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Signs Your Dog Is Pregnant

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.


Signs a Female Dog Has Mated

When it comes to canine pregnancy, there are two different types of owners: the "hopeful" and the "concerned."

The hopeful owner is the one that is keeping his fingers crossed in the hope that his bitch is pregnant and that she will soon have a litter of cute, healthy puppies.

The concerned one hopes the bitch did not get pregnant when she accidentally slipped out the door and came back two hours later. Regardless of the owner's state of mind, there are some specific signs that may help suggest or rule out a pregnancy.

Early Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs

Early pregnancy signs may be hard to detect, especially by an inexperienced owner and breeder. These signs may be misleading because dogs can go through a false pregnancy, which can mimic all the signs of a real one.

Generally, early signs of pregnancy can be observed as early as 30 days after mating. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Some dogs may lose their appetite in the first weeks, similar to what women experience when they get morning sickness.
  • Other dogs might have an increase in appetite and start gobbling their food more than usual.
  • A slight decrease in activity may also be seen as the bitch goes through hormonal changes.
  • Nipple growth is an early sign, as well. The nipples will appear slightly larger and may be slightly darker. Taking a picture after the mating and comparing it later on can help you see if there are actually changes taking place.
  • The abdomen starts swelling, and the dog starts gaining weight.
  • A pregnant dog may become more needy and clingy or have other behavioral changes.

As mentioned, there is also a chance that your bitch is exhibiting false pregnancy symptoms. Every dog actually does this after they go through heat and displays pregnancy symptoms for about a month. Therefore, your vet is the best person to confirm or rule out a pregnancy.

Ways the Vet Can Test for Pregnancy

  • Your vet may palpate your dog's abdomen as early as 28 days post-breeding to feel for possible embryos. However, an ultrasound may be a more accurate test. It may even help determine how many puppies your bitch is expecting.
  • Relaxin (a special substance produced only during pregnancy) can also be detected as early as in the first 25 - 30 days after breeding through an endocrinological test. This may be available at your vet's office, or you could also find a kit online. However, the kit may be challenging to use unless you have a way to separate the plasma in order to be tested.
  • X-rays may detect puppies' skeletons 45 days post-breeding.
  • Puppies' heartbeats can be heard via stethoscope 25 days post-breeding.

If your dog ends up being pregnant and you are a "hopeful owner," congratulations! You can start celebrating and counting down 63 days!

On the other hand, if you are the "concerned owner," keep in mind that accidents do happen and get her spayed ASAP!

The Fertility Cycle of Dogs

The heat cycle is divided into phases which when combined, average about 21 days.

Phase One: Pro-estrus

  • You will be aware of this stage because it is when vaginal bleeding and vaginal swelling occurs.
  • This phase lasts about 7 to 10 days.
  • If male dogs are around, they will be interested in the bitch, but she will be reluctant and will not let him mount.
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Phase Two: Estrus (Fertile Phase)

In this phase, the female is actually fertile.

  • The bleeding has stopped, and it is replaced by a yellowish vaginal discharge.
  • This phase will last about 4–13 days.
  • She will be more tolerant and will keep her tail to the side. She will allow the male to mount at this point. If you witness "a tie" where they are both stuck together for a while, then it's possible puppies are on the way.

Third Phase: Diestrus

The female will again be reluctant to mate, because she is no longer fertile. The male, however, may still try to mount.

The Estrus Phase Is the Most Crucial

The estrus phase is the fertile one and therefore, the most important. It usually occurs between the 8th and 15th day after bleeding has started. This is the time you should be looking for if you are the "hopeful breeder." Alternatively, this is the time you hope she didn't go out if you are the "concerned owner."

Each dog is different, however. The only way to be sure whether or not she is pregnant is a pregnancy test by a vet.

Being in a "Tie"

It also appears that being in a "tie" ups the chances for pregnancy in dogs. A tie occurs when the male and female dog are stuck for some time. However, some dogs have also become pregnant without a tie, and some dogs don't get pregnant despite tying, so it's not a guarantee.

Increasing the Chance for Pregnancy

Breeding every other day from estrus up until the female allows it may also increase the chance for pregnancy since the male is allowed to rest and the sperm has time to refresh.

However, there are really no reliable days. This is why some professional breeders have their dog's hormones checked by a vet to ensure breeding on the most fertile day.

Again, even this may not be sufficient. Therefore, there is no way to guarantee pregnancy, but by monitoring the phases, you may be able to heighten the chance of it happening.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: My dog has come into heat for the first time. I think she is around 6-8 months old. Our male dog has surely mounted her 2 times. The only thing that bothers me now is that she's moping around and won't eat. I even tried can chicken. Is she ok?

Answer: That can surely be worrisome! It is difficult to pinpoint what may be going on. It could just be exhaustion if the mating entailed lots of running around and courtship behavior, but not eating and moping can also be suggestive of an issue such as perhaps having a sore back or sore joints due to the male putting all his weight on her repeatedly. Taking her temperature to see if she is ill can also provide insight. Normal rectal temp for a dog is 101-102 F and anything over 103 can be suggestive of infection or illness. Make sure her gums are her normal color. Hopefully, she is just tired or a bit stressed by all the activity, but for sure, best to play it safe and see the vet.

Question: If my dog allows a male to mate with her while in pro-estrus, can she still get pregnant?

Answer: It would be quite unusual for a female dog to allow a male dog to mate with her before estrus. Most likely she is in the estrus phase of the cycle.

Question: Would slip mating be successful? Is a tie needed?

Answer: A slip mating would likely be unsuccessful. Generally a tie provides a higher rate of success, although it's not a guarantee of pregnancy. The problem with slip mating is that it's often missing an important element, successful penetration, and this makes it quite unlikely that the sperm will make it into the female dog.

Question: What happens if a tie occurs during the pro-estrus stage?

Answer: It is quite unusual for a female dog to allow a male dog to mate and tie before estrus. So the fact that she has tied makes it almost definite that she is in the estrus phase of the cycle and is probably ovulating.

Question: Does a dog know that he is a puppy's father?

Answer: Good question. I think it is hard to say, and until dogs can talk, we can only speculate. Some dads may show respect for their offspring, and even interact with them. Others may be indifferent, and some others may even act aggressively towards the pups.

Question: How long does it take the female dog to become pregnant after connecting with a male dog?

Answer: This actual length of time tends to vary considering that female dogs may accept the male several days before ovulation occurs or may continue mating several days after ovulation occurs. This means that if you count the days from mating day, the length of a dog's pregnancy may vary based on when ovulation took place. On average, if your dog is pregnant, expect puppies anywhere between 57 and 64 days after breeding with the average generally being 63 days depending on when ovulation occurred.

Question: Our female let my male dog mate and tie with her on day 13, but wouldn’t let him on day 14. Would the 13th have been too late for her to get pregnant?

Answer: Not necessarily, if she allowed the mounting and they endured a tie, pregnancy is always a possibility. Of course, chances may have been higher if you were able to do a mating one day yes and then one day no (alternate days), but there are many reports of dogs getting pregnant with just one mating even if towards the end of estrus portion.

Question: Will my bitch’s heat stop or slow down with a successful tie?

Answer: No, you won't see any difference in her heat cycle with a successful tie and pregnancy, hence why it is challenging telling whether a dog is pregnant or not until seeing the vet and having testing done (palpation, x-rays, ultrasound, relaxin test).

Question: Does a dog cease to be in heat if expecting puppies?

Answer: Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if a dog is pregnant or not based on what happens right after mating. In other words, when a female dog accepts the male for mating, she is usually at the end of the bleeding portion of heat. So a dog will not necessarily stop bleeding if she becomes pregnant while she is still bleeding. To further complicate things, consider that false pregnancies share the symptoms as if they were indeed pregnant. Fortunately, though, there are various ways to tell whether a dog is pregnant with accuracy, only that it will take some time.

Question: Does the male dog know when the female is pregnant?

Answer: It would be nice if it worked this way as we would use male dogs in lieu of pregnancy testing! We may really never know. Perhaps they can smell hormonal changes. Many female dog owners are willing to swear that their dogs just knew when they first got pregnant, so if they can tell if a human is pregnant, why not tell it in dogs?

Question: My female dog who is supposedly pregnant, is humping my male dog, is this normal?

Answer: Humping in dogs is not always sexual in nature and it's not always a dominance gesture when directed towards another dog. Dogs can hump during play, due to anxiety, arousal and excitement. It can take place as a displacement behavior. When females are in heat, they can sometimes flirt with the male by humping as well.

© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli


Jas on August 31, 2020:

Hi.. it is safe to play or clingy after several days of mate my dog chow chow mate on aug. 26 after 3 days my dog always playing and running it is not safe? Or i need to put in her cage?

Alex on August 27, 2020:

I had mate my dog 3 times and it also get tie, so do i need to made more mating for her to become pregnant.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 15, 2020:

In this case, if the pee is yellow but the opening is dripping blood, it it possible that the blood could be due to some trauma. Your male dog's private area is very vascular and if the female dog pulls away during the tie(or owners forcefully separate), this can twist and damage his private area. This may require a vet visit for pain medication, anti-inflammatory drug and an examination to ensure no severe trauma took place.