a picture after the mating and comparing it later on can help you see if there are actually changes taking place.
The abdomen starts swelling and the dog starts gaining weight.
A pregnant dog may become more needy and clingy or have other behavioral changes.
As mentioned, there is also a chance that your bitch is exhibiting false pregnancy symptoms. Every dog actually does this after they go through heat and displays pregnancy symptoms for about a month. Therefore, your vet is the best person to confirm or rule out a pregnancy.

Ways the Vet Can Test for Pregnancy

Your vet may palpate your dog’s abdomen as early as 28 days post-breeding to feel for possible embryos. However, an ultrasound may be a more accurate test. It may even help determine how many puppies your bitch is expecting.
Relaxin (a special substance produced only during pregnancy) can also be detected as early as in the first 25 – 30 days after breeding through an endocrinological test. This may be available at your vet’s office, or you could also find a kit online. However, the kit may be challenging to use unless you have a way to separate the plasma in order to be tested.
X-rays may detect puppies’ skeletons 45 days post-breeding.
Puppies’ heartbeats can be heard via stethoscope 25 days post-breeding.
If your dog ends up being pregnant and you are a “hopeful owner,” congratulations! You can start celebrating and counting down 63 days!

On the other hand, if you are the “concerned owner,” keep in mind that accidents do happen and get her spayed ASAP!

If Your Dog Is Pregnant

Or if you suspect your dog is pregnant, schedule an appointment with the vet as soon as you’ll be able to get a reliable test. Until then, give her good nutrition and moderate exercise, keep her environment low-stress, and provide her with a nice place to rest.

Vet Explains First Symptoms of Pregnancy

Fertility Cycle of Dogs

The heat cycle is divided into phases which when combined, average about 21 days.

Phase One: Pro-estrus

You will be aware of this stage because it is when vaginal bleeding and vaginal swelling occurs.
This phase lasts about 7 to 10 days.
If male dogs are around they will be interested in the bitch but she will be reluctant and will not let him mount.

Phase Two: Estrus (Fertile Phase)

In this phase, the female is actually fertile.

The bleeding has stopped and it is replaced by a yellowish vaginal discharge.
This phase will last about 4 – 13 days.
She will be more tolerant and will keep her tail to the side. She will allow the male to mount at this point. If you witness “a tie” where they are both stuck together for a while, then it’s possible puppies are on the way.

Third Phase: Diestrus

The female will again be reluctant to mate, because she is no longer fertile. The male, however, may still try to mount.

The Estrus Phase Is the Most Crucial

The estrus phase is the fertile one and therefore the most important. It usually occurs between the 8th and 15th day after bleeding has started. This is the time you should be looking for if you are the “hopeful breeder.” Alternatively, this is the time you hope she didn’t go out if you are the “concerned owner.”

Each dog is different, however. The only way to be sure whether or not she is pregnant is a pregnancy test by a vet.

Being in a “Tie”

It also appears that being in a “tie” ups the chances for pregnancy in dogs. A tie occurs when the male and female dog are stuck for some time. However, some dogs have also become pregnant without a tie, and some dogs don’t get pregnant despite tying, so it’s not a guarantee.

Increasing the Chance for Pregnancy

Breeding every other day from estrus up until the female allows it may also increase the chance for pregnancy since the male is allowed to rest and the sperm has time to refresh.

However, there are really no reliable days. This is why some professional breeders have their dog’s hormones checked by a vet to ensure breeding on the most fertile day.

Again, even this may not be sufficient. Therefore, there is no way to guarantee pregnancy, but by monitoring the phases, you may be able to heighten the chance of it happening.

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