Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs
Dog owners that start looking for signs of pregnancy in their dog are generally split into two distinct categories, on one side there are those that have planned the breeding and that are keeping their fingers crossed that their dog is pregnant, and on the other side, there are those worried about their dog because she accidentally ''slipped out the door'' when nobody was looking.
Regardless of the state of mind accompanying a possible pregnancy, there are some early signs in dogs that may possibly suggest that puppies are on the way. However, in order to determine if a pregnancy is likely, it helps to first get a grip on how the dog's heat cycle works. If the dog was purposely bred or ''slipped out the door'' at the right time of her estrus, then the likeliness of pregnancy are much higher.
A dog's estrus is typically divided into specific phases that all together average about 21 days. These phases are known as Pro-estrus, Estrus and Di-estrus.
This first phase lasts an average of 7-10 days and it is easily recognized by owners because it occurs when there is vaginal bleeding accompanied by vaginal puffiness and swelling. Female dogs at this stage flirt around a bit but do not allow the male to mount.
The estrus phase is the actual fertile phase that lasts an average of 4-13 days. The bleeding will be replaced by a straw colored fluid. Females at this stage are receptive to the male, they will keep their tail to their side and mating will occur. A male and female stuck together is known as a ''tie'' and this usually indicates a good chance of pregnancy.
The dog's heat ends at the di-estrus stage. During this stage the female will no longer be interested in mating however, males may still try to mount.
As seen, the estrus phase is the crucial phase that determines the likeliness of pregnancy. If you have planned the breeding, this is the stage at which you should have allowed your stud and bitch to mate. However, there is really no magic formula to grant a pregnancy. Some breeders prefer to have their dog's hormones checked by a vet to ensure breeding on the most fertile day. If you have not witnessed an actual mating, then there are still some chances that your female dog may not be pregnant. Now to possible signs...
Early signs of dog pregnancy
Generally, the first signs of pregnancy are detected a few weeks after mating. These signs are quite subtle and may be hard to detect for the unexperienced owner.These signs may be present on a case by case basis, so not all dogs exhibit the same signs. To make things worse, often false pregnancy may be confused for a real pregnancy.
Just as humans, female dogs may get something a bit similar to ''morning sickness''. They may tend to lose their appetite and feel a bit nauseated at times. This is a normal occurrence that should subside as the pregnancy progresses and bigger appetites make up for these times.
The female dog may appear to be a bit sluggish and will be seen resting for some periods of time.This slight increase in inactivity are due to the hormonal fluctuations.
The dog's nipples will begin to swell slightly. This may not be really evident at times. It is good practice to take a picture of them or measuring the size with some tape after suspecting pregnancy so to compare the size.
~Increase in Weight
A slight increase in weight may be noticeable around the first month. The dog's abdomen will also slightly enlarge and appear to feel firmer.
Late Pregnancy Signs
As the pregnancy advances, more evident signs make their appearance, most likely confirming a pregnancy or suggesting a false pregnancy..
The bitch may appear restless and nesting behaviors may take place for about a week prior to parturition. This means that the dog starts looking for a place to give birth..
The dog's abdomen will become pendulous and more distended as the puppies are carried quite low. This occurs because the abdominal muscles start to relax as labor nears.
~Presence of Milk
This sign quite widely differs from one dog to another. Some dogs may start producing milk already weeks in advance where others do not produce milk until the puppies are born.
Imminent Pregnancy Signs
These signs generally present from a day in advance or even hours from parturition
If the temperature is taken multiple times daily at the same time when the dog is near giving birth, a distinct temperature drop will be seen when parturition is only 12 to 24 hours away. A dog's normal temperature is an average of 101.5 degrees so a temperature under 100 degreed often nearer to 98-99 degrees is suggestive of imminent birth.
The muscles of the vulva will appear significantly flaccid and pendulous. The same happens to the pelvic muscles.
When labor is just a few days away, the bitch may gradually lose her appetite. In some cases, there may be episodes of vomiting.
The dog will pace and appear restless. She will go to a nesting place, lay down and get up repeatedly. She may also start panting, whining and lick her genitals. She may also seek her owners for reassurance.
A fluid resembling the white of eggs will be expelled. This is a sign of impending pregnancy because this is the mucus plug that used to fill the cervix.
This is the most visible sign that parturition is near. These contractions involve both the uterus and the abdomen and will increase in intensity as the birth process comes near. Shortly, puppies will be delivered.
As seen there are several signs suggesting pregnancy however, the early signs are often quite subtle and hard to recognize. For owners that must really know, there are several tests that may give a black or white response.
For instance, your vet may palpate your dog's abdomen as early as 28 days after mating to feel possible embryos while an ultrasound may help determine how many puppies your bitch is expecting. A Relaxin blood test may detected pregnancy as early as in the first 21-25 days post breeding. X-rays may detect puppies skeletons 45 days post breeding. Puppies heartbeats, may as well be heard via stethoscope 25 days post-breeding.
Now that you know that your dog may be on her way to having puppies soon, congratulations if the breeding was planned, and have your dog spayed as soon as possible if your dog sneaked out of your home!
For further reading
- Signs of Retained Placenta in Mother Dogs
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- How to breed dogs
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Questions & Answers
Can a dog get pregnant if you don't see any bleeding?
Yes, some dogs clean up their discharge by licking it off promptly, so dog owners never get to witness it. Some dogs get what is known as "silent heat."