Detecting whether your dog is pregnant can be quite hard until you obviously see her belly bulging.
If you’re expecting cute, healthy puppies to be born, it’s important to identify first whether your dog is pregnant so that you don’t end up with false hopes. Most of all, you can prepare for your puppies’ birth ahead of time to ensure safe deliveries.
The following signs will you determine if your beloved dog is pregnant:
Unlike humans whose pregnancy term lasts for nine months, a female dog’s pregnancy lasts for about two months.
For most canines, it’s between 58 to 66 days. During this period, your pooch will display many physical changes in her body.
1. Body changes
When a female dog is pregnant, her body shape doesn’t change until the second half of her pregnancy.
You will notice her tummy start to fill out and her waist begin to thicken at about four to five weeks. In your dog’s final third of her pregnancy, her belly will become rounded and ballooned as her mammary glands start to develop to get ready to produce milk.
A dog’s nipples will also start to change color and size from the beginning of her pregnant period. Usually, nipples will get bigger and appear noticeably darker. At the same time, the hair around the nipples will start to thin out to prepare for nursing puppies.
2. Puppy movement
Place your palm flat against your dog’s side where you can see the rippling to feel the movement of the puppies. You will notice your dog’s flanks moving as the puppies wriggle in her womb during the final third of the gestation period.
A sudden change in your dog’s behavior can be an early indicator of pregnancy.
During this time, your furry friend will show irritability and want nothing to do with you in the first half of her pregnancy. If this is the case for your pooch, ease her moodiness by making her comfortable in a cozy pet bed.
3. Drastic and unexpected mood changes
Due to changing hormone levels, your dog’s temperament is affected. Dogs react differently to pregnancy. For instance, your usual happy pooch may be a bit grumpy or quieter than usual.
If you have a hyperactive dog, she will be less energetic when pregnant. You’ll notice her spending more time resting than running or playing.
4. Appetite changes
During early pregnancy, dogs can experience morning sickness and lose their appetite.
If your pooch is three to four weeks pregnant, she may start eating very little. This situation will continue until your pooch gets over her nausea.
There are other dogs who experience an increase in appetite and start gobbling up more food than usual.
When a dog is near her whelping time, she will start to nest.
In about two to three weeks before giving birth, your canine friend will start to gather clothing or blankets to prepare a safe, warm, and suitable environment for her puppies.
Get a professional diagnosis
Early dog pregnancy signs may be misleading as they can also go through a false pregnancy which also mimics all the signs of a genuine one.
Your best option to confirm or rule out a pregnancy is to consult with your vet. Once you suspect your pooch is pregnant, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get a reliable pregnancy test.
Until your vet visit, give your pooch moderate exercise and good nutrition. Also, keep her environment stress-free and provide her with a good place to rest.
Different ways the vet can test your dog for pregnancy:
- As early as 28 days post-breeding, your vet will palpate your dog’s abdomen to feel for possible embryos. An ultrasound may also be used instead as it is more accurate and can help determine how many puppies you’ll be expecting.
- Relaxin, which is a special substance produced only during pregnancy can be detected as early as 25 to 30 days after breeding by means of an endocrinological test.
- Through X-ray, your vet can get images of your dog’s insides. At around 45 to 49 days into pregnancy, the puppies’ skeletons will be visible on an X-ray image.
- Via stethoscope, your vet can hear puppies’ heartbeats 25 days post-breeding.
Caring for a pregnant dog
Once your vet has confirmed that your dog is, indeed, pregnant, here are steps you must take to ensure she stays healthy all throughout her pregnancy:
1. Proper nutrition
The most important thing you can do for your pregnant dog is to make sure that she receives the best proper nutrition.
If your dog is already at a healthy weight and is eating good quality food, you don’t have to make changes to her diet unless directed by your vet. As her weight increases, add to her food intake gradually and feed her frequent meals instead, as large meals may cause discomfort.
2. Vet visits
Making regular trips to the vet can help your pooch stay healthy during her pregnancy. Your vet will examine your canine for any signs of discomfort or illness. While you’re at the vet for a prenatal checkup, ask about what you can do once your dog gives birth.
As much as possible, you should make your dog’s whelping comfortable and hassle-free.
The best thing to do is to set up a whelping area located in a warm, comfortable, safe, easily cleaned location for your dog to give birth to her puppies. Ideally, set it up away from all other canines and in a quiet area to give your dog some privacy.
Take some time to let your dog get accustomed to the whelping area. Introduce it beforehand so that your dog won’t deliver her puppies someplace else. You will also have to prepare the necessary whelping supplies in advance, which include:
- Clean and dry towels to clean the puppies
- Newspaper or scratch papers to line the whelping area during delivery for easy cleanup
- Non-skid bath mats for bedding after the whelping is done
- Paper towels
- Thermometer to check your dog’s temperature
- Unwaxed dental floss for tying puppies’ umbilical cords
- Clean scissors for cutting puppies’ umbilical cords
- Iodine for cleaning puppies’ abdomens after cutting the cord
- Hot water bottle or a heating pad to keep puppies warm
- Your vet’s phone number in case of an emergency
Your whelping supplies should be clean and stored in an easy-to-access location.
As your dog’s time to give birth approaches, watch out for any signs of her going into labor. Most pregnant dogs will start to pant heavily and experience a temperature drop.
About 24 hours after the temperature drops, your dog will whelp and you’ll be a proud pet parent of new puppies.
Possible labor complications
Sometimes, when a dog is giving birth, things can still go wrong no matter how prepared you may think you and your dog are.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you know the warning signs of labor complications. These are:
- Uncomfortable labor that causes your dog extreme pain
- More than two hours have passed in between the delivery of puppies
- Strong contractions that last more than 45 minutes without delivery
- Pregnant dog is collapsing, shivering, or trembling
- Delivery of dark green or bloody fluid before the first puppy
- No signs of whelping after 64 days of pregnancy
Pregnancy doesn’t have to be a stressful time for both dog and owner.
The more you know about dog pregnancy in advance, the better prepared you’ll be to care for your beloved pooch.
Don’t hesitate to consult your vet whenever your pregnant dog exhibits any signs of pain or discomfort.
About the Author
Andrew Kevan has been the Account Manager at Sandleford Holdings since 2016. He studied at Monash University and completed his Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Zoology. Andrew is the owner of a beautiful Rottweiler named Lady who is constantly spoiled and loves her Fido & Fletch Large Pet Home.