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Veterinarian Shares the Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs

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Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs

The signs of pregnancy in dogs is something owners of potentially pregnant dogs may be interested in learning about. If you suspect your female dog is pregnant, you may be hoping for puppies on the way or you may be dreading the pregnancy because your dog's mating was unplanned and you are worried about finding all the puppies a home. Regardless of your state of mind, the signs of pregnancy in dogs may take a while to show up, so please be patient. Veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Muirhead shares the signs of pregnancy in dogs and fastest way to find out if your female dog is pregnant.

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The Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs 

Dogs have a gestation period that can be divided into trimesters, similar to a person's. For female dogs, however, each trimester only lasts three weeks. The entire pregnancy is over in about 63 days, although for some it is shorter or longer, usually 61 to 65 days.

If you've anxiously been awaiting the signs of your female dog's first pregnancy, know that it might take her awhile to show changes.

For the first few weeks, you're not likely to notice much that is different, although she'll eventually start to develop hallmark signs that we equate with a pregnant dog, such as a swollen belly and mammary enlargement. What signs might you see in your female and when?

1) Morning Sickness 

The earliest sign that you might notice in your dog is one that occurs early on: morning sickness. Just like with humans, the influx of hormones can make our canine females nauseated. This tends to occur only in the earliest stage of pregnancy, although some dogs will continue to have nausea throughout their gestation period. If your dog is having issues, remember to contact your veterinarian to see if anything needs to be done.

2) Lethargy

During the first weeks of your female's pregnancy, you may also notice that they are a little more lethargic than usual. Many female dogs become more aloof, although your dog might be the opposite and become clingy. This tends to last through the first weeks of pregnancy, but it is a vague sign that can also indicate your dog is unwell, so monitor her carefully.

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3) Mammary Development

At about 30 days into the pregnancy, your female will likely begin to have mammary development start. You may notice the production of a fluid that is semi-clear in color and consistency, although no fluid may be produced until just before she is lactating. At this same period of time, you may notice a mucus-like discharge from her vulva. These are the first real signs you're likely to see to identify that your bitch may be pregnant.

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4) Weight Gain

Weight gain is the next sign you're likely to see in your pregnant female dog. Most females begin to gain weight at around 35 days into their gestation period. They will usually gain up to 50% of their normal weight. Some females don't gain as much, especially if they are first-time moms or having a smaller litter.

5) Appetite Increase

With this weight gain, you're bound to notice that your female has developed a slight tummy to her. This usually occurs anytime after the 40 day mark. During this time, she is bound to have her appetite increase, as well. You'll want to adjust what she's eating accordingly. Because of the puppies taking up room in her abdomen, she will likely need multiple small meals each day, rather than one to two larger meals.

Ways to Identify Pregnancy in Dogs

Your vet can confirm or exclude dog pregnancy.

Your vet can confirm or exclude dog pregnancy.

By this time, you're bound to suspect that your dog is pregnant, but don't worry, there are tests that can be performed to confirm if you should be prepared for puppies or not. There isn't a home pregnancy test for dogs like there is for people, so you'll have to take your female to the vet to be evaluated. These tests will help distinguish a true pregnancy from a false or pseudopregnancy.

Your veterinarian can perform a hormone test to check for pregnancy. The earliest this test can be done is at the beginning of the second trimester, so around 22 to 27days for an accurate test. This test is a relaxin test. The hormone relaxin is produced by the placenta, and its levels remain elevated throughout the course of the pregnancy. Female dogs undergoing a pseudopregnancy will have a negative relaxin test.

Your veterinarian can perform an ultrasound on your bitch to check for pregnancy. This can be done at 20 to 22 days post-conception, but it is most reliable when done at least 30 days into the pregnancy. Earlier can result in a false negative. The ultrasound will check for the puppies' heartbeats, although it doesn't reliably give a count of how many puppies are present.

To count how many puppies your dog is going to have, you'll likely need to have x-rays taken of her abdomen. Also known as radiographs, these images can be taken any time after 45 days. At that point, you can see the mineralization of the puppies' skeletons, providing a count for how many pups to prepare your home for.

In Summary

There is no foolproof way to determine if your dog is pregnant without relying on your veterinarian, but there are some signs you can monitor for that may indicate she's going to have puppies. Keep in mind that in the early stages of pregnancy of dogs, the signs your dog is showing may be similar to those of a sick dog, such as vomiting. As such, make sure your veterinarian is aware that your female may be pregnant, so they can monitor for changes and make choices that will not harm the puppies.

About the Author

Elizabeth Muirhead is a practicing veterinarian. She received an undergraduate degree in biological sciences before getting her doctorate in veterinary medicine. She has experience with a variety of household pets, from dogs to guinea pigs. She regularly attends international veterinary conferences to stay abreast of new information.

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