It can be tough to know if your dog is pregnant since the symptoms do not necessarily show up right away. Most tests will not reveal if a dog is pregnant until around three weeks into the pregnancy. Here are some ways you can determine if your dog is expecting:
- Pregnancy Test: There are tests available that can detect your dog’s pregnancy by looking for a hormone named relaxin. The twist with these tests is that unlike human pregnancy tests, the hormone is only detectable within the dog’s blood. Obviously, that makes it challenging to administer this test at home, but most kits will include a syringe to remove some of your dog’s blood. This test can also be done at the veterinarian’s office if you are squeamish about taking the blood yourself.
- Examining the dog’s abdomen: Once the dog’s pregnancy has advanced to around three weeks, or about a third of the way through the gestation period, your veterinarian can gently palpate your dog’s abdomen and feel for signs of the puppies. Note that only your veterinarian, or a trained professional, should do this palpating -- it’s easy to injure the puppies unintentionally during this procedure.
- Abdominal X-Ray: An x-ray of the dog’s uterus can reveal if the dog is pregnant, and when administered fairly late in the dog’s gestational period, can show how many puppies the dog is expecting.
- Abdominal Ultrasound: Ultrasounds can be done around the three or four-week mark to see if the dog is pregnant. Although they can also be done earlier on, the ultrasounds may not detect the puppies accurately.
As well as taking a test, observing some -- or several -- of these common symptoms can be a tip-off to your dog’s pregnancy in the early weeks:
- morning sickness
- disinterest in food
- enlarged and darkened nipples
- hair loss around the nipples
- apathy and reduced energy
- being more distant from you than usual
Human Pregnancy Tests
Note that you cannot use a human pregnancy test to see if your dog is pregnant. A human pregnancy test and a dog pregnancy test aim to detect different hormones. There are no urine tests available to check a dog’s pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the first signs of pregnancy in a dog?
Some dogs may experience a decrease in appetite during the early stages of pregnancy, while others may have an increased appetite. Pregnant dogs may become more affectionate or may withdraw from social interactions. They may also display nesting behavior, such as digging and rearranging their bedding. The nipples of a pregnant dog may become more swollen and pink. They may also produce milk or clear fluid. Similar to human morning sickness, some dogs may experience vomiting or nausea in the early stages of pregnancy. Pregnant dogs may become more tired and may sleep more than usual.
How can I test my dog for pregnancy at home?
There are home pregnancy tests for dogs, such as the Witness Relaxin test, that can be purchased online and used by owners to determine if their pet is pregnant. These tests detect the presence of the hormone relaxin, which is produced by the placenta after implantation and can be detected in the blood or urine of pregnant dogs. However, it is important to note that the accuracy of these tests may vary, and false negative or false positive results can occur. Additionally, while the test can be performed as early as 20-21 days after the luteinizing hormonal surge, it is generally recommended to wait until at least 28 days after breeding before performing the test to ensure the most accurate results.
What does a pregnant dog's belly look like?
The appearance of a pregnant dog's belly can vary depending on the breed, size, and number of puppies she is carrying, as well as the stage of pregnancy. In the early stages of pregnancy, a dog's belly may not look noticeably different, but as the pregnancy progresses, some changes may become apparent. Around 4-5 weeks into the pregnancy, the dog's belly may begin to show some swelling and appear slightly rounder. As the puppies continue to grow, the belly may become larger and more visibly distended. The nipples may also become more prominent and enlarged as they prepare for milk production. In the later stages of pregnancy, typically around 8-9 weeks, the belly may become very large and firm to the touch. The dog may also appear uncomfortable or restless and may exhibit nesting behavior such as digging and rearranging her bedding.
What are the signs of false pregnancy in dogs?
False pregnancy, also known as pseudopregnancy, is a condition that can occur in female dogs that causes them to exhibit symptoms of pregnancy even though they are not actually pregnant. Dogs with false pregnancy may begin to exhibit nesting behavior, such as digging and rearranging their bedding, as they prepare for the arrival of puppies. The mammary glands of a dog with false pregnancy may become enlarged, and milk production may occur. Dogs with false pregnancy may begin to produce milk even though they are not nursing any puppies. Dogs with false pregnancy may become more anxious, restless, or protective as they believe they are caring for puppies. Some dogs with false pregnancy may experience a decrease in appetite or become lethargic. Similar to pregnancy, some dogs with false pregnancy may experience digestive issues such as vomiting or diarrhea. While false pregnancy is not harmful to the dog's health, it can be a sign of an underlying hormonal imbalance or other health issues.
Is a dog pregnant right away?
No, a dog is not pregnant right away after breeding. It takes time for fertilization to occur and for the embryos to develop and implant in the uterus. After a female dog is bred, it can take 1-2 days for the sperm to reach the eggs in the oviducts and then another 2-3 days for fertilization to occur. The fertilized eggs then travel down the oviducts and enter the uterus, where they will implant in the uterine lining around day 21-25 of the dog's reproductive cycle. Not all breedings will result in pregnancy, and there are many factors that can affect the success of breeding, including the timing of the breeding in relation to the dog's reproductive cycle, the quality of the sperm and eggs, and the health of the dogs involved.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.