5 Dog Pregnancy Signs
Is there a chance your dog could be pregnant? If your dog has not been spayed and they have had contact with other dogs it is possible your dog could be expecting puppies. If your dog has seemed tired and gained weight without a change to their diet there is definitely a chance your dog may be pregnant! While these signs are all good indicators you should always consult with your veterinarian if you believe there is a chance your dog may be pregnant. Your veterinarian can perform ultrasounds and hormone tests to confirm if your dog is pregnant and provide a recommendation of any supplements or medications you should put your dog on to ensure they have a healthy pregnancy.
Please note: Dog pregnancies last an average of 67 days broken into three trimesters of roughly 22 days. Some dogs begin to show signs of pregnancy within two weeks, while other breeds may take closer to 6 weeks before showing serious signs of pregnancy. Below we have included 8 tests both you and your vet can use to see if your dog may be expecting puppies.
1. Exercise & Activity Level
Carrying a litter of puppies requires a lot of energy! If your dog begins tiring more easily on walks or takes multiple naps throughout the day this could be a sign that she is pregnant. If you notice your dog’s activity level slows down, begin weighing them to see if they consistently gain weight over the next 1-2 weeks. Pregnant Dog exercise recommendations
2. Feeding Schedule & Appetite Changes
If your dog’s activity level goes down (see point #1) and their appetite goes up there is a very high chance your dog is carrying a litter. If you notice their energy and appetite decrease they are most likely battling some form of illness and you should bring your dog into the vet ASAP.
3. Weight Gain, Stomach Growth, & Nausea
If you notice your dog has gained weight make sure to feel their stomach. If her abdomen seems unusually stiff this is a sign that you need to take your dog to the vet. The dam’s abdomen swelling up is usually a sign that they are only a week or two away from giving birth. Additionally, if you notice your dog begins vomiting during pregnancy make sure to give your pup multiple small meals instead of one big meal. Dogs like to overeat when pregnant and this can cause them to vomit if they eat too quickly. To make sure this does not happen spread their meals throughout the day to help
4. Nipple Size & Color Changes
Dog nipples are typically small bumps on the abdomen of a female dog. However, if a dog becomes pregnant their nipples will begin receiving increased blood flow in order to prepare for multiple puppies breast feeding for 4-6 weeks. This will cause the nipples to expand in diameter, turn a darker color, and occasionally leak milk during the third trimester.
5. Nesting & Shedding Behaviors
A bitch’s gestation period can last anywhere from 56 – 70 days depending on the breed and age of your dog. The number of puppies your dog births also plays a role in the length of the pregnancy. Many dogs will begin to make nests a few days before delivery. They will tear up newspapers, books, and blankets in order to make sure they have a safe place to give birth. This can make normally calm dogs extremely excitable and potentially aggressive. If your dog is getting ready to give birth do not leave them in the same room with small children. Female dogs have been known to be overly aggressive if small children interfere with their nests before birth.
The above 5 signs are all good indicators that your dog may be pregnant with a litter. However, if you seriously believe your dog may be pregnant you should schedule an appointment with your vet immediately. Your vet has multiple tools that can confirm not only if your dog is pregnant but they can also pinpoint when they will give birth. Additionally, your vet can check core vital signs on your dog in order to surface any potential issues during delivery.
Ultrasound’s are a great way to tell how many puppies will be in your dog’s litter. Puppy heartbeats are 2.5x as fast as the mother’s which allow a veterinarian to make a highly accurate estimate on the number of puppies in utero. Typically a vet cannot provide an accurate estimate until after the first trimester (22 days).
An x-ray is an even more accurate way of determining how many puppies will be in a litter. However, puppy bones will not show up in an xray until the third trimester ~50 days. Pregnant dog x-rays. Because the x-ray is more accurate and taken closer to the actual birth, veterinarians can take measurements of the puppies positions and sizes compared to the mother’s pelvic canal. In some cases veterinarians will recommend a cesarean section to ensure the puppies are not injured during birth.
Hormone & Blood Tests
Hormone & Blood tests are a great way to tell if your dog is pregnant. After the first trimester your vet can administer a Relaxin blood test. Relaxin is a hormone that is created during the development of the embryo. Make sure to take the test after the first trimester to make sure you do not get a false negative or pseudo-pregnancy.
Pregnant Dog Nutrition
If you confirm your dog is pregnant you may need to make adjustments to their sleep, diet, and exercise. Birthing a litter of puppies takes a lot of work and although it may seem like your dog is taking it easy they are burning around 2x the amount of calories per day. Puppy food is calorically dense and feeding it to a pregnant or nursing mother is a great way to make sure both the mother and baby get adequate nutrients in the second and third trimester.
Exercise During Pregnancy
Exercise is important for both dogs and humans. In the second and third trimesters many pet parents see their dog’s activity level decrease. Many pregnant dams will take multiple naps throughout the day and will likely decrease what “a normal walk is”. The best strategy is to take your dog on several short walks throughout the day so they keep moving without really exerting themselves. Think of it similar to the feeding schedule. Instead of one big meal you want multiple small meals.
If you believe your dog may be pregnant it is important to book a consultation with a vet immediately. Depending on your experience with delivering pets you may feel comfortable delivering your litter without the assistance of a vet. However, you should have a vet perform an ultrasound and x-ray to ensure there will be no obvious issues during delivery. Every birth is different. Depending on the health of the mother and puppies you may require a caesarian section instead of a normal birth. Always follow the recommendation of your vet if you ever have any questions.
Whether or not you are planning on keeping all the puppies or giving them away they will need to stay with their mother for 6-8 weeks. Having up to ten puppies running around your house can be crazy! Below we have provided some simple steps to make sure your house is adequately puppy proofed before you bring your pups home!
- Whelping box: A whelping box offers the dam a sterile, safe, and private area where she can give birth without worrying about her safety.
- Clean towels: It’s also a good idea to have a lot of soft, clean towels to clean off the puppies with. Make sure to cover the whelping box with towels so the mess from the afterbirth is minimized.
- Heating pad: Like all living things puppies usually cry when they are born partially because they are cold. After cleaning them up, set them on a heating pad set to low while the mother continues through labor.
- Sterilized Scissors: If the mother struggles during birth she may need assistance cutting the umbilical cord. Make sure you have sterilized scissors or dental floss to cut through the umbilical cord if needed.
- Antiseptic spray: Once the mother has given birth make sure to clean her up with antiseptic spray to avoid a potential infection.
Delivering puppies by yourself
If you have experience delivering puppies you may feel comfortable delivering your dog’s litter without the assistance of a veterinarian. By instinct dog’s know how to deliver puppies without much assistance, however it is essential to stay with your dog throughout the entire whelping process to ensure the puppies are delivered safely. If you are going to deliver the puppies on your own you need to make sure your dog has an adequate whelping box she feels safe before, during, and after delivery. Additionally, once the puppies are born you will want to move them out of the way to make room for the rest of the litter. Make sure you keep them within sight of the mother or she will become distressed. Once the puppies are cleaned up, put a towel over a heating pad and lay them on it. This should keep the puppies calm while the mother delivers the rest of the litter. If you are serious about delivering your puppies litter without the assistance of a vet check out our comprehensive whelping guide for an A-Z walkthrough of how to safely deliver puppies.