Do you think your dog might be pregnant? If you attempted to breed your dog, you may be eager to see some signs and symptoms of a pregnancy right away, but the thing is, it takes a little while for any visible signs to show up, despite the relatively short duration of a canine pregnancy.
That being said, knowing what to look for can be important for you to help manage your dog’s pregnancy, and also get on a timeline to prepare for the arrival of the litter of puppies. Understanding what to look for and what to expect can make all the difference for you and your dog, as your main job during a pregnancy is making sure your dog stays stress-free, which you can only do if you aren’t panicked yourself!
This post will identify the dog pregnancy signs and symptoms so you’ll know what to look for whether your planning to breed your dog or suspect that she is pregnant already.
When Can Dogs Get Pregnant?
Dogs are able to get pregnant around every six months during a time when their reproductive cycle is at its peak, known as being “in heat.” This period of being in heat will last for up to three weeks and occurs in four stages: proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus.
The initial proestrus stage will last around nine days, during which time your dog will attract males, but will reject them. There will be a swelling in the dog’s vulva as well as a bloody discharge during this time.
When the dog moves on to the estrus phase, lasting anywhere from three to 11 days, the female will become receptive to the male. This is the sweet spot for breeding when they are at the optimal period of their reproductive cycle.
At the diestrus stage, the dog will no longer be receptive to the male and the heat cycle will wrap up. The vulva swelling and vaginal discharge will go away. The final stage, anestrus, is actually the period of time between the end of this heat cycle and the start of the next one, which will typically occur in six months.
Early Signs & Symptoms of Dog Pregnancy
If you are hoping for a litter of puppies, you need to be aware of how long a dog pregnancy takes. Usually, a dog pregnancy will last around 63 days. This is measured from the day the dog ovulates, or releases her eggs, to the day that they give birth. Dogs are pregnant for trimesters, just like humans, which each last for 21 days.
While this pregnancy is quite short when compared to humans, there will not be any obvious visible symptoms until the later stages of your dog’s pregnancy. There are also no quick and easy take-home pregnancy tests for dogs, so you’ll need to be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms yourself before you bring your dog into your veterinarian for an official confirmation.
In the early stages of your dog’s pregnancy, you will notice very few physical signs. There may be some slight weight gain, but for the most part, it will be business as usual for you and your dog. Some dogs may have a little morning sickness, have a slight lack of appetite, or seem lethargic, but other medical conditions have similar symptoms.
You will need to consult your veterinarian for absolute confirmation of a pregnancy, but there are some symptom management strategies you can start to use early on. For the most part, you will want to keep your dog on her normal exercise and diet routine, but if your dog is encountering some morning sickness or a lack of appetite, you can switch to several small meals spread throughout the day instead of two big meals at the beginning and end. This should only be done at the recommendation of your veterinarian, as changing a dog’s routine can sometimes be stressful for the dog, which you will want to avoid at all costs.
During these early stages, the dog will be experiencing chemical changes, including a massive influx of hormones while her uterus grows. Though it is rare early on, there may also be some minor behavioral changes, such as seeming slightly more distant or disinterested in affection or play. Others may become more attached and seem extra clingy. Either way, it should be rather minor when it does occur and nothing to worry about.
These physical and emotional signs may be so minor that you don’t even notice them at all. Beyond seeming a little tired, your dog should be its usual self until the later stages of pregnancy kick in.
Later Signs & Symptoms of Dog Pregnancy
The later stages of a dog’s pregnancy are when you will notice signs. Once there are visible physical and behavioral changes, things will happen quickly.
Here are some of the more obvious signs to look for:
Changes in Appetite
One of the earliest signs you might notice if your dog is pregnant is a lack of appetite. Eating is perhaps a dog’s favorite activity, and most will have no issue taking down their meal in short order. If your dog suddenly seems resistant to eat or doesn’t eat their whole meal, it could be a sign that your dog is pregnant.
Sometimes, the dog will have a decreased appetite early on while she is dealing with morning sickness and then have it go back to normal before their appetite grows in the last couple of weeks. If your dog does seem to have a decreased appetite, you should not try to force her to eat.
Chat with your veterinarian to consider trying some alternative foods or making some changes to their eating routine. Overall, this won’t be much to worry about, but it could be a sign that your dog is pregnant. If your dog won’t eat for a couple days or more, it could be a sign that something else is going on, and you should seek your veterinarian for a diagnosis.
A normally energetic dog may suddenly become lazy if they are pregnant. As the dog’s hormone levels change, it may sap them of their energy as it is being used to support the growing embryo. The dog should adjust to the changes going on in her body and you can continue normal walks but should cease strenuous activity toward the end of your dog’s pregnancy.
Changes in Nipples & Breasts
During pregnancy, you may notice some changes to your dog’s nipples and breasts. The nipple color may change and become more rosy, especially toward the end of the pregnancy. They will also grow in size.
The color will be most noticeable in the nipples closest to the dog’s hind legs. Nipples are normally a very light pinkish-gray color but will become redder because of the increased blood flow in the area during pregnancy.
At the same time, the milk glands will develop, which will cause the breasts to enlarge in preparation for nursing. This development will start early in the pregnancy but won’t be visible until the later stages.
Vaginal discharge is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy in dogs. It may not show up until the later stages of dog pregnancy, however, and is therefore not typically used as an early sign, although it can also appear earlier on in the pregnancy.
However, if you notice a discharge early in a dog’s pregnancy, you should consult a veterinarian, as it may point to an infection. This is especially true if the discharge is heavy and bloody, has mucus in it that is any color other than clear, is cloudy, or if it has a foul odor.
Most newly pregnant dogs will have some behavioral changes. Some may become reserved when they are normally quite social while others may become extra clingy as they are uneasy about the hormonal and physical changes going on to their body. These changes can begin early on but will be more present later when the pregnancy really kicks into gear.
Obviously, your dog will start to display an enlarged belly and abdomen, but this actually won’t appear until the second half of the pregnancy. This will quickly increase to as much as 50 percent bigger than normal, depending on the size of the litter. You will typically notice the enlarged belly and weight gain around day 35 to 40. At this time, her belly may begin to sway beneath her when she walks.
During the last couple weeks of pregnancy, you will likely be able to see and feel the growing puppies moving inside the dog’s belly. Your veterinarian may take an X-ray during this time to confirm the number of puppies you should expect. You should also have a good idea on your dog’s whelping (birth) date at this point.
Sometimes, it is difficult to determine if your dog is actually pregnant or if she is going through a false pregnancy. This is a phenomenon that closely mimics the signs and symptoms of a real pregnancy, although there are no embryos involved. Every female that goes through heat cycles actually has a false pregnancy following the end of the cycle unless they are really pregnant. The main difference between a false and real pregnancy as far as symptoms are that you won’t notice false dog pregnancy symptoms until as much as nine weeks after the heat cycle concludes, whereas you will see a true pregnancy much sooner.
When to See Your Veterinarian
It’s never too early to take your dog to see your veterinarian if you suspect that they are pregnant. You can take her in as soon as two or three weeks after mating to see if the process took and have any questions answered. Together with your vet, you may make changes to your dog’s diet or routine as needed, and your vet will inform you on how to manage the remainder of your dog’s pregnancy, as well as how to prepare for the birth.
An ultrasound or hormone test can confirm a pregnancy as soon as three weeks into the pregnancy. If you go in later, your vet can feel your dog’s belly to confirm a pregnancy between days 28 to 35.
This should give you a better idea of some of the signs and symptoms you may see if your dog becomes pregnant. While they don’t necessarily mean that your dog is for sure pregnant, and can actually signal that sometimes else is going on, you should always bring your dog in to see the vet no matter what to figure out what’s wrong.
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