Skip to main content

Early Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

From watching for physical changes to getting tests done at the vet, here are a few ways to tell if your dog is pregnant.

From watching for physical changes to getting tests done at the vet, here are a few ways to tell if your dog is pregnant.

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Pregnant

While behavioral changes are cited by some breeders, they are unreliable in determining pregnancy in canines. Here are a few other ways to tell whether your dog is pregnant, as well as several FAQs about canine pregnancies.

How Do You Know If Mating Was Successful?

If you want to know for sure if mating was probably successful, the only way to check is by examining the vagina and looking for live sperm; they remain alive for about 10 or 11 days. (1) That will not guarantee that the sperm fertilized the eggs, but it will tell you if the mating was even successful.

Many veterinarians have found that dogs that come in for the "mismate" injection to prevent pregnancy are not actually bred. (2)

Are There Any Dog Pregnancy Symptoms in Week 1?

Just after breeding, a dog does not show many signs of being pregnant. Some breeders will tell you that their dogs are nauseous or a little more affectionate than normal, and we know that women can have physical and behavioral changes at ovulation. (3)

Behavioral Changes Are Unreliable Indicators

Some of the behavioral changes we notice in dams may be just associated with being in heat and are not a reliable indicator of whether or not the dog is bred, however, so this is really too early to tell for sure.

How Early Can You Tell That Your Dog Is Pregnant?

Although there might be some behavioral changes earlier, the soonest that you can tell if your dog is pregnant is about 19 days after breeding. (4) Not all veterinarians or technicians will be able to determine if a dog is pregnant that early, and it is a lot better to wait until about day 25 so that you can see the fetal heartbeat and try to count the number of puppies.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Pethelpful

Dog Pregnancy Test

It is also possible to test for relaxin—a hormone produced by pregnant animals—at 25 days, but 30 is safer, as almost all pregnant dogs have adequate levels by that time. (5) The test requires a blood sample, so this is not something most people can do at home.

Are There Other Ways to Tell If a Dog Is Pregnant?

Physical changes are more reliable than behavioral changes in assessing canine pregnancy.

Look for Physical Changes

After the dog has been pregnant for about 30 days, some experienced breeders and veterinarians can feel the swelling in the dog's uterus. Some dogs will also show physical changes early:

  • The nipples become swollen at about day 30.
  • The abdomen relaxes around day 40.
  • In some dogs, the hair starts to shed on the belly around day 40.

Get an X-Ray to See the Puppies' Skeletons

X-rays can also show the puppies' skeletons from about 42 to 45 days. Some veterinarians recommend waiting until after day 52 so that the puppies can be counted more easily and their sizes can be evaluated.

References

  1. Karre, I., Meyer-Lindenberg, A., Urhausen, C., Beineke, A., Meinecke, B., Piechotta, M., Beyerbach, M., & Günzel-Apel, A. R. (2012). Distribution and viability of spermatozoa in the canine female genital tract during post-ovulatory oocyte maturation. Acta veterinaria Scandinavica, 54(1), 49. https://doi.org/10.1186/1751-0147-54-49
  2. Palmer CW, Post K. Prevention of pregnancy in the dog with a combination of prostaglandin F2 alpha and bromocriptine. Can Vet J. 2002 Jun;43(6):460-2. Erratum in: Can Vet J 2002 Aug;43(8):603. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC339298/
  3. Ocampo Rebollar A, Menéndez Balaña FJ, Conde Pastor M. Comparison of affect changes during the ovulatory phase in women with and without hormonal contraceptives. Heliyon. 2017 Apr 3;3(4):e00282. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5382146/
  4. Kim BS, Son CH. Time of initial detection of fetal and extra-fetal structures by ultrasonographic examination in Miniature Schnauzer bitches. J Vet Sci. 2007 Sep;8(3):289-93. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2868137/
  5. Einspanier A, Bunck C, Salpigtidou P, Marten A, Fuhrmann K, Hoppen HO, Günzel-Apel AR. Relaxin: ein wichtiger Graviditätsindikator bei der Hündin [Relaxin: an important indicator of canine pregnancy]. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 2002 Jan;109(1):8-12. German. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11838296/

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

Related Articles